Meet Mary Ann Shadd
Meet Mary Ann Shadd
For years Mary Ann had written letters to newspapers to give readers her point of view. In 1852, she decided to start her own newspaper to discuss Black life in Canada.
The paper was called the Provincial Freeman. Since there was no internet, television or radio in those days, people depended on newspapers for information. Mary Ann was determined to use her paper to fight for abolition and the rights of Black people and women.
Mary Ann was the first female newspaper publisher in Canada. She realized her paper would fail if people knew a woman ran it. That’s why the paper’s front page listed two men as the editors.
However, it was Mary Ann who decided what would be printed in the paper, wrote articles and worked hard to find subscribers. She was proud of her paper and finally listed herself as an editor in 1856.
Although establishing and publishing the newspaper was the constant thread in Mary Ann Shadd’s life, this is a book about her determination as she battled for racial equality. Teaching and education are highlighted as passions of Mary Ann’s life. After briefly describing Mary Ann’s childhood as the youngest of 13 children and telling readers that her parents were part of the Underground Railroad, the book moves on to Mary Ann’s young adult life. This period included her being a teacher at the age of 16 and a writer by the age of 25. Mary Ann and her brother moved to Canada to escape the racial persecution they experienced in the United States. Mary Ann began to encourage others to move to Canada by publishing a brochure. Mary Ann started a school for all children during the day, and she taught adults at night. Mary Ann lost her job in 1853, but that year she also chose to start her own newspaper. She traveled and attended conventions as a speaker to raise awareness of equal rights and to sell subscriptions to the paper. The newspaper stopped in 1860. Mary Ann then began to recruit soldiers in the United States for the North’s Union Army. After the war was over, Mary Ann enrolled in Harvard University to become a lawyer (the second black woman to graduate from law school in the United States), and she started an organization for Black women with equal rights (including voting) as the goal.
Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrator Mike Deas add to their growing list of nonfiction publications with Meet Mary Ann Shadd. The book is another installment in the “Scholastic Canada Biography” series. There is an excellent timeline at the back of the book that highlights incredible moments of Mary Ann’s life. There is nothing in this book that marks it as one that will leap off shelves and become a reader’s favourite. However, it is this kind of book that also needs to be written by someone like Elizabeth MacLeod who has taken a vast amount of history and penned this work in an endearing and interesting way! Mike Deas illustrations add depth and details to the biography. Meet Mary Ann Shadd is a good book that summarizes an amazing individual's life, and it would make a nice addition to a school library or class library shelf.
John Dryden is a teacher-librarian in the Cowichan Valley, British Columbia.