Maria W. Stewart

Lived:1803 - December 17, 1879 (aged 75-76)

Maria W. Stewart was a African American teacher, lecturer and activist. She was one of the first American women of any race to speak to a "mixed" audience of men and women and the first African American woman to publish a political manifesto.

Stewart was born in 1803 in Hartford, Connecticut, to free African American parents. Orphaned by age 5, she served as an indentured servant to a minister until age 15, receiving no formal education. Between ages 15-20, Stewart supported herself as a servant, eventually moving to Boston. She received some education through Sunday school classes. In 1826, she married James W. Stewart, a successful shipping agent and veteran of the War of 1812, and they became members of the free Black community in Boston’s Beacon Hill area. James Stewart died in 1829, and Maria was cheated of the sizable estate by the white executors of his will.

In 1831, Stewart published a religious essay in William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator. She gave four lectures in Boston between 1831 and 1833 on women's rights, racism and education, and the lectures were published in The Liberator. In 1834, Stewart moved to New York, where she joined a Black literary society and became a teacher. She later moved to Baltimore and eventually to Washington, D.C., where she was appointed head matron (nurse) of the Freedmen's Hospital, now Howard University Hospital.

Stewart died on December 17, 1879.


National Park Service (2020, Aug 19). Maria W. Stewart. Retrieved on Nov. 4, 2020, from