05 Feb Happy Birthday Blog: Mary Fields
Happiest of birthdays to Mary Fields – known as Stagecoach Mary – the first African American female mail carrier in the U.S. (and the second woman overall). While she was never a formal employee of the USPS due to the nature of mail delivery via stagecoach and such, she has been formally recognized in their history books.
Born as an enslaved person in Tennesse in 1832, Fields was freed at the end of the Civil War. She worked in the area for a short time before heading to Toledo, Ohio to be with family. In 1884, she joined her aunt, Mother Mary Amadeus, in establishing a mission to the Native Americans in the Montana territory. When her aunt had to head back to Ohio a few years later, Fields stayed and worked for the convent. She hauled freight, helped with the chickens, and did all manner of jobs until she was eventually promoted to forewoman. Never one to fit in with social conventions, her whiskey drinking, profanity use, and general work ethic made her a bit of an oddity according to the locals. No research we’ve read indicated that she was bothered by it, but who knows the inner workings of someone’s heart?
In 1894, after “several complaints and an incident with a disgruntled male subordinate that involved gunplay” (thank you, Wikipedia for that description), the bishop ordered her to leave the convent. Her aunt helped her open a restaurant nearby which allowed people to pay whatever they could afford. It closed about 10 months after open – a revolutionary idea but difficult to pull off in a town with limited resources.
One year later, when Fields was about 60 (by her best guess), she was hired as a mail carrier because she was the fastest at hitching a team of horses. She never missed a day, and according to records, if the snow was too deep for her horses, she delivered the mail on snowshoe. As you do.
What a legend.
Happy Birthday, Mary!