|THE WORK OF THE AFRO-AMERICAN WOMAN|
The sex and race have reached high-water marks through the editorship of "Free Speech," by Ida B. Wells; "Ringwood's Magazine," Mrs. Julia Costen; "St. Matthew's Lyceum Journal," Mrs. M. E. Lambert; "Virginia Lancet," Lucindia Bragg; "The Boston Courant" and "Woman's Era," Mrs. Josephine Ruffin; "The Musical Messenger," Miss Tillman; and "Woman's Light and Love," a journal of Home and Foreign
Victoria Earle of Waverly's Magazine, Lillian A. Lewis of the Boston Herald, Florence A. Lewis having charge of editorial departments of Golden Days and the Philadelphia Press, show unerringly the value of our women's work in this line of effort. Miss Frazelia Campbell's translations from the German give her high rank in this field of work.
Mrs. Mary E. Lee, wife of Bishop B. F. Lee, Miss Mary Britton, Mrs. Layton, of Los Angeles, Mrs. Alice Felts, wife of Rev. Cethe Felts, Anna E. Geary, Elizabeth Frazier, Frances Parker, M. E. Buckner, Mattie F. Roberts, Ada Newton Harris, Bella Dorce, H. A. Rice, Josephine Turpin, Washington, Katie D. Yankton, Lucy Wilmot Smith, Cordelia Ray, Lucinda Bragg, Fannie C. Bently, Mrs. Fannie Barrier Williams, Kate Tillman, Mrs. Silone Yates, Florida Ridley, Medora Gould, Miss Dora J. Cole, Irene DeMortie, Maria Ridley, M. Elizabeth Johnson, Leslie Wilmot, Alice Ruth Moore, Mrs. Susie Shorter, Mrs. Mollie Church Terril, Miss Virginia Whitsett, Dr. Alice Woodby McKane, Dr. Lucy Hughes Brown, Maritcha Lyons, Mrs. Majors, Mrs. Scruggs, and Mrs. I. Garland Penn, have done good work in the past, and in many cases are still doing such work in literary lines as must reflect high honor on their race and sex.
The profession of medicine has proven more attractive, and more lucrative also, to Afro-American women than either of the other liberal professions. We have some dozen graduates of the finest institutions in the country; among the earliest is Dr. Susan McKinney, a graduate of the Women's Medical College of N. Y.; having been a student under Dr. Clement Lozier is largely to the advantage of Dr. McKinney. As a member of the Medical Staff of the Women's Dispensary and of the City Society of Hom[oelig ]pathy the Doctor is doing efficient work; this combined with a large and rapidly growing practice makes her labors along race efforts especially worthy of commendation. Dr. R. J. Cole and Dr. Caroline V. Anderson were the pioneers from the Phila. Women's Medical College; Dr. Cole is also an excellent German scholar. Dr. Anderson, although not an author in her own right, yet gave valuable assistance to her father, Wm. Still, Esq., in the preparation of his famous work "The Underground Railroad." Dr. Anderson conducts a Dispensary in connection with the mission work of the Berean Presbyterian Church, South College Ave., Phila., of which her husband, the Rev. Matthew Anderson, is pastor. The doctor has secured through the kindness of wealthy friends an additional aid to the work of this mission by the gift of a cottage at Mt. Pleasant to be used as a retreat for invalids. Dr. Verina Morton is practising in
Dr. Ida Gray, our only known graduate in dentistry, hails from the University at Mich., receiving her degree in 1890. Dr.Gray at once entered upon her work and has found herself highly appreciated. The Doctor has a charming personality.
We have as trained nurses Mrs. Minnie Hogan, of the Nurses' Training School of the University of Pa., Miss Annie Reeve and Mrs. Nicholson of the Women's Medical College, Mrs. Georgian Rumbly, lately deceased, took a Nurse's course at Howard University and practised this profession prior to entering upon a Medical course.
