Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Born Mary Ann Shadd
October 9, 1823
Wilmington, Delaware
Died June 5, 1893(1893-06-05) (aged 69)
Washington, D.C.
Resting place Columbian Harmony Cemetery
Occupation Anti-slavery activist, journalist, publisher, teacher, lawyer
Language English
Nationality American
Ethnicity African-American. Native American, German-American
Alma mater Howard University (School of Law)
Spouse Thomas F. Cary (m. 1856)
Children Sarah Elizabeth Cary; Linton 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]

Shadd Cary was an abolitionist who became the first female African American newspaper editor in North America when she edited the Provincial Freeman in 1853.[2][3]

Early life

Mary Ann Shadd was born in Wilmington, Delaware on October 9, 1823, the eldest of thirteen children of Abraham Doras Shadd (1801–82) and Harriet Burton Parnell. Abraham D. Shadd 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. The story goes that Hans Schad was wounded and left in the care of two African-American women, mother and daughter, both named Elizabeth Jackson. The Hessian soldier and the daughter were married in January 1756 and their first son was born six months later.[4]

A.D. Shadd was a son of Jeremiah Shadd, John's younger son, who was a Wilmington butcher. Abraham Shadd was trained as a shoemaker[5] and had a shop in Wilmington and later in the nearby town of West Chester, Pennsylvania. In both places he was active as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and in other civil rights activities, being an active member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and, in 1833, named President of the National Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Colour.[6]

When it became illegal to educate African American children in the state of Delaware, the Shadd family moved to Pennsylvania, where Mary attended a Quaker school. In 1840, after being away at school, Mary Ann returned to West Chester and established a school for black children. She also later taught in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

Three years after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, A. D. Shadd moved his family to Canada, settling in North Buxton, Ontario. In 1858, he became the first black man to be elected to political office in Canada, when he was elected to the position of Counselor of Raleigh Township, Ontario.

Social activism

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, she founded a racially integrated school with the support of the American Missionary Association. She ran an anti-slavery newspaper called The Provincial Freeman, which made her the first female editor in North America.[5] Isaac managed the daily business affairs of the newspaper, and would go on to host gatherings to plan the raid on Harper's Ferry at his home.

Mary Ann traveled around Canada and the United States advocating for full racial integration through education and self-reliance. She promoted emigration to Canada amongst freemen, publishing A Plea for Emigration; or Notes of Canada West, in Its Moral, Social and Political Aspect: with Suggestions respecting Mexico, West Indies and Vancouver's Island for the Information of Colored Emigrants in 1852.[7]

She attempted to participate in the 1855 Philadelphia Colored Convention, but the assembly debated whether to even let her sit as a delegate. Her advocacy of emigration made her a controversial figure and she was only admitted by a slim margin of 15 votes. According to Frederick Douglass's Paper, although she gave a speech at the Convention advocating for emigration, she was so well-received that the delegates voted to give her ten more minutes to speak. However, her presence at the Convention was largely elided from the minutes, likely because she was a woman.[8]

Civil War and postbellum activism

Mary Ann Shadd Cary House in Washington, D.C.

In 1856, she married Thomas F. Cary, a Toronto barber who was also involved with the Provincial Freeman. She had a daughter named Sarah and a son named Linton.[9] After her husband died in 1860, Shadd Cary and her children returned to the United States.[5] During the Civil War, at the behest of the abolitionist Martin Delany,[10] 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.[5] She wrote for the newspapers National Era and The People's Advocate and in 1880, organized the Colored Women's Progressive Franchise.

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.

She died in Washington, D.C., on June 5, 1893. She was interred at Columbian Harmony Cemetery.[11]


Mary Ann Shadd Cary's 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.[12] She was also honoured by Canada, being designated a Person of National Historic Significance.[10]

See also


  1. "The Provincial Freeman". Archives of Ontario. Archived from the original on January 26, 2012.
  2. "Mary Ann Shadd Cary". A&E Networks Television. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  3. Hill, Daniel G (Spring–Summer 1982). "The Black press". Polyphony: The Bulletin of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario. 4 (1): 43. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  4. Scott P (July 1, 2010). "Abraham Doras Shadd". The Mill Creek Hundred History Blog. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Mary Ann Shadd Cary". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  6. Ito, Gail. "Shadd, Abraham Doras (1801-1882)".
  7. "Aboard the Underground Railroad - Mary Ann Shadd Cary House". National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  8. The Elevator, "The National Colored Convention," 1869.
  9. Census of Nova Scotia, 1851. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, Nova Scotia Board of Statistics, 1851
  10. 1 2 Shadd, Adrienne. "Mary Ann Shadd Cary: Abolitionist". Library and Archives Canada.
  11. Savage, Beth L. and Shull, Carol D. African American Historic Places. Washington, D.C.: Preservation Press, 1994, p. 136.
  12. "Honorees: 2010 National Women's History Month". Women's History Month. National Women's History Project. 2010. Retrieved November 14, 2011.

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