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  --  1840-1900   Table of Contents     MRS. MARGARET E. REID
  --  1846--1923

Brown, Hallie Q.
Homespun heroines



Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was born in Boston in 1842. Her mother was an English girl, coming straight from Cornwall, England, to Boston where she married John James St. Pierre. The latter was a native of Taunton, Massachusetts, and a descendant from a long line of Indians, Negro and French antecedents, the Negro forebears coming originally from Africa. Because there were separate schools in Boston, Josephine St. Pierre was sent to the public schools of Charleston and Salem and later to a private school in New York, coming back to Boston at the opening of the public schools to colored pupils. She went to the old Bowdoin school which was the finishing school for girls as no high school had been started for girls up to that time. In 1858, Josephine St. Pierre married George L. Ruffin at a very youthful age. His family came from Virginia in the 'fifties' to seek opportunities for their children. Immediately after the wedding the young people set sail for Liverpool, England, planning not to rear children in a land which recognized slavery. Soon after their marriage agitation for freedom for the slave was gaining headway, and they soon returned to America in response to the fighting spirit which was a prominent part of Mrs. Ruffin's endowment, and often asserted itself in matters where justice and equity were concerned. From the time of her marriage until her death she was always identified with public movements.

The following were some of her many activities: She recruited soldiers during the Civil War; worked with the

Sanitary commission after the war. She early connected herself with Julia Ward Howe, Lucy Stone, Abbie May, Edna Cheney and others in the Suffrage Movement,--being one of the charter members of the Massachusetts School Suffrage Association, and cast a vote for over fifty years for school officers under this body.

She was invited into the New England Women's Club; was a volunteer under the Associated Charities for eleven years. She was organizer of the Boston movement for the "Kansas Exodus" sufferers. She formed the first Colored Women's Club in Boston and possibly the first in America. This was known as the "Women's Era Club" and she also called the first convention of colored women ever held in America which resulted in the formation of the first "National Federation of Colored Women's Clubs."

With her daughter Florida, who was associated with her in much of her public work, she founded the "Women's Era," a monthly magazine for club women, which was issued for ten years. Through the publication of this she became a member of the Women's Press Club of Boston, being the only colored member. She was also a charter member of the Moral Education Society. She founded the Northeastern Federation of Women's Clubs and went into the General Federation of Women's Clubs on the invitation of Mrs. Howe and Mrs. Cheney. She went into the famous Milwaukee Convention, after this invitation had been extended to the Women's Era Club, to meet the great opposition of Mrs. Rebecca Lowe, the southern President. Until eighty years of age Mrs. Ruffin was an active member of the Calhoun Club and the Sedalia Club, and was chairman of the League of Women for Community Service.

It is not forgotten today that this woman of many interests founded an association to help Mrs. Sharp's African School and that she also served as vice-president in this association with Edward Everett Hale as president.

Mrs. Ruffin has two children living, George L., and

Mrs. Florida R. Ridley. Mrs. Ridley has been associated with her mother in many of her activities.

In closing the life of Mrs. Ruffin, the writer wishes to quote some facts from a letter received from her daughter, Mrs. Florida Ridley, to whom she wrote for intimate facts concerning the life of her distinguished mother. Mrs. Ridley writes as follows,--

"My mother in her eightieth year attended 'Women's Day' at the Copley Plaza Hotel, November 16, 1921. On that day she headed the receiving line composed of distinguished women of Massachusetts. On our 'Founders Day,' In Massachusetts, celebrated nearly three years afterwards, on February 10, 1924, she was present and although the day was a frightfully stormy one, she went in a taxi by herself to a hair-dresser before she came to the reception, as mother was most particular about her personal appearance, retaining her good looks to the last. In February she was elected to the Board of Management of the Sedalia Club of Boston. In recently looking over the Manual of the Massachusetts State Federation of Women's Clubs, I found that my mother was one of the founders, her name is linked with those of Mabel Looms Todd, Ada Tillinghast and others as incorporators. This puts her not only as a pioneer in colored club work, but also as a pioneer in white.

"Mother was a member of Trinity Church of Boston, and her funeral was held from this church with three clergymen officiating, and the full-vested choir taking part. She was active until the very last, for it was on February 28, 1924, only a short time before her death, that she attended the annual meeting of the League of Women for Community service, where she cast her vote and waited with the rest of us until one o'clock in the morning for results. The end came March 13, 1924, after she had taken to her bed only a few days."


  --  1840-1900   Table of Contents     MRS. MARGARET E. REID
  --  1846--1923