Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (October 9, 1823 – June 5, 1893) was an American-Canadian anti-slavery activist, journalist, publisher, teacher and lawyer. She was the first black woman publisher in North America and the first woman publisher in Canada.[1]

Born to Abraham and Harriett Shadd, both free-born blacks, in Wilmington, Delaware, she was the oldest in her family of 13 children. Her father, a shoemaker, was a key figure in the Underground Railroad and a subscription agent for William Lloyd Garrison‘s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator. When she was ten, Mary Ann and her family moved from their home in Delaware to West Chester, Pennsylvania, so the children could get an education at a Quaker-run school where she was educated for the next six years before moving back to Wilmington.

In 1840, Shadd returned to West Chester and established a school for black children. She also later taught in Norristown, Pennsylvania and New York City.

During the Civil War, at the behest of the abolitionist Martin Delany,[2] she served as a recruiting officer to enlist black volunteers for the Union Army in the state of Indiana. After the Civil War, she taught in black schools in Wilmington, before moving to Washington, D.C., where she taught in public schools and attended Howard University School of Law. She graduated as a lawyer at the age of 60 in 1883, becoming only the second black woman in the United States to earn a law degree. She wrote for the newspapers National Era and The People’s Advocate.

Shadd Cary joined the National Woman Suffrage Association, working alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for women’s suffrage, testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and becoming the first black woman to cast a vote in a national election.

She died in Washington, D.C. on June 5, 1893. Her former residence in the U Street Corridor was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. In 1987 she was designated a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project.[3] She was also honoured by Canada, being designated a Person of National Historic Significance.[2]

Mary Ann Shadd Cary