February of each year is Black History Month. As February 2017 comes to an end, I want to profile some amazing African-American women whom we all should know. Match the woman with her accomplishment:
____ 1. Her 1867 sculpture, Forever Free, is in the Howard University Gallery of Art.
____ 2. She established the National Trade and Professional School for Girls which opened in Washington, D.C. in 1909 and served as its president/principal until her death.
____ 3. The first African-American woman to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from a college in the U.S.
____ 4. Active in the women’s suffrage movement, she convened the national convention from which the National Association of Colored Women traces its founding.
____ 5. A writer for The Liberator and advocate of abolition, she strongly endorsed education for African Americans.
A. Maria Stewart
B. Mary Jane Patterson
C. Edmonia Lewis
D. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin
E. Nannie Helen Burroughs
Orphaned at five years old and hired out as a domestic servant, Maria Stewart became a fierce advocate of abolition. Through her platform as a writer of articles for The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper, she advanced her ideas of morality, self improvement and the importance of education. One of her articles, titled “Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality: The Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build”, published in October 1831, emphasizes the importance of education. In addition, at a time when speaking in public was not an opportunity afforded women, she became a fervent and inspiring public speaker. Stewart later taught in schools in New York City and Washington, DC.
Heralded as the first African-American woman to receive a bachelor’s degree from a college, Mary Jane Patterson received that degree from Oberlin College in 1862 with high honors. She taught school for a few years in Ohio and then moved to teach in Philadelphia and then Washington, DC. In DC, she taught at the newly founded Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, the first public school for African-Americans in the U.S. and the first public high school in Washington, D.C. She also advocated for women’s rights and co-founded the Women’s Colored League of Washington, D.C.
The first African-American sculptor, Edmonia Lewis, was, like Maria Stewart, orphaned at age five. Lewis lived with her mother’s Chippewa tribe until she was twelve. Her brother, who went to California to mine gold, paid for her education in upstate New York and then financed her college education at Oberlin, the same college that Mary Jane Patterson attended, although through quite unfortunate circumstances, she was not able to graduate. Lewis moved to Boston where she undertook studies in sculpture. Her medallion portraits and then sculpture busts provided adequate income to finance a trip to Europe. She settled in Rome in 1865 and met a number of other American sculptors who were also living there. Forever Free, her 1867 depiction of a man and woman celebrating their release from slavery, is in the Howard University Gallery of Art.
Active in the women’s suffrage movement and a colleague of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin edited the first newspaper published by and for African-American woman. Co-founder of the Women’s Era Club in Boston, she believed a national organization for African-American woman was needed. In 1895, she convened the first national convention from which the National Federation of Afro-Am Women was founded. A year later, two such organizations merged to become the National Association of Colored Women. One of the founding members of the Boston Chapter of the NAACP, Ruffin has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Born in Virginia in 1879, Nannie Helen Burroughs attended college but did not receive a degree. Frustrated in her efforts to become a teacher, she moved to Philadelphia for a while, serving as associate editor of a newspaper. She moved to Louisville, Kentucky after accepting a position with the Foreign Mission of the Board of the National Baptist Convention. With that organization’s support, she founded and served as the first president of the National Trade and Professional School for Girls in Washington, DC, which opened to students in 1909. Burroughs was an advocate for African-American history, requiring the students to pass the course in order to graduate. She served as principal of the school, today the Nannie Boroughs School, until her death in 1961. Its Trades Hall was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1991.
Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These African-American women are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell women’s stories and to write them back into history.
(Answers 1-C, 2-E, 3-B, 4-D, 5-A)