We have in the profession of law three graduates, Mrs. Mary Shadd Cary, of Washington, D. C., Miss Florence Ray, of N.Y., and Miss Ida Platt, of Chicago. The first named is also an eloquent lecturer the second an author of merit. Miss Ida B. Platt, of Chicago,
No woman of the race has completed a theological course so far as we can learn, but large numbers inspired with zeal for the Master's kingdom have gone forth to evangelistic and mission work. Amanda Smith, now
Perhaps it might be said we have done the least in the line of State work and yet we believe, that according to the opportunities accorded us we have done our share. In time of war, in famine, in time of fire or flood, and especially during the horrors of pestilence the women of this race have done noble work often calling forth public praise; as was the case at Memphis, a few years ago, when the mayor of that city complemented the women of the race for the kindness to the sufferers in the awful epidemic that had recently visited that district.
In the East and West, on the School and local option question they have given able support, in local and ward charity they have always done their share of the work in hand. Miss Amelia Mills, of Philadelphia, has been for years a most efficient worker especially along the line of the Country Week Association.
During the World's Fair we had five experienced refined and cultivated women upon the World's Fair State Committees, Miss Imogene Howard, of N. Y., Mrs. Fannie Barrier Williams, of Chicago, who read a most able paper before the World's Parliament of Religions, Miss Florence A. Lewis, of Philadelphia, who was also World's Fair correspondent for the Philadelphia
Along the line of Art we have one noble representative: the work of Edmonia Lewis, the sculptress, is so well known that it scarce needs repetition; her "Cleopatra Dying," exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition, received a medal of honor. Most of her works have been sold to titled persons of Europe. Elizabeth Greenfield Selika, Flora Batson Bergen, Madame Sisseretta Jones, Madame Saville Jones, Madame Nellie Brown Mitchell, Madame Dessiro Plato, Mrs. Lizzie Pugh Dugan, and Miss Agnes Tucker rank as the Pattis and Nilssons of the race. In many cases not only delighting the millions of the common people, but receiving marked tokens of appreciation from the crowned heads of the European nations, Hallie Quinn Brown, Ednorah Nahr, Henrietta Vinton Davis, Alice Franklin, now Mrs. T. McCants Stewart, Mary Harper, Matilda Herbert and Emma White take rank among the finest elocutionists of the United States. As accomplished planists we have Madame Montgomery, Madame Williams, Mrs. Ida Gilbert Chestnut, Miss Inez Casey and Mrs. Cora Tucker Scott. The women of this race have always been industrious, however much the traducers of the race may attempt to make it appear otherwise. They are proving daily the truth of this assertion.
The women of this race have been industrious but it is only in late years, that they have reaped the
Mrs. Winnie Watson of Louisville is a graduate of the Clark School of embalming. She graduated in a class of forty-five, three colored and forty-two white, and yet took first honor. She has entered into partnership with her husband who is an undertaker.
Mrs. Caroline E. White is a retired dry goods merchant of Philadelphia. Mrs. Margaret Jones, cateress, and many of our women in the Eastern and Western States having handsome millinery, dressmaking, and hair dressing parlors, carried on successfully attest the business capacity of the Afro-American woman. For years the finest tonsorial parlor on the Pacific coast, was owned and conducted by a woman of the race. As managers of the finest grade of hotels, they have been a marked success.
It is stated on the authority of numbers of reputable journals, that in the camp at Yasoo, Montana, a colored woman named Millie Ringold ran the first hotel at that place and established an enviable reputation as a prospector and also, that Mrs. C. Whetzel, a resident of St. John, New Brunswick, becoming widowed
As stenographers, type writers, book keepers, and sales women those of the race who have gained a foothold in these employments have never failed to give satisfaction.
Mrs. M. E. Elliot years ago secured a patent on several toilet articles and opened branch establishments in many cities.
A colored woman has a contract for hauling sand at a small town in Florida. In connection with this work she carries on a small farm and poultry yard gaining thereby more than a comfortable living for herself and family. Miss Maud Benjamin, of Washington, has patented a call bell. Mrs. N. F. Mossell, of Phila., has invented a camping table and portable kitchen. Many unique inventions are now in the possession of Afro-American women too poor to secure patents.
