Who Was Stagecoach Mary? Was She a Real Person?

‘The Harder They Fall’ follows Nat Love’s tale of revenge against Rufus Buck and his gang, who are responsible for the death of his parents. Through its explosive narrative, the modern western introduces audiences to a host of eclectic characters, each formidable in their own way. Apart from the rest of his gang, Nat is aided by the enigmatic Stagecoach Mary, who runs her saloons with an iron fist and pulls off some seriously badass moves in the film’s many fiery action sequences. So how much do we know about Stagecoach Mary? And is her character based on a real person? We decided to find out.

Who Was Stagecoach Mary?

“Stagecoach” Mary Fields is first introduced as the owner of a chain of exclusive saloons, where even the most hardened criminals are quickly put in their place if they try to stir up trouble. She is then revealed to be Nat Love’s former gang member and estranged flame who opened up her own saloon as a way to leave behind a life of crime. Though not much else is revealed about her past, Mary quickly becomes one of the film’s central characters who essentially catalyzes an all-out war between Nat Love and Rufus Buck when the latter captures her.

Was Stagecoach Mary a Real Person?

Essayed by Zazie Beetz, the character of Mary Fields is based on a real woman of the same name who was well known for her formidable, larger-than-life persona. The real Mary Fields was born into slavery around 1832 and was emancipated in 1863 after working for the Warner family in West Virginia for many years. She then began working for the Ursuline convent in Toledo, Ohio, where she did the laundry and managed the convent’s kitchen, supplies, and grounds.

Image Credit: Public Domain, History

Eventually moving west, Mary began working with a mission near Cascade, Montana, from where she was dismissed mainly because of her fiery temper and penchant for smoking and drinking with men at saloons (which possibly influenced her character in ‘The Harder They Fall’). Eventually, she moved to the town of Cascade, where she briefly ran eateries and a laundry business. Her short temper and generosity, combined with her unorthodox “manly” habits, soon gained her popularity amongst the townspeople.

In 1895, Mary became the first Black woman, and only the second woman ever, to be a contracted Star Route Carrier for the United States Post Office Department. She reportedly worked as a carrier for eight years, during which her reputation for fearlessly carrying out her deliveries despite the many dangers along the way garnered her even more popularity. She also earned her nickname, “Stagecoach Mary,” during this time and was known to carry a rifle and a revolver with her while out for deliveries.

After retiring from her post with the Post Office Department, Mary went back to babysitting children and running her laundry business in Cascade. Her popularity resulted in Mary being made the mascot of a local baseball team, and she was apparently so beloved that she ate and drank for free in the town’s saloons. The real Stagecoach Mary passed away on December 5, 1914. Her funeral was allegedly one of the largest that the town had ever seen.

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