By Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress
Born in Delaware in 1823, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was quickly introduced to activism and resistance. Her family’s home was a stop on the Underground Railroad—a network of safe houses used to help African Americans escape slavery.
She taught in the U.S. for over a decade before moving to what is now Windsor, Ontario, and opened a school for children who had escaped slavery. Facing backlash for challenging community leaders and opposing segregation, she didn’t back down. Instead, she launched an anti-slavery newspaper.
The first edition of the Provincial Freeman hit newsstands in 1853, making Mary Ann Shadd the first woman publisher in Canada and the first Black woman publisher in North America.
As a teacher, community activist, writer, editor, and lawyer, Mary Ann Shadd blazed the trail for Black women across Canada and North America. She was a powerful force for change and remains a symbol of resilience and determination in the fight for civil rights and women’s rights.
This Black History Month, we’re shining a light on the achievements of individuals like Mary Ann Shadd. To read more stories of Black resistance, follow our social media accounts where our team will be posting throughout the month:
Black workers and activists have made significant contributions to our economy, our communities and our unions. Let’s celebrate their stories.