Mary Church Terrell
Mary Church Terrell

Celebrity Profile

Name: Mary Church Terrell
Occupation: Activist
Gender: Female
Birth Day: September 23, 1863
Death Date: July 24, 1954(1954-07-24) (aged 90)
Annapolis, Maryland, U.S.
Age: Aged 90
Birth Place: Memphis, United States
Zodiac Sign: Libra

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Height: in centimeters - N/A
Weight: in kg - N/A
Eye Color: N/A
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Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell was born on September 23, 1863 in Memphis, United States (90 years old). Mary Church Terrell is an Activist, zodiac sign: Libra. Find out Mary Church Terrellnet worth 2020, salary 2020 detail bellow.

Does Mary Church Terrell Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, Mary Church Terrell died on July 24, 1954(1954-07-24) (aged 90)
Annapolis, Maryland, U.S..

Net Worth

Net Worth 2020


Salary 2020

Not known

Biography Timeline


Mary Church Terrell was born in 1863 in Memphis, Tennessee, to Robert Reed Church and Louisa Ayers, both freed slaves of mixed racial ancestry. Her parents were prominent members of the black elite of Memphis after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction Era. Her paternal grandmother was of Malagasy and white descent and her paternal grandfather was Captain Charles B. Church, a white steamship owner and operator from Virginia who allowed his son Robert Church — Mary's father — to keep the wages he earned as a steward on his ship. The younger Church continued to accumulate wealth by investing in real estate, and purchased his first property in Memphis in 1862. He made his fortune by buying property after the city was depopulated following the 1878 yellow fever epidemic. He is considered to be the first African-American millionaire in the South.


Terrell majored in Classics at Oberlin College, the first college in the United States to accept African American and female students. She was one of the first African American women to attend the institution. The freshman class nominated her as class poet, and she was elected to two of the college's literary societies. She also served as an editor of The Oberlin Review. Terrell earned her bachelor's degree in 1884. She earned her degree in classics on the "gentleman's path", which was a full four years of study as opposed to the usual two years for women; she wrote that some of her friends tried to dissuade her from taking this degree, which included the study of Greek, on the grounds that "Greek was was unnecessary, if not positively unwomanly, for girls to study that 'old, dead language' anyhow...where...will you find a colored man who has studied Greek?". She graduated alongside notable African-American intellectuals Anna Julia Cooper and Ida Gibbs Hunt. Together, these three Oberlin graduates grew to become lifelong colleagues and highly regarded activists in the movement towards racial and gender equality in the United States. Continuing her studies at Oberlin, Terrell earned her master's degree in Education four years later, in 1888, becoming (along with Anna Julia Cooper) one of the first two black women to earn an MA.


Terrell began her career in education in 1885, teaching modern languages at Wilberforce University, a historically black college founded collaboratively by the Methodist Church in Ohio and the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the state. She later moved to Washington, D.C. to accept a position in the Latin Department at the M Street School. After teaching for a time, she studied in Europe for two years beginning in 1888, where she became fluent in French, German, and Italian. Eventually, Oberlin College offered her a registrarship position in 1891 which would make her the first black women to obtain such position; however, she declined. When she married Robert H. Terrell in 1891 she was forced to resign from her position at the M Street School where her new husband also taught. In 1895 she was appointed superintendent of the Dunbar High School, becoming the first woman to hold this post.


On October 18, 1891, in Memphis, Church married Robert Heberton Terrell, a lawyer who became the first black municipal court judge in Washington, DC. The couple had met in Washington, DC, then they both worked at the M Street High School, where he was the principal.


In 1892, Terrell along with Helen Appo Cook, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Anna Julie Cooper, Charlotte Forten Grimké, Mary Jane Patterson and Evelyn Shaw formed the Colored Women's League in Washington, D.C. The goals of the service-oriented club were to promote unity, social progress and the best interests of the African American community. Cook was elected president. The Colored Women's League aided in elevating the lives of educated black women outside of a church setting. Around the same time, a group of progressive black women were gathering in Boston, Massachusetts under the direction of suffragist and intellectual Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin under the name Federation of Afro-American Women. As both organizations had similar ambitions and audiences, Terrell and Ruffin decided to combine their efforts with hundreds of other organizations to reach a wider focus of black women workers, students and activists nearing the beginning of the 20th century. Out of this union formed the National Association of Colored Women, which became the first secular national organization dedicated to the livelihoods of black women in America. The NACW's motto is "Lifting as we climb." and they aimed to create solidarity among black women while combating racial discrimination. Terrell was twice elected president and after declining a third re-election she was named honorary president.

Terrell aligned the African-American Women's Club Movement with the broader struggle of black women and black people for equality. In 1892, she was elected as the first woman president of the prominent Washington DC black debate organization Bethel Literary and Historical Society


Through her father, Terrell met Booker T. Washington, director of the influential Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. At the age of 17, when she was enrolled at Oberlin, she also met activist Frederick Douglass at President James Garfield's inaugural gala. She became especially close with Douglass and worked with him on several civil rights campaigns. One of these campaigns includes a petition both Terrell and Douglass signed, in 1893, in hopes to have a hearing of statement regarding lawless cases where black individuals in certain states were not receiving due process of law. Shortly after her marriage to Robert Terrell, she considered retiring from activism to focus on family life. Douglass, making the case that her talent was too immense to go unused, persuaded her to stay in public life.


