|Some of the most interesting working women of the American West in the nineteenth century were African-American women. Mary Fields was one of them. She had been born a slave in the mid-1800s in the South but moved west to the Rocky Mountains as a free woman in 1884. Her first job was hauling freight. She drove a wagon and delivered freight in the valleys and mountains of Montana. She was tall, strong, and fast on the draw. She didn't hesitate to protect her wagon of goods with her gun.
She drove a freight wagon for many years. Then in her late fifties, she opened a restaurant, but her business failed. In her sixties, she became a stagecoach driver carrying the U.S. mail. Because of outlaws, driving a mailcoach was dangerous, yet her mailcoach always arrived safely. In her seventies, she opened her own laundry business. She continued successfully in that business until her death in 1914.
Mary Fields deserves our respect and can be seen as a role model for young women, for she rose above unfortunate circumstances and became a determined, hardworking, and successful businesswoman.