That the women of this race did not lack force of
It is also on record that Deborah Gannet, who had enlisted during the Revolutionary war in Captain Wells' company, under the name of Robert Shurtliffe, servings from May, 1782, until October 23, 1783, discharged the duties of her office and at the same time, preserved inviolate the virtue of her sex, and was granted therefore a pension of thirty-four pounds.
"'Happy' or Kate Ferguson, born a slave, opened a Sunday School in Dr. John Mason's Murray Street Church, in New York City, in 1774. She secured homes for forty-eight children, white and black. The school growing, the lecture room was opened, Dr. Mason and his teachers assisting 'Happy' in her work." So says Colored American, a book printed through a fund bequeathed by Lindley Murray, "to promote piety, virtue and the truths of Christianity." This was the beginning of the Sunday School in Murray Street Church, and Kate Ferguson, the colored woman who had been a slave is believed to have thus gathered the first Sunday School in New York City. Says W. E. Chandler in his history of the Sabbath Schools of New York City, after stating the above facts, "God bless the dusky hands that broke here an alabaster
We have in the line of musical composers, Miss Estelle Rickets, Miss Bragg, Miss Tillman, Mrs. Yeocum and Mrs. Ella Mossell. In artistic work, Miss Julia F. Jones, Mrs. Parker Denny and Miss Nelson, now an art student of Philadelphia, take rank with those who are doing successful work. Miss Ida Bowser is a graduate of one Musical Department of the University of Pennsylvania. We have also several graduates of the Boston Conservatory of Music. The New York Conservatory has also several of our girls as pupils; Miss Blanche D. Washington is a student in harmony and composition. Madame Thurber's invitation and Prof. Dvorak's statement that the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called Negro melodies, has given great encouragement to the young of the race who are ambitious musically. Of late years the dramatic instinct has developed sufficiently to enable the presentation of many of the best plays. The Afro-American woman taking her part therein with an ease and grace that astonishes those who go to mock her efforts. Perhaps the effort that is most unique and yet entirely consistent with the character of the race has been done along the line of philanthropic work. Within these later years since better opportunities for educational
Two of the earliest laborers in this field of effort were "Moses" and "Sojourner Truth," Harriet, known for many years as "Moses," was a full blooded African woman, who escaped from slavery on the Eastern shore of Maryland. She returned to the South nineteen times, carrying off four hundred slaves. Gov. Andrew of Massachusetts, sent her as a scout and spy with the union army during the war; at its close she labored for the soldiers in the hospitals and later with the "Freedmen's Bureau," she is now living at Auburn, N. Y., where she looks after the poor and infirm of her race. "Sojourner Truth" was born in Webster County, N. Y., she escaped from slavery and
Miss Elizabeth Ralls, the organizer of the "Sarah Allen Mission and Faith Home," of Philadelphia, is a remarkable character. Without education or wealth, with a heart overflowing with love to the poor, she has from childhood, labored in season and out of season in the mission cause. For many years she served a Christmas dinner to the poor of her race, in Philadelphia, over five hundred being present. Boxes of clothing and food were distributed monthly. Of late years she has rented a house and taken in the aged who could not gain admittance to other institutions. She takes her basket on her arm and goes to the market,
The Lend a Hand, Christian Endeavor, Epworth League and like institutions have a large contingent of our women as efficient workers. The last effort at organized work by the womanhood of this race has been the organization of two associations, namely, the Woman's Loyal Union of Brooklyn and New York, and the Colored Woman's League, of Washington, D. C. These associations have for their work the collecting
Perhaps the greatest work in philanthropy yet accomplished by any woman of the race is that undertaken and so successfully carried out at the present hour by Miss Ida B. Wells.
This lady is a native of Holly Springs, Miss. She received a liberal education for the greater part at Rust University. A teacher for a few months in the State of Arkansas, she at a later date became a resident and teacher at Memphis, Tenn. This position she held for some seven years. Criticism of the condition of affairs prevailing in the colored school of Memphis gained the lady the ill-will of the Board of Education, and at the following term she failed to receive an appointment.
Miss Wells, nothing daunted, purchased a one-third interest in the Memphis Free Speech . The paper was much benefited by this fact and continued to be an eminent success from every point of view.
