Mary Burnett Talbert - Table of Contents

Mary Burnett Talbert
By Patrick Kavanagh
History of Women in Forest Lawn Lawn Cemetery

Section A, Lot 173
Date of Death: 10/15/1923
(Teacher; Social Activist)

Mary Burnett Talbert was born in Oberlin, Ohio in 9/17/1866.

Mary was the youngest of eight children born to Cornelius J. Burnett (Cornelius Burnett was in Fayetteville, NC in 1813. Cornelius was a barber by trade.) and Carolyn Nichols Burnett (Carolyn Nichols Burnett was born in Raleigh, NC in about 1830 and was said to be the great- granddaughter of Richard Nichols. Richard Nichols is said to have captured the settlement at New Amsterdam for the English in 1644 and renamed it New York.).

Upon her graduation from Oberlin College at the age of 19, she went on to have an illustrious career as a social activist.

In January 1887, she was elected assistant principal of Little Rock High School, Little Rock, Arkansas. This was the highest position held by any woman in the State. She was the only black woman to accede to such a position at that time.

Mary married William H. Talbert of Buffalo in 1891, and soon thereafter moved to Buffalo, where she continued the work to which she dedicated her life. (William H. Talbert was a prominent businessman and bookkeeper for the City of Buffalo. Mary's sister, Henrietta, married Buffalo businessman Robert Talbert, William's brother.) Mary & William had one child, Sara, who was born in 1892.

Mary Talbert was elected President of the National Association of Colored Women and served in this capacity form 1916-1920. She was a patriotic worker during World War I and served as a nurse with the Red Cross in France. She served as a delegate to the International Council of Women in Norway in 1920and traveled through Europe, lecturing on race relations and women's rights.

Ms. Talbert also served on the National Board of Directors of the NAACP, and was awarded the Springarm Medal, the highest honor that the NAACP bestows upon an individual. Her last major project, before her death in October 1923,was to lead the nation wide anti-lynching crusade and campaign for the passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill. Talbert worked to bring about prison reform in the south.

She also had been the first Worthy Matron of Naomi Chapter 10, Order of the Eastern Star, in Buffalo and had conducted Sunday sessions of the Culture Congress at the Michigan Baptist Church.

As President of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Association, Mary Burnett Talbert called upon the women of the country to redeem the Frederick Douglass home at Anacostia and restore it to its former condition. In 1918, two years later, the money had been raised and the mortgage on the Douglass Home was burned. Mrs. Talbert spent the next two years securing funds to restore, rehabilitate and beautify the home, which was dedicated in August, 1922.

Mrs. Talbert died at the early age of 57. At the time of her death lived at 118 Northland St., Buffalo.

Talbert became a member of the Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls in 2005.

Photos © 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
Page by
Chuck LaChiusa
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