Black Woman Wild West Pioneer: Stagecoach Mary Fields
Thieves and scoundrels of the late 1800s beware: Stagecoach Mary is on the scene.
Survivors don’t come out of nowhere. They’re made in the heat of change, challenge, and progress.
Mary Fields, better known as Stagecoach Mary, was forged in the heat of oppression and change. She serves as an inspiration for any woman looking to blaze her own trail, and thwart the monsters that threaten to derail our goals along the way.
The great American novelist and activist James Baldwin once said:
“I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.”
Mary Fields exemplified this quote with what she was able to make of herself from hardship. She had a will to thrive.
Mary was the first African-American female star route (U.S. Postal Service) mail carrier in the United States. That might sound like a small feat, but given the chaos of the old wild Wild West and racial discrimination, Mary was a brave woman.
Mary is Final Girl Survival inspiration.
Where Mary Started
Mary was born into slavery in Hickman County, Tennessee, in 1832. At the age of 33 she was freed from slavery when the brutal institution became outlawed in 1865.
By 1894 Mary was working at the St. Peter’s Mission in Montana. She quickly climbed the ranks of work leadership as she hauled freight, did laundry, grew vegetables, tended chickens, and made building repairs.
10 years later Mary was forced from the job when she got into an argument with a male subordinate that resulted in guns being drawn.
Mary didn’t let that keep her down for long as she soon opened a restaurant in the area. This business wasn’t set to last due to Mary’s kind heart of feeding patrons, whether they could pay or not, leading to bankruptcy 10 months later.
Where Mary Ended Up
At 60 years young Mary was contracted by the United States Postal Service, then known as the star route.
Mary was able to secure her contract by being the fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses.
Mary’s mule was named Moses (very fitting) and she was said to have never missed a day on her route. This earned her the name “Stagecoach.”
The Legend of Mary
Mary was said to be hard drinking, quick shooting, and known to carry not one but TWO guns on her at all times.
She kept one gun under her apron.
Rumor had it that Mary once fended off an angry pack of wolves with her rifle, and had “the temperament of a grizzly bear.”
It was said that Mary was never above participating in a gunfight either.
She had her haters too.
During her time working at a covenant, (before heading to St. Peters) the nuns often complained about her rough around the edge ways and her so-called “difficult” nature.
Lucky for us, and Mary, well-behaved women rarely make history.
Mary was known to also push for better wages when she worked at St. Peters. This was unheard of during that time. This was because Black people were expected to be controlled and subservient even after slavery was abolished.
Mary wasn’t having any of that.
The bishop in Montana didn’t care for Mary’s behavior, or the fact that she was comfortable in so-called male clothing. When Mary had the confrontation with the janitor on the grounds of St. Peters the bishop saw it as an opportunity to force her to leave.
When she began working for the postal service it was noted that she intimidated would-be thieves with her height and her tough demeanor.
Mary became loved by the locals, who praised her generosity and her kindness to children.
In Cascade, Montana, where she lived, the schools would close down every year on her birthday in celebration.
Age eventually caught up with Mary. She died when she was 82.
Her funeral, in 1914, was said to be the largest the town had ever seen.
Mary was unconventional for her time, but was able to carve out a life for herself as a survivor and trailblazer.
She clearly had a goal to be able to care for herself, and those around her she cherished, and she did just that.
Mary was a hard worker who knew her worth. Despite the stain of slavery in United States history, she – along with many others– was able to make her mark on the world.
She broke racial barriers. She functioned outside of the lines of what society deemed appropriate for women.
Mary lived her truth.
She fought wolves, got into bar brawls, made sure her money was never late, shook off every society convention there was, and could beat any man in a fist fight.
According to her obituary in the Great Falls Examiner:
“She broke more noses than any other woman in Central Montana.”
We salute you Mary Fields. May we draw inspiration from your journey to be the Final Girl that you were in our own lives.
Want more inspirational stories delivered right to you? Be sure to enter your email below to get the Final Girl Survival Newsletter right to your inbox today!
Share Mary’s story on Pinterest below.