Mary Ann Camberton <I>Shadd</I> Cary


Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary

Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware, USA
Death 5 Jun 1893 (aged 69)
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
Burial Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
Memorial ID 40231747 View Source

An educator, an abolitionist, an editor, an attorney and a feminist.

She was the eldest child of thirteen children born to Harriet and Abraham Shadd, established leaders in the free Black community. Her father was a key figure in the Underground Railroad and a subscription agent for William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator.

As a child, she witnessed slavery and the dedication her family had to freeing slaves. After receiving an education from Pennsylvania Quakers, She devoted the first part of her life to abolition, working with fugitive slaves, and becoming the first African-American woman in North America to edit a weekly newspaper -- the Provincial Freeman, devoted to displaced Americans living in Canada. She then became a teacher, establishing or teaching in schools for Negroes in Wilmington; West Chester, Pa.; New York; Morristown, N.J.; and Canada. She was also the first woman to speak at a national Negro convention. During the Civil War, Cary helped recruit African-American soldiers for the Union Army. She then taught in Washington, D.C., public schools until, in 1869, she embarked on her second career, becoming the first woman to enter Howard Universityís law school. She was the first Negro woman to obtain a law degree and among the first women in the United States to do so. She then fought alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for women suffrage, testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and becoming the first Negro woman toyb 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 everyone -- black and white, male and female. She married Thomas F. Cary of Toronto in 1856. They had two children, Sarah and Linton. They lived in Chatham, Canada where Mary worked at her paper and taught school. Thomas died in 1860.

Extra Note:
According to the National Park Service: "Mary Ann Shadd Cary died of stomach cancer in 1893. She was buried in Columbian Harmony Cemetery in Washington, DC. Located in the U Street Corridor, Shadd Cary’s brick row-house is a lasting reminder of her extraordinary civil rights activism and her defiance of societal constraints."

by Robert S; FIND A GRAVE ID 49632512

Widowed, lawyer, parents of U.S.Editor, publisher, teacher, lawyer, abolitionist, pioneer, Mary Ann Camberton Shadd was born on October 9, 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware to abolitionist parents, Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Burton Parnell Shadd. Abraham, a shoemaker, was a grandson of Hans Schad, alias John Shadd, a native of Hesse-Cassel who had entered the United States serving as a Hessian soldier with the British Army during the French and Indian War. Hans Schad was wounded and left in the care of two African-American women, mother and daughter, both named Elizabeth Jackson. Hans and the daughter were married in January 1756 and their first son was born six months later. Abraham was a leader of a series of national conventions held by Black leaders in the 1830s and 1840s. When Mary Ann was a young girl, the family moved to Westchester, Pennsylvania, where she and her brothers and sisters attended school, an opportunity denied Black children, slave or free, in Delaware.

Mary Ann followed in her parents' footsteps and dedicated her time to helping Black people escape slavery through the Underground Railroad. While still a teenager, she completed her education and became a teacher. She established a school in Wilmington and later taught in the Black communities of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey.

In 1850, the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act to aid slave owners in recapturing their escaped human "property." This law stipulated that any White person could arrest and detain anyone of African descent who was suspected of being a runaway slave. Unless the so-called slave possessed irrefutable proof of freedom, there was little recourse in the courts. This odious legislation affected not only the recently escaped slaves, but also those who had escaped long ago and had been living in freedom for years. Even those born free were at risk of being captured and dragged into bondage. As a result, thousands of Blacks living in freedom in northern states picked up their lives and fled to Canada. The Shadds were one of these families. Mary Ann went to Canada in 1851 alongside slaves who were fleeing the tragedy of slavery. Her passage in Canada had been more than remarkable. She had been a teacher, created a school, and became the first Black female editor.

In September 1851, she attended the Convention of Colored Freeman in Toronto where she met Henry and Mary Bibb, Black activists and publishers of the newspaper "Voice of the Fugitive." They convinced her to take a teaching position near their base in Sandwich, Canada West. Shadd heeded the call and moved to Windsor, where she opened a school for the area's growing fugitive slave population.

