The tall woman in a bonnet caught the eye of many who shopped in the mornings. They whispered that she knew "voodoo" and called her "Mammy". After her employer and business partner, Thomas Bell, slipped on the stairway of his Octavia Street home, some said that she'd killed him with her scarf. One grisly rumor held that she'd scooped out his brains and eaten them! Mary Pleasant did have an uncanny talent for manipulation. She steered Sarah Althea Hill into her famous divorce lawsuit against Senator William Sharon. She acted the procuress for many other girls, too. But she also championed African American civil rights, to the point of spreading walnut stain on her fair cheeks to darken them and so elimate any trace of white ancestry.