Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Womens' Empowerment Wednesdays : Meet Mary Jane Patterson ... #BlackHistoryMonth

Born September 12, 1840 in Raleigh, NC, Mary Jane Patterson relocated to Oberlin, OH in 1856 after her father Henry Patterson, a brick layer, gained his freedom in 1852. Oberlin was a city of large communities with black families, mostly comprised of both freed and fugitive slaves.

Mary Jane Patterson was the first African American woman to receive a B.A. degree, in which she earned at Oberlin college. Once she graduated, she was listed as teaching in Chillocothe, OH. Her teaching career sprouted from there:
1865- She was the assistant to Fanny Jackson Choppin at the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, PA.
1869- 1871- Patterson taught here in Washington D.C. at the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (now known as Paul Laurence Dunbar High School).
1871-1872 - At Dunbar, she served as the school's first black principal.1873- 1884- After her demotion to Richard T. Greener and serving as his Asst. Principal. Patterson was reappointed to Principal serving these years.

Under the Mary Jane Patterson administration, the school's enrollment jumped from less than 50 people to approx. 172 students, the school's name was changed, Commencements were initiated, a teacher training department was added and so forth. She continued to teach at the school until she passed in her Washington D.C. home on September 24, 1894.

Along with these great accomplishments, Mary Jane Patterson was a part of the Colored Woman's League of Washington D.C. (an org committed to uplifting colored women) as well as sustaining the Home for the Aged and Infirm Colored People.

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