Mary Jane Patterson

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Mary Jane Patterson
Born(1840-09-12)September 12, 1840
DiedSeptember 24, 1894(1894-09-24) (aged 54)
Alma mater Oberlin College (BA)

Mary Jane Patterson (September 12, 1840 – September 24, 1894) was the first African-American woman to receive a B.A degree in 1862.

A Bachelor of Arts is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, institution, and specific specializations, majors, or minors. The word baccalaureus should not be confused with baccalaureatus, which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in some countries.



Mary Jane Patterson was the oldest of Henry Irving Patterson and Emeline Eliza (Taylor) Patterson's children. There is conflicting data on how many siblings she had, but most sources cite between seven and ten. Henry Patterson worked as a bricklayer and plasterer who gained his freedom, after Mary was born, in 1852. After this, he moved his family north to Ohio. The Pattersons settled in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1856. Oberlin had a large community of black families; some were freed slaves and some were fugitive slaves. Oberlin was popular because it had a racially integrated co-ed college. Henry Patterson worked as a master mason, and for many years the family boarded large numbers of black students in their home.

Oberlin, Ohio City in Ohio, United States

Oberlin is a city in Lorain County, Ohio, United States, southwest of Cleveland. Oberlin is the home of Oberlin College, a liberal arts college and music conservatory with approximately 3,000 students.

Teaching career

Her home in Washington D.C. 1530 - 1534 15th Street, N.W..JPG
Her home in Washington D.C.

After graduation Mary Patterson was listed as teaching in Chillicothe, Ohio. On September 21, 1864, she applied for a position in Norfolk, Virginia at a school for black children. On October 7, 1864, E. H. Fairchild, principal of Oberlin College's preparatory department from 1853 to 1869, wrote a recommendation for an "appointment from the American missionary Association as a ... teacher among freedmen." In this letter he described her as "a light quadroon, a graduate of this college, a superior scholar, a good singer, a faithful Christian, and a genteel lady. She had success is teaching and is worthy of the highest ... you pay to ladies." [1]

Chillicothe, Ohio City in Ohio, United States

Chillicothe is a city in and the county seat of Ross County, Ohio, United States. Located along the Scioto River 45 miles south of Columbus, Chillicothe was the first and third capital of Ohio.

Norfolk, Virginia Independent city in Virginia, United States

Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 242,803; in 2017, the population was estimated to be 244,703 making it the second-most populous city in Virginia after neighboring Virginia Beach and the 91st largest city in the nation.

In 1865 Patterson became an assistant to Fanny Jackson Coppin at the Philadelphia's Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania). In 1869 to 1871 Patterson taught in Washington, D. C., at the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth known today as Dunbar High School (Washington, D.C.). She served as the school's first Black principal, from 1871 to 1872. Patterson was demoted and served as assistant principal under Richard Theodore Greener, the first black Harvard University graduate. She was reappointed from 1873 to 1884. During her administration, the school grew from less than 50 to 172 students, the name "Preparatory High School" was dropped, high school commencements were initiated, and a teacher-training department was added to the school. Patterson's commitment to thoroughness as well as her "forceful" and "vivacious" personality helped her establish the school's strong intellectual standards. [2] Patterson continued to teach at the High School until her death. While in D.C., Mary Patterson lived with her sisters, Emma and Chanie, and her brother, John at 1532 Fifteenth Street Northwest. In the Late 1880s Patterson's parents came to live with them due to financial difficulties. Neither Mary nor her sisters ever married.

Fanny Jackson Coppin American educator

Fanny Jackson Coppin was an African-American educator and missionary and a lifelong advocate for female higher education.

Institute for Colored Youth building in Pennsylvania, United States

The Institute for Colored Youth was founded in 1837 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. After moving to Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and changing its name to Cheyney University, it continues as the oldest African-American school of higher education, although degrees were not granted by Cheyney until 1913. The second site of the Institute for Colored Youth at Ninth and Bainbridge Streets in Philadelphia was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. It is also known as the Samuel J. Randall School, and is a three-story, three-bay brick building built in 1865, in the Italianate-style

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is a public historically black university in Cheyney, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1837, it was the first historically black institute. It is a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The university offers bachelor's and master's degrees. In November 2015, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education placed Cheyney University on probation. Three years later, the commission placed the university on "show cause" status which requires the university to show cause by November 21, 2019, for showing compliance with the commission's standards or accreditation will not be renewed.

Other Pursuits

Patterson was also a humanitarian and was active in many organizations. She devoted time and money to Black institutions in Washington, D. C. Mary Patterson's obituary in the Evening Star said she "co-operated heartily in sustaining the Home for the Aged and Infirm Colored People in this city and other Kindred organizations." [3] Mary Patterson was part of the Colored Woman's League of Washington D.C., which was committed to the "racial uplift" of colored women. The group focused on kindergarten teaching training, rescue work, and classes for industrial schools and homemaking. [4]

Death and legacy

Mary Jane Patterson died at her Washington, D. C. home, September 24, 1894, at the age of 54. Although she is a not well-known figure, Mary Jane Patterson was a pioneer in black education and paved the way for other black female educators.and was born September 12 1840

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  1. Smith, Jessie Carney. "Mary Jane Patterson." Notable Black Women, Book 1. Gale Research 1992.
  2. "Mary Jane Patterson, Pioneering Educator Born" African American Registry.<>.
  3. Alic, Margaret. "Mary Jane Patterson Biography." 20 October 2009. <>.
  4. Hutchinson, Louise Daniel. Anna J. Cooper: A Voice From the South. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981. ISBN   978-0-87474-528-3.

Baumann,Roland M. "Patterson, Mary Jane." African American National Biography. Oxford African American Studies Center. 20 October 2009. <>.