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Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, a Black journalist and civil rights leader, was born on this date in 1842.
Josephine St. Pierre was born into one of Boston's leading Black families. In 1858, at 15, she became the wife of George Lewis Ruffin, the first black to graduate from Harvard Law School. The couple's daughter Florida Ruffin became active in the community too. Before and during the American Civil War, Ruffin was involved in various abolitionist causes, charity work, and the women's suffrage movement. In 1879, she established the Boston, Kansas Relief Association, a charity organization providing food and clothing to black Bostonians migrating to Kansas.
Her philanthropic work brought her in contact with many eminent white and black leaders, and her close friends included William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Booker T. Washington. From 1890 to 1897, Ruffin was the editor and publisher of Woman's Era, the first newspaper published by and for Black women. It was used to highlight African American women's achievements and champion Black women's rights.
In 1894, she organized the Women's Era Club, an advocacy group for black women, with the help of her daughter Florida Ridely, and Maria Baldwin, a Boston school principal. In 1896, she and Mary Dickerson formed the Northeastern Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin died on March 13, 1924.
National Women of the Hall.org
Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York