Although she may have been one of the toughest women ever to work in a convent, ‘Black Mary’ had earned the respect and devotion of most of the residents of the pioneer community of Cascade, Montana, before she died in 1914. In fact, Mary Fields was widely beloved. She was admired and respected throughout the region for holding her own and living her own way in a world where the odds were stacked against her. In a time when African Americans and women of any race enjoyed little freedom anywhere in the world, Mary Fields enjoyed more freedom than most white men.
Fields dressed in the comfortable clothes of a man, including a wool cap and boots, and she wore a revolver strapped around her waist under her apron. At 200 pounds, she was said to be a match for any two men in Montana Territory. She had a standing bet that she could knock a man out with one punch, and she never lost a dime to anyone foolish enough to take her up on that bet. By order of the mayor, she was the only woman of reputable character in Cascade allowed to drink in the local bar, and while she enjoyed the privilege, she never drank to excess. She was often spotted smoking cigars in public, and she liked to argue politics with anyone.