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Emma Ransom, 1924
*Emma Ransom was born on this date in 1864. She was a Black club woman and civic leader. Emma Sarah Connor was born to Jackson and Beattie Connor, former slaves. The Connors moved their ten children to Selma, Ohio, where Emma attended school. She trained as a teacher at Wilberforce University as a young woman. She taught school and was active in the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
In 1886 she met Reverdy Cassius Ransom, a senior at Wilberforce University, when he was appointed student pastor at the Selma church. He and Emma were married in Selma on October 27, 1887, and she joined him in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where he was assigned a pastorate. The following year, their infant son died a few hours after birth. A second son, named for his father, was born on September 2, 1889. Reverend Ransom's son from a first marriage, Harold, moved in with them after Reverdy Jr.'s birth. Hence, Emma raised two boys while working alongside her husband in church and community activities. Following the AME General Conference in 1890, the Ransoms were sent to Springfield, Ohio, for three years, then to Cleveland for three years. From 1890 to 1896, Ransom helped her husband's congregations in Ohio evolve into dynamic churches that attended to the holistic needs of the community.
In 1893 family moved to Cleveland, where Ransom organized a Sunday school for neighborhood children, established a kindergarten to care for children of African American domestics, and organized a Queen Esther's Guild of young women that met for etiquette training and intellectual improvement. She also founded the Tawawa Literary Society, which brought notables such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Ida B. Wells-Barnett to the St. John AME congregation Reverdy Ransom pastured at the Reverdy Ransom Church. During this time, Emma Ransom began to acquire a global perspective as she co-published a magazine called Women's Light and Love, which highlighted the economic and social needs of Blacks who had migrated from the South and the needs of people in Africa. Ransom founded local missionary societies at three other churches and organized the Ohio Conference Branch Missionary Society.
An effective advocate of a broadened role for women in the church and community, Ransom also encouraged her husband to organize and consecrate the first Board of Deaconesses, an organized group of women who helped with sacramental acts (such as baptism and communion) and charitable work—in the AME church during in Cleveland. In 1896, when Reverdy Ransom became pastor of Bethel Church in Chicago, Emma Ransom organized and became president of Bethel's Women's Parent Mite Missionary Society. She led the society to develop outreach projects to assist poor families in the Chicago community and set a new standard for mission fundraising. In 1898, Ransom became the first vice president of the Women's Mite Missionary Society for the Iowa Conference of the AME Church.
Her resourcefulness reached a new height in July 1900 when Reverdy Ransom was released from Bethel AME Church to establish the Institutional Church and Social Settlement, an urban mission in Chicago providing spiritual, economic, and educational services and social support to community residents and transients. The Ransoms secured funds to refurbish and maintain the large building on Dearborn Street. She organized a free kindergarten that sixty-two children attended. She also helped oversee the other activities at Institutional Church, including an employment bureau; a nursery and daycare center; a penny savings bank for children; a Sunday school; a department of instrumental music; a department of vocal music; a “kitchen garden” which taught scientific housekeeping and homemaking; a girl’s club; a boy’s club; and a gymnasium that opened two days a week for women and two days for men.
The Ransoms spent the next three years, 1904 to 1907, in New England, where Reverend Ransom received a new pastorate and pastored churches in New Bedford and Boston. The Ransoms left Boston for New York City in July 1907 when Reverdy Ransom assumed the pastorate of the 2,500-member Bethel Church. In New York. She became a leader in the YWCA to chair its board of management. Along with Cecelia Cabaniss Saunders, and Virginia Scott, Ransom shaped the Harlem YWCA into an institution that contributed mightily to the social and moral uplift of the black community. In 1932 the Ransoms returned to Wilberforce, where Reverdy Ransom served as Bishop of the Third Episcopal District of the AME Church. Emma Ransom died at her home in Wilberforce, Ohio, on May 15, 1943. Most assuredly, Emma Ransom inspired countless women whose lives intersected with hers.
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