March 9, 1892, occurred at Memphis (in a section of the town called the Curve) a most brutal and outrageous lynching of Afro-Americans. An attempt was made by the press of Memphis to justify this crime by the most flagrantly untruthful statements regarding the conduct of the men lynched.
Miss Wells at once began in Free Speech a series of letters and editorials setting forth the true state of the case. These editorials were succeeded by a series of articles criticising and condemning the treatment of her race in Memphis.
At a later date, during the month of May, 1892, there appeared in the columns of Free Speech an editorial from the pen of our heroine that has since become famous.
Starting out on a visit to Oklahoma and later to New York City, Miss Wells stopped in Philadelphia on a visit to Mrs. F. E. W. Harper and to take a peep at the doings of the A. M. E. General Conference then in session at the city. What was her consternation to find letters pouring in upon her from friends and correspondents at Memphis warning her not to return to her office on pain of being lynched. She was informed that her newspaper plant had been destroyed and the two male editors had been forced to flee for their lives.
Miss Wells was at once placed upon the staff of the
In the early fall Miss Wells entered upon a lecturing tour among her own race in the United States; later a committee of ladies under the title of The Woman's Loyal Union of Brooklyn and New York gave her a grand reception, a testimonial purse of $400 and also a beautiful gold pen engraved with the legend "Mizpah."
Miss Wells continued her lecturing tour meeting with a hearty welcome, especially in the city of Boston. The press of that city gave her a flattering reception, publishing lengthy interviews and carefully reporting her addresses. Mrs. Josephine Ruffin, of the Boston Courant , used her influence to get Miss Wells's cause a hearing before the most exclusive Women's Clubs of Boston and with great success. The Moral Educational Association, of Boston, was of this number.
The ire of the Memphis press was aroused by the courtesy shown Miss Wells at Boston, and retaliated by flooding the North with slanderous accusations against the martyr editor.
During the late fall Miss Wells was visited at Philadelphia by Miss Catherine Impey, of London, England, editor of Anti-Caste . By this lady's invitation
In the drawing-room of Mrs. Isabella Favie Mayo, April 21, 3 P. M., 1893, at Aberdeen, Scotland, with Miss Wells, Miss Catherine Impey and Dr. George Fernands, together with fifty of the most prominent clergy, professionals, tradesmen and others, was put in operation a force that will tell on the life of unborn generations. A second meeting was held later on at Music Hall, Aberdeen, April 24th. Professor Iverach offered a resolution condemnatory of lynching, which was seconded by Rev. James Henderson, the son of an ex-Mayor of this city.
The society formed received the name of "The Society for the Recognition of the Brotherhood of Man." Its aims were stated in the following declaration:--
And those becoming members gave the following pledge:--
I , the undersigned, promise to help in securing to every member of the human family, Freedom, Equal Opportunity and Brotherly Consideration .
The publication *
(*) In view of the recent death of S. J. Celestine Edwards, editor of Fraternity, the Society for the Recognition of the Brotherhood of Man have considered it advisable to declare that publication no longer the official organ of the society. Fraternity , into which Anti-Caste
Miss Eliza Wigham, Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, entertained Miss Wells during this visit.
Miss Wells soon after returned to the States, established herself in Chicago, and as a staff contributor to The Conservator and New York Age did valuable work that led to a wide-spread discussion of the subject of lynching of Afro-Americans in the Southland. Soon after she began the preparation of a pamphlet entitled "The Reason Why," for distribution at the World's Fair. This was a most carefully prepared series of papers on race subjects by such writers as the Hon. Fred. Douglass, I. Garland Penn, F. L. Barnett and Ida B. Wells.
Miss Wells was sent by the Inter-Ocean to secure the facts concerning a lynching case; these facts she secured and the result of her work was published in the columns of that influential journal.
Soon after, a few hours before the lynching of Lee Walker, at Memphis, Tenn., the following telegram was sent to the Inter-Ocean , Chicago:--
" Memphis , July 22.
"To Inter-Ocean , Chicago: -- Lee Walker, colored man, accused of --, to be taken out and burned by whites. Can you send Miss Ida Wells to write it up? Answer.
R.M. Martin , with Pub. Ledger ."
