Mary Church Terrell: An Original Oberlin Activist


Upon graduation from Oberlin College, Terrell returned to Memphis to live with her father. Although she was eager to put her Oberlin education to good use to "promote the welfare of [her] race,"  Robert Reed Church would not allow his daughter to seek employment. According to Terrell, his reasons were twofold;  first, he did not want her to teach school because that would deprive someone of a job who needed the money more than she did (as he could well afford to support her); second, he wanted her to be "real lady," and in the South, real ladies did not work (CWWW 59).

Her mother Louisa, however, had worked from the time Terrell was a child, and was a successful business owner in her own right. Clearly she was an important role model for Terrell who had a number of vocations and avocations throughout her life - educator, writer, lecturer,  public servant, organizer, and political activist.

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