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Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893) was an outspoken editor, writer, and abolitionist. She founded the Provincial Freeman newspaper (1854), thereby becoming the first black female editor and publisher in North America. Born to a prominent free black abolitionist family in Wilmington, Delaware, Cary lived and worked throughout the United States before settling in Windsor, Canada, in 1850 after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. There she opened a racially integrated school, wrote pamphlets encouraging blacks to immigrate to Canada, and started her newspaper.

When the Union Army began accepting African American troops in 1863, Cary became a Union Army recruiting officer in Indiana. After the war, in 1868, she moved to Washington and worked teaching black children. She was one of the first two black women in the United States to enroll in law school, graduating from Howard University Law School in 1883 but working in law before she finished her degree. Cary advertised her law services at a time when women were prevented from practicing law. According to one of her biographers, one of her most successful cases was both political and personal. She challenged the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee for the right to vote in federal elections and won, becoming one of the few women with the vote during Reconstruction (1865-1877). (All women gained the right to vote in 1920.) Cary also organized the Colored Women's Progressive Franchise Association in 1880.

Cary's house was constructed in 1881 and she occupied it from that year until 1885.

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