In 1852, she published "A Plea for Emigration" or "Notes of Canada West," which touted the country as a major refuge, not only for slaves who had escaped, but also for free Blacks in the northern states experiencing increasing restrictions. However, her public outspokenness and willingness to take on male leaders in the community, both Black and non-Black, got her into hot water. A dispute with the Bibbs over the publicizing of her financial support by the American Missionary Association spilled onto the pages of their newspaper and led to her firing from her teaching position.

Mary Ann decided to establish her own newspaper where she could control how her ideas and opinions were disseminated, and the first edition was published on March 24, 1853. Interestingly, she persuaded Samuel Ringgold Ward, Black abolitionist and agent of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada, to lend his experience and influence as editor. Although the paper was clearly her initiative, she was aware that having her name on the masthead could alienate a readership that yielded to the strict gender codes of 19th-century society. On the other hand, Ward was a newspaper man in his own right, having published in the United States several abolitionist newspapers, including the Impartial Citizen. He, thus, had journalism experience and was certainly an appropriate person to help Shadd in her endeavors.

For the next year, Mary Ann took to the lecture circuit to drum up subscriptions and interest in her paper—a necessary practice she continued even after the paper was established. On March 25, 1854, The Provincial Freeman began publishing weekly out of Toronto. With this endeavor, Shadd became the first Black woman in North America to establish and edit a newspaper, and one of the earliest newspaperwomen in Canada.

The Provincial Freeman was first and foremost an antislavery newspaper. But as a leading emigrationist, Shadd strongly advocated Canada West (Ontario) as a place for Blacks to settle, and attacked—even within the abolitionist movement—racism and "begging." Begging was the practice of raising funds for "poor, unclothed, downtrodden fugitives" and presenting them in an unfavorable light, when in fact, most found work and got on their feet fairly quickly. It was also questionable how much the funds raised in these "begging" efforts actually reached those for whom it was intended.

The importance of Black self-reliance and integration into Canadian society was a key component of the paper's philosophy. Shadd advised all Blacks to insist on fair treatment and, if all else failed, to take legal action. The Freeman continually stressed that the equality of Blacks was one of the most significant aspects of life on British soil and needed to be taken full advantage of.

After a valiant effort to keep it going, the paper succumbed in August of 1857. However, four years of publishing a newspaper under difficult circumstances was quite an achievement - one that places it among a very small group of Black publications, including the newspapers and writings of Frederick Douglass. In addition to providing an important voice for the Black community in Canada at the time, the Provincial Freeman offers an invaluable window on that community for modern-day researchers.

In 1856, Mary Ann married Toronto barber, Thomas F. Cary, and they later had two children, Sarah Elizabeth Cary and Linton Shadd Cary. Thomas died in 1860.

After the demise of the her newspaper, Mary Ann Shadd Cary continued to set pioneering standards. She was hired by Martin R. Delaney as perhaps the only woman to recruit Black soldiers during the Civil War. In the 1870s, she was a teacher in the colored schools of Washington, DC. She later studied law at Howard University, and in 1883, became the second Black American woman to earn a law degree. She was a classmate of Judson W. Lyons, Professor Jesse Lawson (founder and president of Frelinghuysen University in Washington, DC), James F. Bundy (noted Washington attorney), and Professor Kelly Miller. During her later years, Mary Ann became increasingly vocal and active on the issue of women's rights suffrage. She wrote for the newspapers National Era and The People's Advocate and in 1880, organized the Colored Women's Progressive Franchise. Mrs. 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 African-American woman to vote in a national election.

After a lifetime of achievements and firsts, Shadd Cary died on June 5, 1893 in Washington, DC from stomach cancer. Perhaps her greatest contribution was the role she carved out for herself as a Black woman in the public sphere, whether as a teacher and community activist, writer, newspaper editor, public speaker, recruiting agent for the Union Army or lawyer. By pushing the boundaries and limitations normally ascribed to her race and sex, she blazed a trail not only for Black people but also for generations of women.

Gravesite Details

Originally buried in the old Columbian Harmony Cemetery in Washington, DC, but believed to have been re-interred, with about 37,000 others, in the National Harmony Memorial Park in Prince George's County, Maryland, in 1960.

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