Henry Patterson moved his family to an area that presented more promise and opportunity to them as ex slaves, in Oberlin, Ohio. Oberlin, at the Northern end of the United States, had quite a great number of free blacks and most of them worked, owned businesses and attended school. Oberlin College was a representation of that fact. It had admitted it's firts Black student in 1835 (30 years before the abolishment of slavery), and became the nation's first coeducational institution of higher education. So, it wasn't a wonder when Mary Jane Patterson decided that she'd enroll in some classes at the college.
Oberlin College had two different programs for men and women, and she, Mary Jane Patterson, enrolled in the program for the women. It was a two year program that was designed for each female student to earn a "literary diploma." Not to much surprise, the program for the men was 4years long and lead to a full Bachelor of Arts degree. Mary Jane Patterson, took no prisoners. She completed the requirements for her literary diploma and then enrolled into the Bachelors degree program traditionally for men.
While matriculating through her Bachelor degree studies, Patterson studied Latin, Math, and Greek. In 1862, 3 years before slavery was abolished by the Emancipation Proclamation, Mary Jane Patterson and twenty two other students received their degrees from Oberlin College. Patterson was one of two blacks completing the program and the only woman.
She is held in high regard as the first BLACK WOMAN TO OBTAIN A 4 YEAR DEGREE but that is debateable. She is also the first African American to be promoted to the position of Principal at a high school in the Nation's Capital.
After completing her education, Mary Jane Patterson spent the rest of her life working as an educator in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC.
Patterson died in her home at the age of 54 on September 24, 1894. Her home is now a historical landmark in Washington, DC.
KUDOS to Mary Jane Patterson for her achievements!!!!
She shattered the norm and broke the mold.