Bridget “Biddy” Mason was born a slave. Following a youth spent in bondage in Mississippi, Mason travelled to Utah in 1847 after her owner converted to Mormonism. The family later moved to California, where Mason petitioned for her freedom. She was granted her freedom by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on January 19, 1856.
Mason spent the next decade in Los Angeles working as a midwife, and became one of the city’s first black landowners after she bought a small piece of property for $250. An astute businesswoman, Mason later sold some of the land for a profit, and went on to build commercial properties in some of L.A.’s fastest-growing business districts. In time, her shrewd land deals saw her amass a fortune of some $300,000.
Along the way, the woman known as “Grandma Mason” became a well-known philanthropist. She generously donated money to charities, provided food and shelter to the poor, and help found and finance the Los Angeles Branch of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Source Credits: California State Library and History