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Wed, 02.11.1880

Nellie Quander, Teacher, and Community Activist born

Nellie Quander

*Nellie Quander was born on this date in 1880. She was a Black teacher and community activist born in Washington, D.C.

Nellie May Quander was the daughter of John Pierson Quander and Hannah Bruce Ford Quander. The Quander family can trace their lineage three hundred years in Maryland and Virginia. They are one of the oldest free Black families whose ancestors were slaves in America. Her father was a descendant of Nancy Quander, one of the slaves freed by President of the United States, George Washington in his last will. In addition, Nellie's mother was a relative of West Ford, a freed mulatto and supposed son of George Washington,

During her early years, she attended Washington, D.C.'s public schools. She graduated from Miner Normal School with honors. When Quander entered Howard University, only 1/3 of 1% of African Americans and 5% of whites attended college. While enrolled at Howard University, Quander taught students at the Garrison School in Washington, D.C. In June 1912, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in history, economics, and political science. Quander became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha at Howard in 1910.

She was the chapter's president. On October 11, 1912, there was a regular Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority meeting. Six organization members voted during the meeting to change the name, symbols, and standards. Quander appealed to them to honor their vows just months earlier, but the girls would disagree. She was "horrified" at the episode. After the young women withdrew, Quander began contacting graduate members to establish the sorority that had started years before. Quander, Minnie Smith, Norma Boyd, Julia Evangeline Brooks, Nellie Pratt Russell, and Ethel Jones Mowbray moved to incorporate Alpha Kappa Alpha on January 29, 1913.

After leading the initiative to incorporate the sorority, Quander served as president of Alpha Kappa Alpha. She was officially elected president in 1913 at the first Boulé at Howard. After serving six years at the next Boulé in 1919 in Chicago, Illinois, she resigned. She wrote the constitution's preamble and appointed fellow members to implement the sorority's expansion during her tenure.

Later, Quander was the first director of the North Atlantic Region of AKA.  Quander established the first Alpha Kappa Alpha scholarship for a senior with the highest grade point average in the School of Liberal Arts. She was the sole founder of the Zeta chapter at Wilberforce University. She continued to act as a graduate advisor to the Alpha chapter and was a member of the Xi Omega chapter in Washington, D.C. 


After graduation, Quander taught for the public school system in Washington, D.C., serving generations of students for 30 years. Because the District was part of the Federal government, Black teachers in the public schools were on the same scale as whites. The system attracted many outstanding teachers. From 1914 to 1915, Quander studied at Columbia University to earn her Master of Arts degree. Later she pursued additional post-graduate degrees.

From 1916 to 1917, Quander was a special field agent for the Children's Bureau of the Department of Labor. In this position, she observed the social and economic structure of mentally disabled people in New Castle County, Delaware. The local Women's Club sponsored the study to establish an institution for the mentally disabled. Quander attained a degree in social work at New York University and studied economics for two summers at the University of Washington.

In 1936, Quander earned a diploma at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden. The same year, she attended the International Conference on Social Work in London, England. Quander established and supported the School Safety Patrol Unit for twenty-five years in public schools. She was a member of the Business Professional and Industrial Committee board of directors in the Phillis Wheatley YMCA. She was the national industrial field secretary in work related to unions. She was a delegate for unions related to education and the Women's Trade Union League.

She served as Miner Community Center's executive secretary, serving women and children. She also was secretary of the trustee board of Lincoln Temple Congregational Church. In 1984, Alpha Kappa Alpha created a scholarship endowment in Quander's honor. The scholarship total was $125,000 for Howard University junior and senior students. She devoted her life to education and civic activities. She was close to her surviving sister Susie Russell Quander (member of Zeta Phi Beta - Alpha Chapter), nephews, and friends. Nellie Quander died on September 24, 1961.

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