MARIA STEWART -USA Episcopal Calendar
PROPHETIC WITNESS 1879
Maria Stewart (Maria Miller) (1803 – December 17, 1879) was an African American public speaker, abolitionist, and feminist. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut and at the age of five became an orphan and was sent to live with a minister and his family, where she was a servant in their home. She later moved to Boston, and married James W. Stewart. He died after only three years of marriage, and she was cheated out of a considerable inheritance. She then embarked on a short (1831-1833) writing and public speaking career, for which she is best known. Her most famous speech was Religion and the pure principles of Morality The sure Foundation on which We Must Build. This and others were published in William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator.
She later moved to New York, and then to Washington, DC, where she was head matron of the Freedman’s Hospital.
The first American woman to speak to a mixed audience of men and women, whites and black, Stewart 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.
One of the pioneering Black women to plead the case of the African-American community and denounce both racism and sexism has greatly been ignored by history. Maria W. Stewart was the first American woman, Black or white, to speak in front of a mixed crowd of men and women, but her legacy is rarely acknowledged.
As a deeply religious and purpose-driven woman, Stewart employed many aspects of the prophetic and African-American jeremiad used in the careers and rhetoric of several accomplished Black thinkers.
Although Stewart had a brief career as a public figure and only a few of her published works are available, an appreciation of her prophetic character and discourse can be obtained by reading Marilyn Richardson’s Maria W. Stewart: America’s First Black Woman Political Writer.
Stewart associated women with virtue and cited scripture to support her claims. This suggested women are an integral part of the liberation of Black people and enlightenment, and it was considered revolutionary thought during a time when women were only honored as mothers and wives.
Stewart’s claim was a direct challenge to patriarchy and hegemony and it’s important to note that her analysis preceded many known Black thinkers such as Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.
Stewart challenged Black women to pursue economic independence and encouraged them to model Black women in Connecticut who had worked and saved money to build their own church.
These views identify Stewart as a transcendent defender and advocate of all human rights, not only racial but gender as well.
Born Maria Miller, the child of free African-American parents in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1803. At the age of five Maria lost both parents and was sent to live with a minister and his family.
William Lloyd Garrison & Maria Stewart. 2016. William Lloyd Garrison & Maria Stewart. [ONLINE] Available at: http://satucket.com/lectionary/WLGarrison&Maria_Stewart.htm. [Accessed 17 December 2016]
MulPix.com. 2016. Jermaine: Maria W. Stewart (Maria Miller) (1803 – February 6, 1880) was a domestic servant who became an African-American …. [ONLINE] Available at: https://mulpix.com/post/17856517840044880.html. [Accessed 17 December 2016