Founding of the NACW
In 1893, inspired by Ida B Wells' call to do something to fight lynching, Josephine St Pierre Ruffin founded the Woman's Era Club in Boston.
Two years later she invited dozens of other Black women's clubs that had sprung up around the country to gather for a 3-day meeting.
The result was a watershed: in July 1895, the National Conference of Colored Women united 36 clubs in 12 states. Mary Church Terrell simultaneously organized the National League of Colored Women in DC. By 1896 they had merged to create the National Association of Colored Women.
30+ years after emancipation, NACW was an idea whose time had come. It quickly grew to represent 50,000 women in more than 1,000 clubs.
(For the record, IdaBWells thought it should have been "Afro-American" instead of "Colored.")
NACW was unique, Paula Giddings explains, for being independent: not a women's auxiliary of a Black men's group nor a minority chapter of a white women's group.
@MarthaSJones_ describes the clubs as "spaces that encouraged black women's leadership, independent thought and activism."
They were also crucibles for voter engagement. In Chicago, for example, women won the right to vote for school board in 1891. The Great Migration had begun & the Black population of Chicago was skyrocketing. "As black men in the South were being turned away from polling places, black women in the North were gearing up to vote." @marthasjones_
In women's clubs and church groups, black women were "rallying, marching, vetting candidates, electioneering, voting, and even running for local office."
Where Black women could vote in the 1890s, they voted Republican. (The slightly-less-racist party at the time.)
As Prof. Jones said recently @bwln_nyu, "One group of women in America has voted as a block from the beginning - Black women." #BlackSuffragists #Suffrage100