Maria Stewart

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Maria Stewart (1803 – December 17, 1879) was a free-born Black American teacher, journalist, lecturer, abolitionist, and civil rights activist. Born to a free Black family in Hartford, Connecticut in 1803, she lost both of her parents at age three and was sent to live in the home of a white minister and his wife. She worked in the home as a servant until age 15 while developing a lifelong affinity for religion. Despite receiving no formal education,

Stewart became the first American woman known to have spoken before a mixed audience of Black and White men and women, as well as the first American woman to speak publicly on women’s rights and the abolition of slavery.

Her Christian faith strongly influenced Stewart. She often cited Biblical influences and the Holy Spirit, and implicitly critiqued societal failure to educate her and others like her:

Yet, after all, methinks there are no chains so galling as the chains of ignorance—no fetters so binding as those that bind the soul, and exclude it from the vast field of useful and scientific knowledge. O, had I received the advantages of early education, my ideas would, ere now, have expanded far and wide; but, alas! I possess nothing but moral capability—no teachings but the teachings of the Holy Spirit.

“A quote from “Why site ye here and die”

BlackPast, B. (2007, January 24). (1832) Maria W. Stewart, “Why Sit Ye Here and Die?”.

To find out more about Maria W. Stewart please see the following links

Maria W. Stewart (1803-1879) was one of the first American women to leave copies of her speeches.

BlackPast, B. (2007, January 24). (1832) Maria W. Stewart, “Why Sit Ye Here and Die?”.

Speech delivered at Franklin Hall, Boston, September 21, 1832. The full text appears in Marilyn Richardson, Maria W. Stewart: America’s First Black Woman Political Writer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 45-49.

Maria Stewart bemoans the consequences of racism, 1832