The Life of Mary Ann Shadd Cary for CBC National Radio Syndication

In Culture, Education, Media Writing, Writing (all kinds) on July 29, 2016 at 3:00 AM

Mary Ann Shadd Cary lived a multi-faceted life as a teacher, political activist, journalist and lawyer in the nineteenth century.

Not an easy feat for a woman born in the United States in 1822 as a free black.

Growing up in Delaware and Pennsylvania, she was the eldest of thirteen children. Her father was a successful boot manufacturer, and Mary knew a life of comfort. Politically active, Mary`s father was involved in the abolitionist movement, and his interests were passed on to his children.

Despite the fact the Shadd family were wealthy, Mary had problems receiving an education in Delaware. Blacks were not allowed to go to school. In Pennsylvania, with a growing anti-black sentiment, Mary`s parents paid for her private education with the Quakers.

Even with the advantages Mary had compared to many blacks of that time, because she was a woman, only certain professions were open to her. She became a teacher.

British North America abolished slavery in 1833. Mary, at the age of 28, took advantage of this by seeking refuge in this country in the fall of 1851. She settled in Windsor.

Mary taught black children. She also exercised her passion for political writing by publishing her pro-Canada pamphelt « Notes on Canada West » in 1852.

Mary faced multiple layers of racism and sexism inside and outside the black community. Because she was light-skinned and part of the black elite, this drew resentment from other blacks.

Later on, Mary`s love of writing and politics lead her to become the editor of The Provincial Freeman. This paper had correspondents in Ontario, with subscribers across Canada and the U.S. The paper included issues of emigration, tactics for combating slavery and black nationalism.

Mary lived an unconventional private life for a woman of those times. She married a businessman and activist from Toronto. They lived apart during their four-year marriage, while Mary raised funds for her newspaper. The arrangement seemed to work. However, at her husband`s death at the age of 35, Mary was pregnant with their second child. Like many widows, financially she was in trouble.

Mary continued to struggle in the male-dominated world of journalism. Sexism was widespread at that time she had to hide the fact she was editor of The Freeman. A well-known New York minister and editor of another newspaper served as the unofficial editor.

In the 1860s, Mary returned to the U.S. She earned a law degree, continued her teaching and was active in the woman`s suffrage movement until her death in 1893.

I`m Donna Kakonge.

Extro : For more information about Mary Ann Shadd Carey and other blacks in Canadian history, read The Freedom Seekers : blacks in early Canada by Daniel G. Hill and published by The Book Society of Canada Limited. You can also refer to a book by Rosemary Sadlier titled Mary Ann Shadd.

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