Mary Ann Shadd


Image: Mary Ann Shadd (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-029977)


Born to free parents in Wilmington, Delaware, Mary Ann Shadd was the eldest of 13 children. She was educated by Quakers and later taught throughout the northeastern states. Following in the footsteps of her activist parents, who were part of the Underground Railroad, Shadd pursued the path taken by those heading north to freedom in Canada. Settling in Windsor, she wrote educational booklets outlining the advantages of Canada for settlers willing to work and the need for living within one's means. She set up an integrated school in Windsor that was open to all who could afford to attend (education was not publicly provided at that time). She moved to St. Catharines and then Toronto, where she met and married widower Thomas Cary. To promote information about the successes of Black people living in freedom in Canada, she began the Provincial Freeman newspaper, becoming the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper, although at first she had to have a man stand in for her as the apparent publisher.

Prior to returning to the US, Shadd obtained Canadian citizenship. In 1851, she was the only woman to attend the First Convention of Colored Freemen held outside of the US. Then she worked as a recruitment agent to support the Union side during the American Civil War. Shadd moved to Washington, DC, where she taught, then pursued law studies and became the first Black woman to complete this degree at Howard University. She joined efforts to gain women's suffrage (the vote) and was herself the first Black woman to vote in a national election.

Mary Ann Shadd and the Provincial Freeman
Scroll down to page 61 to read about Mary Ann Shadd's tenacious struggle for African Canadian and African American civil rights. From Midnight to Dawn: The Last Tracks of the Underground Railroad. From Google Books.

Sculpture being unveiled at BME Freedom Park in Chatham
An article about the unveiling of a bronze sculpture of historical figure Mary Ann Shadd Cary. The sculptress, Artis Lane, is a direct descendent of Shadd. From the Chatham-Kent Daily Post newspaper.

Mary Shadd Cary
A biography of 19th-century Canadian editor and civil rights advocate Mary Shadd Cary. From Library and Archives Canada.

Mary Ann Shadd
Listen to this Historica Radio Minute about pioneer publisher and activist Mary Ann Shadd.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary: pushing the boundaries
This United Nations website offers a detailed biography of Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

Mary Ann Shadd
A review of Rosemary Sadlier’s book Mary Ann Shadd: Publisher, Editor, Teacher, Lawyer, Suffragette. From the Manitoba Library Association.

Mary Ann Shadd
Detailed biography of Black Canadian activist Mary Ann Shadd. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.