Mary Burnett Talbert (1866-1923)

Photo of Mary Talbert. She wears a dress with a lace collar & pearls around her neck.
Mary Burnett Talbert, 1917. (Courtesy of The Crisis, Vol. 13, No. 4, February 1917)
​​​​​​​​Quotation Marks“The greatness of nations is shown by their strict regard for human rights, rigid enforcement of the law without bias, and just administration of the affairs of life.”

Talbert was an educator, activist, international human rights proponent, and one of the best-known African Americans of her time. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1886, a time when it was rare for women and African Americans to attain degrees. Talbert lectured across the U.S. and abroad on the oppression of African Americans and became a major factor in bringing black women into international women’s organizations. As a suffragist, Talbert advocated for women of all races to work together for the cause. She worked to raise awareness among prominent white feminists on the importance of supporting women who were marginalized and less privileged.

Originally from Ohio, Talbert was a leader and a prime mover among many organizations. She founded the Niagara Movement, the predecessor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Talbert also founded and fostered women’s clubs around the country. These clubs served as a forum for African American women and helped to bring those women into positions of community leadership. In 1916, she was elected president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and in 1920 became the first African American delegate to the International Council of Women at their 5th congress in Norway.​


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