Miss Wells did much effective work for the race at the World's Fair. At its close she was soon after invited to again lecture in England under the auspices of "The Society for the Recognition of the Brotherhood of Man," which she had been instrumental in forming at her previous visit.
On February 28, 1894, Miss Wells once more sailed for the shores of "Old England." While making her second lecturing tour, under the auspices of the above-named Society, resolutions endorsing her mission were secured from the following associations: The Congregational Union, National Baptist Association, Young Men's Christian Association, National British Women's Temperance Association, Women's Liberal Association, Society of Friends, Society for the Union of Churches, and the Unitarian Conference.
Lady Jeune, Mrs. Lockhart Smith, Charles F. Aked, Sir Edward Russell, and other prominent persons and members of the nobility opened their drawing-rooms to a favored few to listen to the story of the woes of Afro-Americans as recited by Miss Wells, Sir Joseph Pease presided at the parliamentary breakfast given in Miss Wells' honor.
Miss Ellen Richards, who so many years ago had purchased the freedom of Frederick Douglass and Wm. Wells Brown, received our young philanthropist as her honored guest,
The following clipping from one of Miss Wells' letters to the New York Age will give an excellent idea of the drift of the public meetings held by her in London:--
The Rev. C. F. Aked (Liverpool) moved: "That this union, having learned with grief and horror of the wrongs done to the colored people of the Southern States of America by lawless mobs, expresses the opinion that the perpetuation of such outrages, unchecked by the civil power, must necessarily reflect upon the administration of justice in the United States and upon the honor of its people. It therefore calls upon all lovers of justice, of freedom, and of brother-hood in the churches of the United States, to demand for every citizen of the Republic, accused of crime, a proper trial in the courts of law." He said that the scandal he referred to had no parallel in the history of the world, and it was their duty as Christians to do their best to put a stop to it. In the Southern States of America there are 25,000 negro teachers in elementary schools, 500 negro preachers trained in the theological institutes of the people themselves, and 2500 negro preachers who had not received college training. The colored race had also produced 300 lawyers, 400 doctors, 200 newspapers, and they possessed property valued at £50,000,000 sterling. Yet these people are being whipped, scourged, hanged,
Rev. Charles F. Aked was one of Miss Wells' ablest English supporters, and gave an excellent account of her work in the Review of the Churches
Speaking of the purpose to be served by Miss Wells' mission to England, Mr. Aked says;--
"One thing she has set herself to do, and that there
Miss Wells does not suppose that any direct political action can be taken, but she does suppose that British opinion, if aroused, can influence American press and pulpit, and through the press and pulpit the people of the Northern States."
The Anti-Lynching Committee formed in England has just given to the world through the publication of a letter from Miss Florence Balgarnie in the August 23d issue of the New York Age a list of its members. The men and women who in the name of humanity and civilization have banded themselves together in this committee are still adding both British and Americans to their numbers. Among those who have already joined are:--
The Right Honorable the Duke of Argyle, K. G., K. T.; the Rev. C. F. Aked, Liverpool; Mr. W. Allan, M. P., Gateshead-on-Tyne; Mr. Wm. E. A. Axon, Manchester; the Rev. R. Armstrong, Liverpool; Mr. Thomas Burt, M. P., Morpeth; the Right Honorable Jacob Bright, M. P., Manchester; Mrs. Jacob Bright; Mr. Wm. Byles, M. P., Bradford; Mrs. Byles, Bradford; Mr. W. Blake-Odgers, Mr. E. K. Blyth, Mr. Percy Bunting, Mrs. Percy Bunting, Mr. Herbert Burrows, Mr. Bertram, Miss Bertram, Mr. P. W. Clayden, Mrs. P. W. Clayden, Mr. James G. Clarke,
This has been further supplemented by the following list from the Philadelphia Press of Sunday, August 26,1894, containing many English, and not a few names of persons of great influence, natives of the United States:--
Duke of Argyle, Sir John Gorst, member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge and student of Social Phenomena; Justin McCarthy, Sir John Lubbock, Ellis Ashmead Bartlett, Rt. Rev. Ed. White Benson, Archbishop of York and Primate of all England; Passmore Edwards, treasurer, who has in hand 5000 pounds to carry on the work of the committee; Mrs. Humphrey Ward, president of the Women's Auxilliary Branch of the League; Lady Henry Somerset, the Countess of Aberdeen; the Countess of Meath, founder of the Ministering Children's League; J. Keir Hardie. Americans--Richard Watson Gilder, of Century Company; Samuel Gompers, labor leader;
The Legislatures of Texas, Alabama and Florida have consented to give a hearing to deputations sent out by the League.
