Mary Eliza Church Terrell was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1863. She received her BA and her Master’s degree from Oberlin College in Ohio. She settled in Washington, DC and married Robert Heberton Terrell, who would become the first black municipal court judge in DC.
Terrell was an active supporter of woman suffrage, and became involved in the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1896, she became the first president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). Under Terrell’s leadership, the NACW undertook a variety of reform efforts and worked to end racial and sexual discrimination.
Terrell became the first black woman appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education, and the first black member of the American Association of University Women. She was also involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In her later life, Terrell led a three year successful campaign to outlaw segregation in public places in Washington, DC. She died in 1954.