In 1896, Terrell became the first president of the newly formed National Association of Colored Women (NACW), whose members created day nurseries and kindergartens for black children. That same year, she also founded the National Association of College Women, which later became the National Association of University Women (NAUW). The League started a training program and kindergarten, before these were included in the Washington, DC public schools.


On February 18, 1898, Terrell gave an address titled "The Progress of Colored Women" at the National American Woman Suffrage Association biennial session in Washington, D.C. This speech was a call of action for NAWSA to fight for the lives of black women. The speech received great reception from the Association and black news outlets, ultimately leading Terrell to be invited back as an unofficial (black) ambassador for the Association. Though many black women were concerned and involved in the fight for American women's right to vote, the NAWSA did not allow black women to create their own chapter within the organization. Terrell went on to give more addresses, such as "In Union There is Strength", which discussed the need for unity among black people, and "What it Means to be Colored in the Capital of the U.S.", in which she discussed her own personal struggles that she faced as an African American woman in Washington, D.C. Terrell also addressed the Seneca Falls Historical Society in 1908 and praised the work of woman suffragists who were fighting for all races and genders alongside their primary causes.


Upon returning to the United States, Terrell shifted her attention from teaching towards social activism to focusing especially on the empowerment of black women. She also wrote profusely, including an autobiography, and writing was published in several journals. "Lynching from a Negro's Point of View," published in 1904, is included in Terrell's long list of published work where she attempts to dismantle the skewed narrative of why black men are targeted for lynching and she presents numerous facts to back up her claims.

In 1904, Terrell was invited to speak at the International Congress of Women, held in Berlin, Germany. She was the only black woman at the conference. She received an enthusiastic ovation when she honored the host nation by delivering her address in German. She delivered the speech in French, and concluded with the English version.


Having been an avid suffragist during her years as an Oberlin student, Terrell continued to be active in the happenings within suffragist circles in the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Through these meetings she became associated with Susan B. Anthony, an association which Terrell describes in her biography as "delightful, helpful friendship", which lasted until Anthony's death in 1906. Terrell also came to know Lucrettia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1893, around the same time she met Susan B. Anthony. What grew out of Terrell's association with NAWSA was a desire to create a formal organizing group among black women in America to tackle issues of lynching, the disenfranchisement of the race, and the development of educational reform. As one of the few African-American women who was allowed to attend NAWSA's meetings, Terrell spoke directly about the injustices and issues within the African-American community.


In 1909, Terrell was one of two black women (journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett was the other) invited to sign the "Call" and to attend the first organizational meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), becoming a founding member. In 1913–14, she helped organize the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. More than a quarter-century later, she helped write its creed that set up a code of conduct for black women.


In 1913, NAWSA held a suffrage rally in which Terrell led the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority women of Howard University.


In 1950, she started what would be a successful fight to integrate eating places in the District of Columbia. In the 1890s the District of Columbia had formalized segregation, as did states in the South. Before then, local integration laws dating to the 1870s had required all eating-place proprietors "to serve any respectable, well-behaved person regardless of color, or face a $1,000 fine and forfeiture of their license." In 1949, Terrell and colleagues Clark F. King, Essie Thompson, and Arthur F. Elmer entered the segregated Thompson Restaurant. When refused service, they promptly filed a lawsuit. Attorney Ringgold Hart, representing Thompson, argued on April 1, 1950, that the District laws were unconstitutional, and later won the case against restaurant segregation. Terrell was a leader and spokesperson for the Coordinating Committee for the Enforcement of the District of Columbia Anti-Discrimmination Laws which gave her the platform to lead this case successfully In the three years pending a decision in District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson Co., Terrell targeted other restaurants. Her tactics included boycotts, picketing, and sit-ins. Finally, on June 8, 1953, the court ruled that segregated eating places in Washington, DC, were unconstitutional.Terrell was a leader and spokesperson for the Coordinating Committee for the Enforcement of the District of Columbia Anti-Discrimmination Laws which gave her the platform to lead this case successfully.


Terrell worked actively in the women's suffrage movement, which pushed for enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Active in the Republican Party, she was president of the Women's Republican League during Warren G. Harding's 1920 presidential campaign and the first election in which primarily American white women were given the right to vote. The Southern states from 1890 to 1908 passed voter registration and election laws that suppressed African-Americans' right to vote. These restrictions were not fully overturned until after Congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Though Terrell died in 1954, her legacy and early fight for black women to vote continues to be cited.

She lived to see the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, holding unconstitutional the racial segregation of public schools. Terrell died two months later at the age of 90, on July 24, 1954, in Anne Arundel General Hospital in Highland Beach, Maryland. It was the week before the NACW was to hold its annual meeting in the town she lived, Annapolis, Maryland.

Family Members

# Name Relationship Net Worth Salary Age Occupation
#1 Phyllis Terrell Children N/A N/A N/A
#2 Mary Terrell Tancil Beaupreu Children N/A N/A N/A
#3 Louisa Ayers Parents N/A N/A N/A
#4 Robert Reed Church Parents N/A N/A N/A
#5 Robert Heberton Terrell Spouse N/A N/A N/A

🎂 Upcoming Birthday

Currently, Mary Church Terrell is 159 years, 0 months and 4 days old. Mary Church Terrell will celebrate 160th birthday on a Saturday 23rd of September 2023. Below we countdown to Mary Church Terrell upcoming birthday.


Recent Birthday Highlights

154th birthday - Saturday, September 23, 2017

In honor of civil and women's rights activist Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell is a figure in African American and women's history, one who's worth celebrating. Here's to a woman who fought for equality.

Mary Church Terrell 154th birthday timeline

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