Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Advocacy Collection

The Woman's Era, Volume 2, an electronic edition

by Josephine St. P. Ruffin and Florida R. Ridley, Eds. [Ruffin, Josephine St. P. and Ridley, Florida R.]

date: [1894-1897]
source publisher: Woman's Era Club
collections: Abolition, Freedom, and Rights, Women's Advocacy

Table of Contents

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THE PHYLLIS WHEATLEY CLUB.

Sylvanie F. Williams

November 1895

New Orleans, La., Oct. 11, 1895.

The club originated in the necessity which I saw all around me, of doing something to elevate the race, especially its women. I have been, for twenty years, principal of a public school for girls, and try as I would, I could not succeed to my entire satisfaction in making real true women of many of my girls, because my influence did not extend far enough into their lives. I therefore thought of working upon the morals of the mothers, the majority of whom were poor and ignorant and could not give to their girls the home culture proportionate to their educational advantages. For years I have felt that something ought to be done, but just how to reach them I did not know. I wanted help, but did not know where to turn to find it. At last the club idea dawned upon me. It was a happy one. I consulted some of my personal friends, and by coaxing and begging others, we succeeded in getting enough together to organize.

The object is plainly stated in the first article of our constitution, wherein we declare that we will do all that our hands find to do toward elevating and helping our women. Every intelligent, respectable woman is eligible to membership; the dues are only five cents per month, with no initiation fee. The dues were purposely made so small that no one could offer the expense as a plea for not joining us. The result is that we now number seventy good responsible women.

The club is divided into twelve committees, every member belonging to one or more of them. The appointments are not arbitrary; each one chooses the committee she prefers. This is allowed so that each one will work with more zeal when interested in the work. The Temperance, Anti-Cigarette, Suffrage and Social Purity committees preach their respective doctrines, scatter reading matter and form leagues of all who take anyone of the pledges. The Literature, History and Law committees form classes in the club, for our own benefit and improvement. The Self Help committee are organizing free sewing schools all over the city to teach poor girls how to sew, but especially how to mend, darn and patch, for I find that many of them go in rags because they do not know how to use the needle. Each member of the club pledges herself to furnish two ready made garments during the year, and we propose to solicit aid from our friends so as to be able to have, at least, one new made garment to distribute to each one of our poor by Christmas. The Philanthropy committee devote their time to prisons and houses of correction; they give sympathy, advice, and reading matter to the inmates. We propose to enlist the interest of the colored lawyers to look into cases where we have reason to believe that injustice or undue severity has been exercised in their sentences. The Hospital committee has charge of visiting the sick in the hospital and at their homes, where they give whatever aid they can. Of the free night schools, we had one in operation all last term and will soon open others. They are open to all young people who are compelled to work in the day and cannot afford to pay for their schooling. The Committee on Newspapers and Current Events search the papers and magazines for all articles, either commendatory or derogatory to us as a race or as women. These are brought to the notice of the club, which endorses them as the case requires.

I have given you an outline of our work. Of course we are somewhat hampered for want of funds, but as we have considerable talent among us, we are preparing to give an entertainment for the benefit of our treasury.

Sylvanie F. Williams, Pres.

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