"An open hand is blessed for it gives in abundance, even as it receives.”
The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation is named for Bridget “Biddy” Mason, one of the founding organizers of First AME Church of Los Angeles.
Enslaved at her birth in Hancock County, Georgia in 1818, Biddy was able to secure her freedom in 1856, through a suit brought against the man who held her and thirteen others in slavery, including her three daughters. This was an extraordinary victory, especially because in the 1850s California was a free state in name only.
She became a legendary figure in early Los Angeles, not only for her astute business acumen, but for her philanthropy. She founded a school and orphanage and her home on North Spring Street became a refuge for many destitute settlers. Biddy, who spoke fluent Spanish, cared for the sick and became a mentor for many.
As a slave, Biddy had learned the art of healing with herbal remedies and midwifery. These skills proved to be very valuable and she began her life as a free woman earning $2.50 per day as a nurse. Saving carefully, she was one of the first African American women to own land in Los Angeles. Biddy, who was universally beloved in her community, amassed a relatively large fortune, which she shared generously with charities. When she died in 1891, Biddy's estate was valued at $300,000, the equivalent of approximately $9 million today.
Because of her kind and giving spirit, Biddy, who passed away in 1891, is known to many today as "Grandma Mason."