When it’s bone chilling cold in Chicago, I often think about the countless number of women who serve as mail carriers all over this city and pray for their safety while they brave the elements. And, during February—Black History Month—I attempt to tie my random thoughts and prayers to the first African Americans to accomplish that which I am thinking of.
My thoughts of mail carriers led me to “Stagecoach” Mary Fields. Mary was born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee in 1832 and grew up an orphan. She grew up on the Dunn plantation and learned to read and write from Dolly Dunn who was about Mary’s age.
After the emancipation of the slaves, Mary went west to Ohio where she met up with some nuns. The nuns later traveled to Montana and Mary went along. In Montana, Mary was headmistress for a Native American girl school. Mary, standing 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, decided she could better serve as master-builder of the school. Making a long story short, Mary’s gun toting and bar brawling ways led the bishop to force Mary to leave the nuns.
Needing to support herself, in 1895 Mary became the first Black woman and second woman to work for the United States Post Office. She was about 63 years old. Montana winters were brutal but Mary and her mule Moses gained a reputation for on time delivery through everything from blizzards to blazing heat. Mary often walked through drifts too high for Moses.
Without even a stagecoach, no truck, sidewalks, GPS device or retirement plan, Mary carried mail until she retired at 70 and shortly after ran a laundry business until she died in 1914.
When we think our jobs are too much to handle or retirement can’t come soon enough, look in your mailbox and give three cheers for Stagecoach Mary!
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship.