The life of the Irishwoman who was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame

Black rights pioneer, Margaret Murray Washington, was the daughter of an Irish immigrant sharecropper

Margaret Murray Washington in 1915 in the Library of Congress.

Margaret Murray Washington in 1915 in the Library of Congress.

Margaret Murray Washington had a precarious start in life. The daughter of an Irish immigrant sharecropper and an African-American mother, who worked as a washerwoman, her early life was beset by troubles including the death of her father when she was seven.

Her birth date is reported as either 1861 or 1865. Many of the details of her early life, including her father’s name, are lost. After her father’s death she was taken in by a Quaker brother and sister who strongly encouraged her education. She became something of a prodigy and was offered a teaching role at the age of 14. However, she was eager to continue her own education, and enrolled in Fisk Preparatory School, a college which would continue to welcome a majority of black students into the 20th century.

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