Mary Church Terrell was an outstanding historical figure that was engaged in social activities in the late nineteenth and second half of the twentieth century. As an activist and defender of the rights of oppressed groups of people, she acted at the macro-level of social work, which involved fighting for social change through politics. Mary Terrell was the first in many areas previously not available to African-Americans – among the first women of color she received higher education and was appointed to the city school board. Moreover, she was the first president of the National Association of Colored Women and the only African-American at the International Congress of Women in 1904 (Ware, 2019). Her achievements include the development of education, the fight against racial discrimination, and the promotion of women’s rights.
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Mary Terrell’s achievements in education were not limited to the fact that she was one of the first Afro-Americans to receive higher education among white students; her accomplishments were strongly connected to contemporary social work. She started her career as a teacher, after which she decided to take up the protection of rights. Moreover, the National Association, where Terrell was a president, actively developed and promoted programs for the organization of kindergartens for colored children. Because of these actions, the activist was noticed and invited to the Board of Education in Colombia. Modern social workers are also struggling to ensure that education is accessible to all American citizens.
Another crucial area of her work is the protection of the discriminated groups’ rights. After World War I, Terrell advocated for colored veterans’ jobs. In the 50s, she was an active participant in boycotts against segregation in public places, and, as a result, segregation was outlawed. Her work’s main achievements were the protection of African-American women and the struggle for women’s suffrage. This issue was the one that she devoted most of her time to and became a voice for many who had not previously been heard.
At the macro-level of social work, there is still a struggle to protect the rights of poor groups of people, oppressed minorities, and others. Mary Church Terrell became an example showing that one can go where the path was closed before with sufficient assertiveness. Social workers of the present time continue their work – some protect families or specific people, seeking to realize their rights, while others are also fighting on a national scale.
Ware, S. (2019). Why they marched: Untold stories of the women who fought for the right to vote. Harvard University Press.