Biddy Mason

Topics: Habeas corpus, Black people, Slavery in the United States Pages: 1 (430 words) Published: May 13, 2008
Bridget Biddy Mason
Bridget “Biddy” Mason was born on August 15, 1818 as a slave to Robert Marion Smith and Rebecca Crosby Smith in Hancock, Georgia. In 1847 Robert Smith, Biddy’s owner, became a Mormon then packed up all of his belongs to move to Utah. On the journey Biddy was forced to herd the cattle, cook meals, midwife and take care of her own children, Ellen, Ann and Harriet. Then in 1851 Smith again packed up his belongs and moved to San Bernardino, California to join another Mormon community. Though at that time California was a Union state and slavery was illegal. During the course of their stay in California Biddy’s daughter Ellen fell in love with a free black man named Charles Owens. Some others of Charles friends were also dating some of Smiths slaves. Yet again in 1855 Robert Smith decided to move to Texas, which at that time was a slave state. Just when they were about to leave the Los Angeles sheriff served Smith writ of habeas corpus from Biddy. Though at the time California denied mulattos, blacks and Native American to testify in courts there was no way for Biddy to state her case. Since Robert Smith did not show up in court the judge was able to meet with Biddy privately to state her case. In late January 1856 Biddy as well as her three daughters were granted their freedom. After all of Smiths slaves were set free, Biddy moved to Los Angeles to live with Charles Owens family. Biddy quickly found a job working for Dr. John S. Griffin as a nurse and midwife. With this great job she became independent spending her money wisely. In 1866 she bought a house becoming the first black woman in California to own land in Los Angeles. In 1884, brought a piece of land and a commercial building with renting spaces was built on it. That area became the central commercial district of Los Angeles. As the town continued to boom, she developed more commercial building making a large fortune of $300,000. She spend most of her fortune by donating to charities,...
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