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Born into slavery in Mississippi on August 15, 1818, Bridget "Biddy" Mason became a pioneer in Los Angeles' earliest Black business and religious communities. Mason worked as a nurse and midwife, saving $300,000 which she used to fund the First AME Church in Los Angeles. Though she passed away in 1891 in an unmarked grave, her impact on the city remained a century later. On March 27, 1988, 3,000 members of the First AME Church were present, including Mayor Tom Bradley, as her tombstone was unveiled at the Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. Mason is a legendary figure in the church and the historic Black community in Los Angeles. She is commemorated annually on November 16, "Biddy Mason Day", as well as through a monument at the Biddy Mason Park at 330 South Spring Street, just doors away from her first property.
In 1866 she bought a house and sizeable property on Spring Street for $250, becoming one of the first black women to own land in Los Angeles.
In 1872 Mason was a founding member of First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the city's first black church, located inside her downtown home.
She was instrumental in founding an elementary school for black children.
She dined on occasion at the home of Pio Pico, the last governor of Alta California and a wealthy Los Angeles land owner.
She spoke fluent Spanish.
Mason is an honoree in the California Social Work Hall of Distinction.
As we continue celebrating Black History Month with daily portraits of iconic Angelenos, check back for more features on other pioneering individuals and make sure to share this history with your friends and family. Click here for more portraits.