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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, Feminist. She was the first black woman publisher in North America and the first woman publisher in Canada. In October 1823, Mary Ann Shadd was born, the first of 13 children of free Negro parents, to Abraham and Harriet Shadd, prominent freeborn abolitionists in Wilmington, Delaware. At the age of ten, the Shadd’s moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania where Mary attended a Quaker School for the next six years. She was educated by Quakers and taught Black children across the northeastern United States (New York; Morristown, N.J.) before crossing the border into Canada in 1851 as part of the growing Black emigrations movement. She opened a school in West Chester for Black children in 1840. She set up the school for the children of fugitive slaves and became an influential figure in the communities established by expatriated African Americans. In Canada, Mary founded a racially integrated school in Canada with the support of the American Missionary Association. At this time she joined abolitionists Mary and Henry Bibb to fight against exploitive antislavery agents known as “begging agents.” She simultaneously criticized Black Southern ministry and other Blacks who did not teach intellectual growth and self reliance to other Blacks. In 1852 she wrote “Notes on Canada West” which persuaded American Blacks to come to Canada.

When the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in the United States threatened to return free northern blacks and escaped slaves into bondage, Shadd and her brother Isaac moved to Canada and settled in Windsor Ontario across the border from Detroit. In Windsor. Mary Shadd’s immediate family joined her in Canada. Her father had been a key figure in the Underground Railroad and a subscription agent for William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator. Abraham Shadd too moved to Canada, and subsequently became one of Canada’s first Black elected officials. In 1855, Mary’s sister Emaline Shadd received top honors and the first prize of five pounds, ten shillings, along with her first class certificate at Toronto’s Normal School. In 1856, Mary Shadd married a Toronto barber, Thomas F. Cary, who was involved with the paper. In late 1857, she ceased publishing the Newspaper. In 1858, John Brown held a secret “convention” at the home of Mary’s brother Issac, a meeting that elevated Mary’s concern for the anti-slavery cause. In 1861, she published Voice from Harper’s Ferry, a tribute to Brown’s unsuccessful raid. After the outbreak of the Civil War Mary Ann Shadd Cary left Canada and was appointed a Recruiting Officer for Blacks for the Union Army., she founded a racially integrated school with the support of the American Missionary Association.

After her husband died who was a barber  in 1860, Shadd Cary and her children returned to the United States. During the Civil War at the behest of the abolitionist Martin Delany 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 for 15 year  in public schools and attended Howard University School of Law. She in 1883 BECAME THE FIRST NEGRO WOMAN  to obtain a law degree from Howard University among the first women in the United States to do so. She wrote for National Era and The People’s Advocate and joined the National Woman’s Suffrage Association.  Shadd Cary then worked 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 Negro woman to cast a vote in a national election. As an educator, an abolitionist, an editor, an attorney and a feminist, she dedicated her life to improving the quality of life for ALL.

On June 5, 1893 as many sources have said she passed away. She was interred at Columbian Harmony Cemetery.

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