Mary Ann Shadd

First black woman to vote

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Mary Ann Shadd is an important figure in Canadian history.

Born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1823, Shadd was the daughter of free-born blacks. Her father, who moved to Pennsylvania and was schooled by Quakers, was an important figure in the underground railroad.

Shadd and her brother eventually moved to Windsor, Ontario, because the Fugitive Slave Law allowed free blacks and escaped slaves to be captured and taken into bondage. There, Shadd founded a racially-integrated school. She also founded a newspaper, The Provincial Freeman, which became one of the longest-running black newspapers. Through this and other papers, Shadd emerged as a leading newspaperwoman.

Shadd returned to the United States and worked as a recruiting officer for the Union Army during the American Civil War. After the war, she earned her law degree from Howard University, becoming the second black woman to do so. Shadd was also a leading suffragette and was the first black woman to cast a vote in a national election.

Throughout her life, Shadd fought to end slavery and establish equality for African Americans and women.

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