Image of Maria W. Stewart


Lifetime: 1803 - 1879 Passed: ≈ 143 years ago


Domestic Servant, Teacher, Journalist, Lecturer


United States

Maria W. Stewart

Maria W. Stewart was a free-born African American who became a teacher, journalist, lecturer, abolitionist, and women's rights activist. The first known American woman to speak to a mixed audience of men and women, white and black, she was also the first African-American woman to make public lectures, as well as to lecture about women's rights and make a public anti-slavery speech. 


The Liberator published two pamphlets by Stewart: Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, The Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build (which advocated abolition and black autonomy) in 1831, and another of religious meditations, Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria Stewart (1832). In February 1833, she addressed Boston's African Masonic Lodge, which soon ended her brief lecturing career. Her claim that black men lacked "ambition and requisite courage" caused an uproar among the audience, and Stewart decided to retire from giving lectures. Seven months later, she gave a farewell address at a schoolroom in the African Meeting House ("Paul's Church"). After this, she moved to New York City, then to Baltimore, and finally Washington, DC, where she worked as a schoolteacher, and then head matron at Freedmen's Hospital, where she eventually died. 

Books by Maria W. Stewart

Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart Cover image

Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart

Poetry Political Science Non-Fiction
Slavery Women's Rights Meditation

Maria W. Stewart was America's first black woman political writer. Between 1831 and 1833, she gave four speeches on the topics of slavery and women's rights. Meditations From The Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart—published in 1879, shortly before her deat...