Little is known about the life of poet Mary Weston Fordham. A free person of color from a relatively affluent family, she bravely ran her own school during the Civil War and was hired in 1865 as a teacher by the American Missionary Association. She taught during Reconstruction at the Saxon School in Charleston, South Carolina. Her poetry contains references to family and to the deaths of several children in infancy.
A single volume of her work, Magnolia Leaves (1897), containing 66 poems, was published by a South Carolina press with an introduction by Booker T. Washington. Her poems display an ease with meter and rhyme in lyrical explorations of historical, spiritual, and domestic themes.
She died in Charleston and was buried at Brotherly Cemetery, though her precise burial site is unknown.