Remembered as Canada's first female newspaper publisher and the North American continent's first woman publisher of African descent, she edited an 1850s abolitionist journal called the Provincial Freeman.
In her early adulthood years, she encouraged free African-Americans to immigrate to Canada and, to this end, published an influential 1852 pamphlet.
During the Civil War years, she recruited African-American soldiers to the Union Army. In the post-war era, she studied law at Howard University and, at age sixty, became the second American-born woman of African descent to hold a J.D.
She and her twelve younger siblings were born in Delaware to Harriet Parnell and Abraham Doras Shadd. After settling in Canada, she married Thomas F. Cary and gave birth to children named Sarah and Linton.
She and Susan B. Anthony were both members of the National Woman Suffrage Association.