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Eric Gardner

dramatic reader, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Her parents' names and specific details of her youth remain unknown, though nineteenth-century accounts spin rich tales of her parentage and childhood. According to her husband Frank Webb, her father was “a Spanish gentleman of wealth” and her mother “a woman of full African blood” who escaped from slavery while pregnant with Mary and later died from anxiety produced by the Fugitive Slave Act. Other sources claim she was the child of a Cuban official, and a letter of introduction written by Harriet Beecher Stowe claims she was sent to Cuba as a child and was educated in a convent. There was even speculation that she was the daughter of the Spanish general and statesman Baldomero Espartero.

In 1845Mary married Frank Johnson Webb and the couple settled in Philadelphia Pennsylvania where they worked in the clothing trade until ...