Women’s History Month: Maria Stewart, Groundbreaking Activist

By Katia Milazzo

Maria Stewart is well known for her work as a women’s rights activist. In her early years, she lost her parents at a young age. She was forced to become a servant for a white household. She didn’t have the opportunity to have a proper education, but she did learn from the books in the household in which she was living. After several years there, she left and married to James Stewart, a veteran of the War of 1812. He died and left money for Maria. After her husband died, this resulted in her going back to being a household servant.

In 1831, Stewart wrote several essays for William Garrison to publish in the Liberator. Stewart’s twelve-page essay called Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality called African Americans to rally against slavery and resist the cruel actions that were inflicted on them. One of her famous quotes, “How long, shall the fair daughters of Africa be compelled to bury their minds and talents beneath a load of iron pots and kettles?” Stewart was a woman of faith and she encouraged other women to be faithful, but she also called for them to stand up for their rights. It’s refreshing to hear that a woman of faith not only valued her faith, but she didn’t let that stop her from supporting women’s rights. Stewart started to make public appearances, giving speeches that would carry on for decades. She was the first woman to ever speak in public places about women’s rights and politics. She joins powerful women such as Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth in advocating for what’s right. Stewart later used some of the money from her husband’s pension to publish new editions of her essays and writings. Stewart died at the hospital she worked at in 1879. Her legacy proves that her work would last years and years later. In reference to words of Hamilton the Musical, she planted seeds in a garden of freedom and equality that not only grew then but continues to grow now and the years to come.