The following interesting and pathetic fact is stated (concerning the first contribution to the funds of the above-mentioned League) by Miss Wells in the Aug. 23d, 1894, issue of the New York Age :--
The first donation that the committee received came from a party of a dozen Africans who were in England. Desiring to show their appreciation of what had been done for me and the cause of the race, they sent 14 pounds, or nearly $70, as a testimonial of appreciation. I shall be glad to give a copy of their letter in another issue. We want the same voluntary response on this side to carry on the work here. Shall we have it?
Ida B. Wells.
128 Clark street, Chicago, Ill.
Returning to the United States July 24, 1894, Miss Wells was enabled to be present in person at a meeting of endorsement of her work in England held at
The press comments on Miss Wells' work would already fill many volumes, some favorable, others unfavorable to the cause of the Afro-American, but all showing conclusively the truth of a statement made by Miss Wells in a recent issue of the Age :
"That the Afro-American has the ear of the civilized world for the first time since emancipation." Eminent Afro-American leaders, such as the Hon. Frederick Douglass; Rev. Harvey Johnson, D.D., Baltimore, Md.; Bishop H. M. Turner and Dr. H. T. Johnson, of the Christian Recorder , have endorsed Miss Wells work, also the National Afro-American League, Equal Rights Council of Boston, Afro-American Leagues of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Bedford, New Haven, Rochester, and other cities.
" Chicago , Aug. 18--The Chicago Anti-Lynching Committee has effected permanent organization with the following officers: President, F. L. Barnett; vice-president, Mrs. J. C. Plummer; secretary, Dr. C. E. Bently; treasurer, C. H. Smiley. There is an executive
"The Central Executive Council have organized at Brooklyn, N. Y., the following-named officers being elected: W. L. Hunter, president; Rev. A. J. Henry, vice-president; W. H. Dickerson, secretary; and Rev. W. T. Dixon, treasurer. Mr. S. R. Scottron, Rev. Lawton, Drs. W. A. Morton, Coffey and Harper and Rufus L. Perry are eminent workers in this cause."
Who shall say that such a work accomplished by one woman, exiled and maligned by that community among whom she had so long and so valiantly labored, bending every effort to the upbuilding of the manhood and womanhood of all races, shall not place her in the front rank of philanthropists, not only of the womanhood of this race, but among those laborers of all ages and all climes?
Before closing this chapter of race history, how shall we estimate those humble workers who have labored for the upbuilding of our churches and societies, the opening up everywhere to the race more favorable school privileges, such noble souls as Mary McFarland Jennings and Mrs. Mary Browne, wife of William Browne of The True Reformers; those dear ones who have so modestly ministered to the wants of the sick
Two classes we have failed to mention thus far, but our hearts hold them in fullest remembrance: those uncrowned queens of the fireside who have been simply home-keepers, raising large families to a noble manhood and womanhood; among these stand forth pre-eminently Mrs. Elizabeth Steward, wife of Dr. T. G. Steward, and Mrs. Bishop B. T. Tanner, and those other sisters still dearer to us, whose work lies around us with its sweet fragrance until it seems almost too sacred to weave into this chaplet of pearls. Of this number are Martha Briggs, Rebecca Steward, Katie Campbell Becket, and Grace Douglass.
We close this tribute to Afro-American womanhood with a heart warmed and cheered, feeling that we have proved our case.
Hath not the bond-woman and her scarce emancipated daughter done what they could?
Will not our more favored sisters, convinced of our desires and aspirations because of these first few feeble efforts, stretch out the helping hand that we may rise to a nobler, purer womanhood?