Black News and News Makers in History: National Association of Colored Women Clubs

The National Association of Colored Women Clubs (NACWC) was established in Washington, D.C., USA, by the merger in 1896 of the National Federation of Afro-American Women (originally organized in 1895), the Women's Era Club of Boston, and the National League of Colored Women of Washington, DC (originally organized in 1893), as well as smaller organizations that had arisen from the African-American women's club movement.

The birth of NACWC in 1896 marked the beginning of a new era in African American womanhood and provided a vehicle for action through organized effort. 

Founders of the NACWC included Harriet Tubman, Margaret Murray Washington, Frances E.W. Harper, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell.  Its two leading members were Josephine Ruffin and Mary Church Terrell.  Their original intention was "to furnish evidence of the moral, mental and material progress made by people of color through the efforts of our women".  

During the next ten years, the NACWC became involved in campaigns in favor of women's suffrage and against lynching and Jim Crow laws. They also led efforts to improve education, and care for both children and the elderly.

By 1918, when the United States entered the First World War, membership in the NACWC had grown to an extraordinary 300,000 nationwide.

Black news from Pasadena - Black News and News Makers in history recognizes the National Association of Colored Women Clubs (NACWC) this week in Black history.In 1928, the NACWC headquarters in Washington, D.C. was purchased. 

The National Association of Colored Women was the most prominent organization formed during the Black Women’s Movement. This was due chiefly to the efforts of Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Mary Church Terrell.

Born on August 31, 1842 in Boston, Josephine St. Pierre was the daughter of John St. Pierre, a successful clothes dealer from Martinique. Little is known about her mother. Her parents supported her going to school in Salem for integrated schools, rather than Boston. There Josephine St. Pierre flourished. At age 16, she married George Lewis Ruffin, the first African-American graduate of Harvard Law School. Among their early activities was recruiting black soldiers for the Union Army during the Civil War.

National Association of Colored Women headquarters in Washington, D.C.

After George Ruffin died in 1886, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin used part of her estate to fund ‘Woman’s Era’, the first journal published by and for African-American women. Ruffin was a vice-president of the National Association of Colored Women. In 1910, Ruffin enlarged her social activism by helping form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She died in March 1924.

Mary Church Terrell was the daughter of Charles Church, a former slave.  Charles Church built a business and became one of the wealthiest black men in the South. He was able to send Mary to Oberlin College, where she earned both bachelor's and master's degrees. Years later, Mary Church Terrell spoke at the Berlin International Congress of Women. She made a great impression because she gave her speech in fluent German and French, as well as English. Terrell was the only black woman at the conference.

Terrell became president of the National Association of Colored Women in the United States. She led the struggle in Washington, DC against segregation in public eating places and succeeded in winning a court decision for integration there. Mary Church Terrell died in Annapolis, Maryland on 24 July 1954.

The organization of the National Association of Colored Women helped all African-American women by working on issues of civil rights and injustice, such as women’s suffrage, lynching, and Jim Crow laws.

Today, the NACWC motto is “Embracing Change: Honoring Our Great Legacy Through Restructure and Adaption.”

NACWC Objectives

  1. To work for the economic, moral, religious and social welfare of women and youth.
  2. To protect the rights of women and youth.
  3. To raise the standard and quality of life in home and family.
  4. To secure and use our influence for the enforcement of civil and political rights for African Americans and all citizens.
  5. To promote the education of women and youth through the work of the departments.
  6. To obtain for African American women the opportunity of reaching the highest levels in all fields of human endeavor.
  7. To promote effective interaction with the male auxiliary.
  8. To promote inter-racial understanding so that justice and good will may prevail among all people.
  9. To hold educational workshops biennially at the Convention.

For more than 119 years, the National Association of Colored Women’s Cubs, Inc., has been a leader in igniting and securing the rights of women, children and families. They are the oldest women of color organization in the country’s history. The activities and contributions of NACWC, have helped to improve the quality of life for all people, even those in other countries.

Since their inception, they have made significant contributions to uplift and sustain communities in 36 states. Built on the backbone of women like Mary Church Terrell, Margaret Washington, Mary Talbert and Nannie Burroughs, they became and continue to be an important force in our communities. They have supported women suffrage, prohibition and civil rights agendas. The first women’s network in Civil Defense emerged because our organization pushed for the issue in women’s role during the Korean War. They are still powerful women who are current on all issues and remain at the forefront of our struggles.


