Bridget "Biddy" Mason became one of the first prominent citizens and landowners in Los Angeles in the 1850s and 1860s.
After spending years enslaved in California, Mason challenged for her freedom. On January 21, 1856, L.A. District Judge Benjamin Hayes approved Mason’s petition. The ruling freed Mason and thirteen members of her extended family. She took the surname Mason from the middle name of Amason Lyman, who was the mayor of San Bernardino and a Mormon Apostle. Mason then moved her family to L.A.
She continued working as a midwife and nurse, saving her money and using it to purchase land in what is now the heart of downtown L.A. There she organized First A.M.E. Church, the oldest African American Church in the city.
Mason used her wealth, estimated to be about $3 million, to become a philanthropist to the entire L.A. community. She donated to numerous charities, fed and sheltered the poor, and visited prisoners. Mason was instrumental in founding a traveler’s aid center and an elementary school for black children. in 1989 Los Angeles declared a "Biddy Mason Day" and a memorial of her achievements that was unveiled at the Broadway Spring Center.
"The open hand is blessed, for it gives in abundance even as it receives."
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