Deliverance Mary Fields, First African American Woman Star Route Mail Carrier in the United States
A Montana History
Miantae Metcalf McConnell
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1885 - 1914. Mary Fields, a fifty-three-year old second generation slave, emancipated and residing in Toledo, receives news of her friend’s impending death. Remedies packed in her satchel, she rushes to board the Northern Pacific.
Days later in the Montana wilderness, she finds Mother Mary Amadeus lying on frozen earth in a broken-down cabin. Certain that the cloister of frostbit Ursuline nuns and their students, Indian girls rescued from nearby reservations, will not survive without assistance, Mary decides to stay.
She builds a hennery, repairs living quarters, cares for stock, and treks into the mountains to provide food. Brushes with death do not deter her. Mary drives a horse and wagon through perilous terrain and blizzards to improve the lives of missionaries, homesteaders and Indians and, in the process, her own.
After weathering wolf attacks, wagon crashes and treacherous conspiracies by scoundrels, local politicians and the state’s first Catholic bishop, Mary Fields creates another daring plan. An avid patriot, she is determined to register for the vote. The price is high. Will she manifest her personal vision of independence?
MCCONNELL’S RESEARCH enabled USPS to establish Mary Fields as the first African American woman star route mail carrier in the United States. More firsts are revealed in the story of Fields’ life from 1885 until her death in 1914.
The chronicle also examines women rights, bootleg politics, Montana’s turn-of-the-century transition from territory to state and its scandalous woman suffrage election. PRAISE O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE READING ROOM TEN LIST 2018 An indefatigable former slave who braved the Montana Rockies on a journey to rescue a dying friend is the real-life subject of this 19th-century frontier narrative. Adventure abounds in this little-known tale of the heroic middle-aged woman who became the first female African American mail carrier in the U.S.— Hamilton Cain