Around 1939, Mary Norris Andrews became the first Black woman in Cincinnati to own, edit, and publish a newspaper, called The Cincinnati Independent. The Independent, a weekly, ran for 15 years before Andrews sold it. Then she opened a funeral home in Avondale that lasted for more than 30 years.
Mary M. Norris was born in Georgia in 1901. Her father was a farm laborer named Samuel Norris. Her mother died when Mary was five years old. Mary Norris married Charles C. Andrews and came to Cincinnati, where she founded The Independent newspaper in a building, now gone, at 653 W. Court Street, in the West End.
Andrews was not only the first Black woman in Cincinnati to own a newspaper, she was the first woman in Cincinnati, Black or white, to own her own linotype machine. Many years later, Mae Najiyyah Duncan interviewed Mary Andrews and asked where Andrews had gotten her confidence. Andrews replied, “My father told me that I could do anything that I wanted to do, and I guess I was dumb enough to believe him.”
The Cincinnati Independent reported on topics including the integration of Coney Island, the system for electing Cincinnati City Council, church news, and sports. Andrews employed young African Americans from the West End and taught them the printing trade.
In 1954, Andrews sold the newspaper to William N. Lovelace and William C. Brown. Lovelace at this time was an attorney and an assistant county prosecutor. (Lovelace would go on to be the first Black municipal judge in Cincinnati, and Andrews believed that Lovelace purchased the paper mainly to boost his political profile.) Even after the sale, Mary Andrews retained the right to use the equipment for her own job printing business, which continued for several years.
By 1960, Mary Andrews occupied a Victorian mansion on Reading Road in Avondale. That October, the George J. Jones Club announced that they would hold a benefit tea “at the home of Mrs. Mary Andrews, 3602 Reading Road.”
By 1963, Mary Andrews had opened a funeral home at that address. The Mary L. Andrews Funeral Home was sufficiently well-regarded that when owners (or past owners) of other funeral homes died, their own funerals were sometimes conducted by Mary Andrews: Cora Jamison’s funeral was held at the Andrews funeral home in 1964; Clyde Felder’s funeral was held there in 1973.
Mary M. Norris Andrews died in Cleveland in 1991. Her funeral home on Reading Road outlasted her. Her nephew Samuel Franklin Norris, who had worked as a printer at The Independent, took over as Chief Executive Officer of the Mary M. Andrews Funeral Chapel. He sold the building in 1996 to Clarence and Pamela Glover; the Glover Funeral Home then operated out of this location until at least 2006.
Mary M. Norris Andrews and her husband Charles are buried in Union Baptist Cemetery.