Mary E. Bibb

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Mary Elizabeth Bibb (1820 – 1877) was an American-born educator and abolitionist leader. She is considered by some to be the first female black journalist in Canada.[1][2]


The daughter of free black Quaker parents, she was born Mary Elizabeth Miles in Rhode Island around 1820.[3] She studied at the Massachusetts State Normal School in Lexington, graduating in 1843.[3] The principal of that school was Samuel Joseph May, who supported women's rights and education for black people.[1] She was one of the first black woman teachers in North America and taught in schools in Boston, Albany and Cincinnati. She became involved in anti-slavery activities and, in 1847, met Henry Bibb, an escaped slave and abolitionist.[2] She became Bibb's second wife in June the following year.[4]

After the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, the Bibbs moved to Canada West, settling first in Sandwich and then in Windsor. The couple frequently took fugitives into their home who had arrived in Windsor via the Underground Railroad. In 1851, they began publishing a newspaper called Voice of the Fugitive, the first major newspaper targeted at black Canadians. Mary and Henry Bibb were also part of the leadership of the Refugee Home Society, which helped former slaves settle in Canada, providing them with land and building schools and churches. Mary also taught school, educating both children and adults.[2] In 1851, the Bibbs organized a North American Convention in Toronto on how free black Americans and Canadians should respond to the Fugitive Slave Act. On October 9, 1853, the office of the Voice of the Fugitive newspaper was mysteriously burned to the ground. Mary and Henry tried to revive it, but Henry died suddenly in the summer of 1854 at the age of 39.[4][5]

Sometime after 1855, Bibb married Isaac N. Cary. She operated a store in Windsor from 1865 until 1871.[1] After Cary's death, she returned to the US, to Brooklyn, New York, where she died in 1877.[4]


In 2005, Mary and Henry Bibb were declared Persons of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Bristow, Peggy (1994). We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History. pp. 143–60. ISBN 0802068812.
  2. ^ a b c Forster, Merna (2014). Canadian Heroines. Volume 3. p. 349. ISBN 1459730879.
  3. ^ a b "Notable Black American Women". Biography in Context. Gale. 2002. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Henry and Mary Bibb" (PDF). Harriet Tubman Institute. 2012.
  5. ^ Daniel G. Hill, The Freedom-Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada (Agincourt, ON: Book Society of Canada, 1981), 201–202.
  6. ^ "The Government of Canada commemorates the National Historic Significance of Mary and Henry Bibb". Parks Canada. October 8, 2005.