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Who was Biddy Mason?

In 1866, Biddy Mason (1818–1891) was the first known black woman property owner in Los Angeles, California. Born into slavery in Georgia or Mississippi and named Bridget, she and her master, Robert Smith, took the strenuous journey first to the Utah Territory and then to California, where Mason legally gained her freedom on January 21, 1856. All members of her family were freed as well. Mason worked as a nurse and midwife—as she had done en route to the West—and saved her money. Her earnings and careful investment became the foundation that enabled her grandson Robert to be called the richest black in Los Angeles around 1900. A very religious and charitable woman, Mason opened her house for the establishment of the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in the city in 1872. She is also said to have opened the first day care nursery for homeless community children.


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