Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893)


Mary Ann Shadd Cary, African American teacher, journalist, lawyer, and suffragist, was the oldest of thirteen children of prominent free Black parents. She edited a Canadian newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, for Black refugees who fled to Canada. She advocated the vote for Black women as race advancement, affiliated with the National Woman Suffrage Association, and developed legal arguments for suffrage under the 14th Amendment. Cary founded the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise Association in D.C. (1880), which pre-dated the woman’s club movement by a decade, and linked the vote to women’s labor questions and entrepreneurship – all ideas far ahead of their time.

The Shadd family moved to Canada after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act (1850), where she was a  spokesperson and editor of  the Provincial Freeman. She married Thomas Cary of Toronto but became a widow (1869). She moved to Washington, D. C., taught public school, and became the first woman student at Howard University Law School. Not permitted to graduate because D. C. did not admit women to the bar, she returned ten years later (1883) to receive her law degree at 60.



Works Cited:

  • Reprinted from NWHM Cyber Exhibit "Rights For Women"
    Author Kristina Gupta
  • PHOTO: Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Library and Archives Canada (C-029977)