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Spotlight on One Brown Girl

Thursday, April 22, 2010
Mary Ellen Pleasant
Today, two different gentlemen strangers told me I reminded them of two different women.  The first gentleman looked at me and simply said "Top Chef."  I thought "How does he know about my relationship with [my friend] Lisa?"  (She was on Season One.)  Ends up he thought I was Carla [Hall], one of the Top 3 finalists from Season 5.  I guess it's the glasses.  Maybe even the skin tone.  We shared a laugh.
The second gentleman told me I reminded him of a woman named Mary Ellen Pleasant that was alive in the 1800s in San Francisco.  I was immediately tickled by his comment because although he was an older man, it was clear to me that he wasn't alive in the 1800s.  But after my giggles subsided (and his wife told me he is an historian), he told me that Mary Ellen Pleasant was one of the richest women of her time (perk!) and I was immediately intrigued.  (I like being compared to rich successful women that were ahead of their time.)  I did a Web search on her in two shakes.  She was quite the Brown Girl. 
Mary Ellen Pleasant - called the "Mother of Civil Rights in California" - was a civil rights activist and entrepreneur and was once the most talked-about woman in San Francisco.  Born a slave near Augusta, Georgia between 1814 and 1817, she arrived in San Francisco in April 1852 to escape persecution under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.  Her dramatic life was part of the story of slavery, abolition, the gold rush, and the Civil War; she helped shape early San Francisco, and covertly amassed a joint fortune once assessed at $30,000,000!  [Source:]  Her story is fascinating and far too long to post here, but if you don't know about her, I'm hoping this little blurb of information might just pique your interest.  It certainly piqued mine.



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