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Maria Stewart Leads the Way for Future American Women Journalists.

Posted by: | November 4, 2009 | No Comment |

Before the 19th century, women were not given the privilege of having a career in journalism. Jobs in journalism were generally given to white males, or women who had special connections through their male family members or spouses.

However, during the 19th century, Maria Stewart, an African American woman, paved her way into the field of journalism with no such connections.

As a free African American woman, Stewart began writing for the “Liberator” in 1831. The “Liberator” was a weekly Boston, Massachusetts newspaper published from 1831-1865, by William Llyod Garrison. It was a truly influential newspaper because it advocated the freeing of slaves in the United States.

Stewart wrote for the “Liberator” during the first two years of its publication, under a section tiled,“Ladies’ Department.” Stewart’s later public speeches were eventually documented in this newspaper as well.

During the early 19th century, people did not want to hear about what women had to say, especially African American women. In fact, Stewart received a lot of public scorn. Because of this public scorn, Stewart was deprived of her home and forced into poverty when her husband died.

However, this did not stop Stewart’s pursuits of getting her voice heard.

Maria Stewart eventually produced her first publication, “Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality,” in 1831. It was a 12-page pamphlet on political matters and religious persuasion.

This pamphlet was written with the purpose of wanting African Americans to unite and organize against slavery in the South. Stewart used the Bible and the U.S Constitution as a basis for her beliefs on freedom and justice.

In this publication, Stewart says, “All the nations of the earth are crying out for Liberty and Equality. Away, away with tyranny and oppression! And shall Africa’s sons be silent any longer? Far be it from me to recommend to you, either to kill, burn, or destroy. But I would strongly recommend to you, to improve your talents; let not one lie buried in the earth. Show forth your powers of mind. Prove to the world, that: Though black your skins as shades of night, your hearts are pure, your souls are white.”

Along with being considered the first African American woman political writer, Stewart was also considered one of the first African American women to give public lectures.

Maria Stewart had many other accomplishments before her death in 1879. These included the publishing of her collected works in 1835 titled, “Productions of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart,” and establishing a school for children and families that escaped slavery during the Civil War. Stewart’s last accomplishment was in 1879, with the publishing of a follow up edition to her prior “Productions” piece. It added an autobiographical segment titled, “Sufferings During the War.”

Because of her role in aiding civil and human rights, and influencing many future women journalists, Stewart is one of the most influential African American women of all time.

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