August 31 - Happy Birthday, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

Posted on August 31, 2018

Woman's Era was the first newspaper published by and for African American women.

And today's famous birthday, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, was the woman who founded and edited it!

Ruffin, born in Boston, Massachusetts, on this date in 1842, was a civil rights leader and suffragist as well as a journalist and publisher. She helped start the American Woman Suffrage Association with prominent suffragists Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone, and she joined several other women's clubs, too. Eventually she started or helped start organizations for black women, including the Women's Era Club. 

Although she was probably treated as black by most people, including many Boston schools that were segregated during some of her schooling (and so she ended up going to schools in Salem and even far-away New York City!), Ruffin was biracial. Her father was from the Caribbean island of Martinique and had French and African roots. Her mother was white and from England.

When the General Federation of Women's Clubs met in 1900, Ruffin planned to go as representative of three different clubs, two that were made up of mostly white members, and the Women's Era Club, which had mostly black members and was considered a black club. The organizers of the General Federation said that Ruffin could be seated as a representative of the mostly-white clubs, but not of the black one. So...

So, of course, Ruffin refused on principle to be seated at all, and she was excluded from the meeting. There was a lot of publicity about this incident, and most of it was complimentary toward Ruffin.

And she continued to organize and write and publish and work...

Ruffin married a man who became the first African American graduate of Harvard Law School, AND the the first African American person elected to the Boston City Council AND the first African American municipal judge! They had five kids.

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