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Mary Fields was the first African-American female star route mail carrier in the United States, also known as Stagecoach Mary and Black Mary. Like many slaves separated as children, she did not know her birthday. She was a respected public figure in Cascade, and the town closed its schools to celebrate her birthday each year.

Born c. 1832

Hickman County, Tennessee, U.S.

Died 1914 (aged 81–82)

Great Falls, Montana, U.S.

Nationality American
Occupation Freighter, cook, domestic worker, star route mail carrier
Known for First African-American woman star route mail carrier in the U.S.
pdfMary Fields


Postal service

In 1895, although approximately 63 years old, Fields was hired as a mail carrier because she was the fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses. This made her the second woman and first African American woman to work for the U.S. Postal Service.

She drove the route with horses and a mule named Moses. She never missed a day, and her reliability earned her the nickname "Stagecoach". If the snow was too deep for her horses, Fields delivered the mail on snowshoes, carrying the sacks on her shoulders.

She was not an employee of the United States Post Office; the Post Office Department did not hire or employ mail carriers for star routes but rather awarded star route contracts to persons who proposed the lowest qualified bids, and who in accordance with the Department’s application process posted bonds and sureties to substantiate their ability to finance the route. Once a contract was obtained, the contractor could then drive the route themselves, sublet the route, or hire an experienced driver. Some individuals obtained multiple star route contracts and conducted the operations as a business.

The Native Americans called Fields "White Crow", because "she acts like a white woman but has black skin". Local whites did not know what to make of her. One schoolgirl wrote an essay saying, "She drinks whiskey, and she swears, and she is a republican, which makes her a low, foul creature."

When Montana passed a law forbidding women to enter saloons, the mayor of Cascade granted her an exemption. In 1903, at age 71, Fields retired from star route mail carrier service. She continued to babysit many Cascade children and owned and operated a laundry service from her home.