Mary Prince

Storytime – The first Black female to publish a book in England

Storytime Audio – Mary Prince

Mary was born in Bermuda 1788 to enslaved parents. Not long after Mary was born, she along with her mother were sold to a Mr Captain Darrel Williams.

Mary was given as a gift to Williams’ granddaughter, while Mary’s mother, Sarah was given to Williams’ daughter to work as a domestic slave.

Mary relates that when she was a child in the Williams’ household it was “the happiest period of my life” but adds that this was because “I was too young to understand rightly my condition as a slave.”

After being used as a plaything to Betsy Williams, around the year 1800, Mary, aged 12 was sold for £38 sterling to Captain John Ingham. To make matters even worse, Ingham and his wife were cruel and abusive masters.

After enduring a period of painful abuse, Mary fled and found her mother. Her mother hid Mary in a cave for some time. But was unfortunately forced to return Mary back to the Ingham’s after a few months.

Turks Island

Mary was forced to stay with the Ingham’s for five more years, then was sold onto a new master who moved her to Turks Island. Along with more enslaved people, Mary was forced to extract salt from the sea.

At age 17, Mary had been through so much already, and all of the hardship she had been through started to take its toll. She was plagued with rheumatism.

In 1810, her then owner left the business of salt mining and moved to Bermuda, taking Mary with him. Although Mary’s tasks lightened, her hardship didn’t and she suffered all kinds of abuse from her owners.


In 1816, Mary was moved onto a new set of owners, a Mr and Mrs John Wood to work as a domestic slave in Antigua. These owners did not let up and Mrs Woods put Mary to work on further arduous tasks for her.

A few years after arriving at Antigua, Mary joined the Moravian congregation. It was here that Mary learnt how to read and write.

In 1826, Mary got married to a member of the congregation. Mary wed Daniel James, a free man. After hearing of the wedding, Mary’s owners were furious to learn that Mary wed without their permission.


A couple of years after her marriage, Mary accompanied the Wood’s to England. In 1828, slavery had not been abolished in Britain’s colonies, but had been abolished in Britain itself. Mary found safety with the Moravian Missionaries and the Anti-Slavery Society in London.

Whilst in London, Mary was assisted greatly. She was given paid work, and was given clothes and food.

Mary met Thomas Pringle who introduced her to George Stephen, an abolitionist and lawyer. Mary longed to be reunited with her husband, and George Stephen negotiated with the Wood’s to make that happen.

Unfortunately, the Wood’s would not negotiate and did not free Mary on any terms. Mary, now a free woman in England, was free to return to Antigua, but would be at risk of being enslaved again if she did.

Mary Prince – The Writer

Whilst campaigning for Mary’s freedom, Pringle asked Mary to write a written testimony which was published and printed as a pamphlet.

Pringle used Mary’s written testimony to form a request for a change in legislature citing: freedom to any enslaved person who had been in Britain. 

Not content with her pamphlet, Mary got to work on an autobiography. With assistance from Susanna Strickland, a young English woman, and an abolitionist, Mary wrote her first book.

In 1831, Mary Prince became the first black woman to have her book published in England.

In 2012, Mary Prince was recognised as a National Hero of Bermuda, and we from Adeptales salute you, Mary Prince.

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