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Thu, 03.24.1870

Amanda Gray Hilyer, Businesswoman born

Amanda Hilyer

*Amanda Gray Hilyer was born on this date in 1870.  She was a Black entrepreneur, pharmacist, civic worker, and activist. 

Amanda Victoria Brown was born in Atchison, Kansas. She attended public schools in Kansas and married pharmacist Arthur S. Gray. In around 1897, the couple moved to Washington D.C., and she attended Howard University. She obtained her pharmaceutical graduate degree in 1903. Gray worked as a pharmacist for the Woman's Clinic in Washington, before partnering with her husband and opening the Fountain Pharmacy in 1905. The Grays' pharmacy, at 12th and U Streets NW, was in the heart of the Black commercial district and the couple became an active part of Washington's Black elite.  

The couple were involved in a variety of social, civic, and professional organizations, including the National Medical Association, the NAACP, and the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society. She was secretary of the Treble Clef Club and was a member of the Booklovers Club. She helped to establish the Phillis Wheatley Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in Washington and became its first recording secretary in 1905.  After her husband’s death in 1917 at the age of 48, Gray closed the pharmacy and joined World War I efforts and went on to become President of the Phillis Wheatley YWCA, holding the position for three years.  

In 1923, Gray married Andrew Hilyer, a lawyer, author, and civil rights leader, who had been born enslaved. Hilyer and his first wife, Mamie, had been known to the Grays, and active in many of the same circles. Andrew Hilyer died in 1925, after two years of marriage.  Hilyer continued her civic and social activities and was active in a wide range of organizations. She was a life-member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and President and member of the board of the Ionia R. Whipper Home for Unwed Mothers. She was a member of the Citizens Committee for Freedmen's Hospital Nurses, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, and President of the Alumni Association at Howard University. 

Hilyer was a member of the Inter-Racial Committee of the District of Columbia. She was also involved in helping to preserve the Frederick Douglass House in Anacostia. Amanda Gray Hilyer, the first black woman to own and operate a pharmacy in Washington D.C. died at home on June 29, 1957, after suffering a stroke. She was 87 years old. She was remembered as a woman who 'dedicated her life to the educational, social, and moral uplift of black people, particularly those in Washington D.C'.  

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