Mary circa 1900, LOC

Mary Church Terrell was born the year that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, she died the year that U.S. schools became desegregated and she worked as a civil rights activist and suffragist in between to better the lives of African Americans. She lived such a full life (and we get to give a lot of background on the issues that she championed) we’re going to break this into two episodes.

Mary Eliza Church was born on September 23, 1863, in Memphis Tennessee, the first of the two children of Robert Reed Church and Louisa Ayres Church. From the wealth of her father, the career of her mother, her parents’ amicable divorce, the level of luxury and privilege Mary had –everything about her life was very unusual for the daughter of two former slaves…living in the south…who was born in the middle of the Civil War.

Mary was sent to school at six in Ohio, not to get her out of her parents’ hair, but for a better education. And what an education! She landed in a very unique pocket of the U.S. where schools and communities were integrated. From grade school through getting her B.A. from Oberlin College (Go Yeoman/ Yeowomen!) Mary received the best education. Despite her father’s plans for her, she pursued a career as a teacher and used her unique perspective and gifts to help other African-Americans lift as they climbed toward true freedoms, education, and equal rights.

She was the first African-American school board member in Washingon, D.C., she was was a founding member of the National Association of Colored Women; she was a civil rights and suffrage lecturer and writer… and she spoke at the National American Women’s Suffrage Association meeting that celebrated the 50th Anniversary of  the historic Seneca Falls convention (here’s her speech, she was amazing!) Of course she experienced prejudice herself, we get into all that as well as the challenges and experiences of black women during the suffrage movement (and a lot of that was from white suffragists.)

And we aren’t even halfway through her life, see why we had to break it into two parts?



Media recommendations and links to things we talked about will be in the shownotes of Part Two.


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