Maria Stewart ( fl. 1830s)
In the early 1830s, Stewart initiated a lecture series in which she asked her people to work for the abolition of slavery and to take pride in their race and heritage. This marked the first time an American-born woman ever spoke publicly. Her public speaking precipitated such intense criticism that she was forced to retire from the lecture circuit. She devoted the remainder of her career to educational and church work, founding schools in Baltimore and Washington, organizing and teaching Sunday schools, and working as a matron in the Freedman's Hospital in Washington.