Mary Ann Shadd Cary, born in Wilmington, Delaware, the eldest of 13 children of free African-American parents became a role model for women in education and law. After receiving an education from Pennsylvania Quakers, Cary devoted the first part of her life to abolition, working with fugitive slaves, and becoming the first African-American woman in North America to edit a weekly newspaper — the Provincial Freeman, devoted to displaced Americans living in Canada.
She then became a teacher, establishing or teaching in schools for African Americans in Wilmington; West Chester, Pennsylvania; New York; Morristown, New Jersey; and Canada. She was also the first woman to speak at a national African-American convention. During the Civil War, Cary helped recruit African-American soldiers for the Union Army. She then taught in Washington, D.C., public schools until, in 1869, she embarked on her second career, becoming the first woman to enter Howard University’s law school. She was the first African-American woman to obtain a law degree and among the first women in the United States to do so.
She then fought alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for women’s suffrage, testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and becoming the first African-American woman to cast a vote in a national election. As an educator, an abolitionist, an editor, an attorney and a feminist, she dedicated her life to improving the quality of life for everyone — black and white, male and female.