Mary Ann Shadd was the oldest of 13 children born into a free Black family in Wilmington, Delaware on October 9th, 1823. She was brought up in a Black-Quaker society and she was educated as a school teacher. Mary Ann immigrated to Canada in 1850 and settled in Windsor, Ontario. She later married Thomas Cary of St Catharines in 1856.
The Shadd family, including Mary Ann and Isaac, published The Provincial Freeman, an important Canadian Abolitionist Newspaper, from 1853 to 1859. The newspaper played an instrumental role in uniting abolitionists everywhere in Canada West including the city of St. Catharines. The Shadd family proclaimed the Freeman to be "…the enemy of vice and corruption and a promoter of good morals, devoted to anti-slavery, temperance and general literature."