Activist Mary Church Terrell Was Born
1898, Mary Church Terrell wrote how African-American women "with
ambition and aspiration [are] handicapped on account of their
sex, but they are everywhere baffled and mocked on account of
their race." She fought for equality through social and
educational reform. Born on September 23, 1863, in
Memphis, Tennessee, Terrell became an educator, political
activist, and the first president of the National Association of
Colored Women. Terrell understood the value of education.
Terrell was one of the first American women of African descent
to graduate from college. She attended Oberlin College in
Ohio, America's first college to admit women and among the first
to admit students of all races. She earned her master's degree
from Oberlin in 1888 and began her career as a teacher.
After her marriage to Washington lawyer Robert Terrell, she
became active in the suffrage movement, speaking out for women's
right to vote, particularly on behalf of African-American women.
Terrell found that black women's groups were routinely excluded
from national women's organizations during the late 19th
century. They weren't even allowed to participate in the
planning of the 1893 World's Fair, but they could attend.
Because of this, Terrell and other black women leaders formed
the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) in 1896, an
organization that would support black women's groups throughout
the country. She and the NACW worked to end discrimination based
on gender and race. One way was through educating the
public. Passionate about education, Terrell sold her
speeches to raise money for a kindergarten as well.