(Sept. 19, 1861 -Sept. 18, 1944). Mary Ellen Cable was born and raised in Leavenworth, Kansas. She graduated from Leavenworth Teachers’ Normal School in the 1870s. She taught elementary school in Fort Scott, Kansas, and then in Topeka, Kansas in 1881, where she met her husband, George Cable, also a teacher. The couple had one son, Dr. Theodore Cable, born in 1892.

The couple moved to Indianapolis in 1893, where George accepted a position at the post office and Mary accepted a position with Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). From 1903 to 1905 Mary Cable successfully oversaw the African American community’s elementary school vegetable garden project, which ultimately spurred residents in surrounding neighborhoods to plant gardens and improve property upkeep.

In 1916-1917, with the support of several Black women’s clubs, Cable instituted the first “fresh air” classroom for Black children with tuberculous at Public School No. 4. During her 45-year tenure at IPS, Cable held positions of principal and supervisor. During her tenure as director of practice teaching, the Indianapolis School Board certified 61 African American teachers, 5 of whom went on to become principals. She taught at five IPS schools, including School No. 4 in the Ransom Place neighborhood, the city’s first Black elementary school during the segregation era.

The elementary school at Blackford and Michigan streets was named in her honor. Iupui purchased the school and named it the Mary Cable Building but demolished it in 2006 due to asbestos contamination. A new IUPUI student residence, Cable House, is named for her.

Cable was active in social and civic groups, including among them Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Browning Literary Society, and Sigma Gamma Rho sorority. In 1912, as president of the Colored Women’s Civic Club, a local philanthropic group, Cable organized the first Indiana chapter of the National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People (NAACP), the organization’s most western branch at that time. She served as Indiana’s first NAACP president.

Revised February 2021

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