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Eliza Ann Gardner was a Boston abolitionist who went on to become the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church’s missionary society. She was born on May 28, 1831, and was a strong women’s rights advocate.

Gardner was born in New York City and moved to Boston where her father became a successful ship contractor. Her parents were active in the political world, and their home in the West End served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

After school, where she was a stellar student but held back from opportunities due to her gender, Gardner aligned herself with the AMEZ church and became a dressmaker to make ends meet. She also joined the anti-slavery, linking with the likes of Frederick Douglass and others. She founded the missionary society in 1876, which raised funds to send missionaries to Africa. She is known as the “mother” of the society.

Gardner convinced AMEZ leaders to allow women to become ordained, and she later founded the Women’s Era Club, the first Black club for women in Boston.

Gardner passed in 1922.

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