Dear Friends,

As we celebrate and reflect on our nation's Independence this week, I am also thinking about and giving thanks for one of America's cornerstones: the freedom of the Press.

As a printer and publisher, my work is supported ~ is made possible ~ by the long lineage of people who have fought for and exercised their right to freely express themselves through various forms of media.

I'd like to introduce you to one of those people, a hero of mine from 19th century America: Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893) was the first Black female publisher in North America. She grew up well-educated, in a family of free African-Americans in Delaware. Her family was very active in the antislavery movement and in the movement to relocate Blacks to places where slavery had been abolished. One of those relocation areas was what is now Ontario, Canada, and Mary Ann moved there with her brother, first establishing a school and then becoming a journalist and publisher. 

In 1853, Cary founded The Provincial Freeman, a newspaper “Devoted to anti-slavery, temperance, and general literature.” It also supported women’s suffrage, and it served the region’s African-Canadian community for 4 years. She traveled widely, wrote essays about racial and gender equality, and, after the Civil War and the death of her husband, she moved back to the United States and got a law degree from Howard University. Cary was an amazing woman blazing trails in publishing and civil rights in the 19th century. 

From Mary Katharine Goddard, who printed some of the first copies of the Declaration of Independence distributed to the states, to Mary Ann Shadd Cary, to today's smörgåsbord of print and electronic publishers, may we celebrate the freedom of the Press this 4th of July. And may we remain energized to participate and vigilant to preserve it ~ our democracy depends on it.

All my best,

Emily Hancock
St Brigid Press
Afton, Virginia

BELOW : The University of Virginia's replica of a wooden common press. For more information, see my post about attending a demonstration of this press at UVA with Josef Beery HERE!

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