B is for Biddy Mason whose life story is one of my favorites. I learned about her while researching former Governor Pio Pico and his work in California. Biddy and Pio were friends.
Biddy Mason (1818-1891) was an American nurse, real estate owner and philanthropist. Born into slavery, her life was a true rags to riches tale.
When Biddy was still a slave, her owner Robert Smith moved his family and slaves (including Biddy and her children) from Mississippi to California. Robert was encouraged by church leaders on more than one occasion to free his slaves, but he refused.
Because California was a free state and did not allow slavery, Robert planned to move his slaves to Texas where he could keep ownership of them. But Biddy managed to escape Robert and file a petition in court, which led to a judge granting her freedom.
After being freed, Biddy worked as a nurse and saved her money until she was able to afford land. She eventually accumulated a six figure fortune which WAS a big deal in the 19th century. Biddy’s fortune allowed her to contribute to many charities and causes that fed, clothed, and sheltered the poor; visited prisoners; and educated young black children.
If you’re ever in the L.A. area, you can learn more about Biddy at the Biddy Mason Park.
Can you think of other rags to riches stories? Please share!