  • Incorporated July 26, 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Paid Mortgage on Douglas Home 1916
  • Established Hallie Quinn Brown Scholarship Loan Fund 1922
  • Built Douglass Home Caretaker Cottage 1924
  • Purchased National Headquarters at 1114 0 St., N.W Washington, D.C. 1928
  • Established National Association of Colored Girls 1930
  • Purchased current National Headquarters at 1601 R Street, N,W, Washington, D.C. 1954
  • Paid Mortgage on National Headquarters 1962
  • Frederick Douglass Home Declared National Shrine by an Act of Congress 1962
  • Purchased National Headquarters at 5808 16th St., N.W, Washington, D.C. 1970
  • Paid mortgage on National Headquarters 1978
  • Organized National Association of Boys Clubs 1980
  • Established Gertrude Johnson Williams Oratorical Contest for NACWC Youth 1982
  • Established Male Volunteers 1984
  • Home and School Institute Mentoring Program instituted
  • NACWC Record available on microfilm for scholarly research 1992
  • Built Maternity Healthcare Center in Senegal 1994
  • Celebrated 100th Anniversary 1996
  • Organized College Chapters at Texas, Tennessee and Purdue Universities 1997
  • Initiated pilot project to establish Grandparents Academy 1998
  • Established the NACWC/Talladega College Education Partnership 1998
  • Completed renovation of 1601 R Street, N. W. Headquarters 2000
  • Initiated collaboration with Women for Women 2000 Received grant from estate of Dr. Edmonia Polite to establish the Patricia L. Fletcher Scholarship 2002
  • Received first place monetary award from the Black Woman’s Agenda for the Grandparents Academy funded by Annie E. Casey Foundation 2002
  • Initiated collaboration with Women for Women International 2003
  • Participated in the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Mary Church Terrell Place in Washington, DC 2004
  • Commissioned 2nd edition of NACWC Legacy of Service 2005 Celebrated 110th Anniversary in Detroit, Michigan 2006
  • Hosted a pre-inaugural reception for President Elect Obama 2009
  • Published "From Then Until Now", a national directory 2010
  • Named by Ebony Magazine as one of the top 10 non-profit organization in the country 2010


  • Mary Church Terrell — 1st President (1896–1900)
  • Josephine Silone Yates — 2nd President (1900–1904)
  • Lucy Thurman — 3rd President (1904–1908)
  • Elizabeth Carter Brooks — 4th President (1908–1912)
  • Margaret James Murray (Mrs. Booker T. Washington) - 5th President (1912–1916)
  • Mary B. Talbert — 6th President (1916–1920)
  • Hallie Q. Brown -7th President (1920–1924)
  • Mary McLeod Bethune — 8th President (1924–1928)
  • Sallie Wyatt Stewart - 9th President (1928–1933)
  • Dr. Mary F. Waring, 10th President (1933–1937)
  • Robert Moton, 11th President (1937–1941)
  • Ada Belle Dement, 12th President (1941–1945)
  • Christine S. Smith 13th President (1945–1948)
  • Dr. Ella P. Stewart 14th President (1948–1952)
  • Irene McCoy Gaines 15th President (1952–1958)
  • Dr Rosa L. Gragg 16th President (1958–1964)
  • Mamie B. Reese 17th President (1964–1968)
  • Myrtle Ollison 18th President (1968–1972)
  • Juanita W. Brown — 19th President (1972–1976)
  • Inez W. Tinsley -20th President (1976–1980)
  • Otelia Champion -21st President (1980–1984)
  • Myrtle E. Gray -22nd President (1984–1988)
  • Dolores M. Harris 23rd President (1988–1992)
  • Savannah C. Jones — 24th President (1992–1996)
  • Patricia L. Fletcher — 25th President (1996–2002)
  • Margaret J. Cooper — 26th President (2002–2006)
  • Dr. Marie Wright Tolliver - 27th President (2006–2010)
  • Evelyn Rising - 28th President (2010-current)

NACWC Programs

Education Programs:  Provides opportunities through sharing recreational, cultural and educational activities. NACWC sponsors several educational programs including the:

  • Hallie Q. Brown Scholarship,
  • Aids Awareness and Prevention,
  • International Projects,
  • Frederick Douglass Essay Contest, and the
  • Gertrude Johnson Williams Oratorical.

Youth and Young Adult Programs:  All adult clubs are urged to sponsor youth clubs.  The young adult club is composed of persons between the ages of 18 to 35 and provides a forum to define leadership roles and responsibilities and to develop and nurture leadership qualities and styles. College chapters and young professionals explore opportunities to flex creative minds and servant/leader values.

Grandparents Academy:  The Ruby Hibler Hall Grandparents Academy is an intergenerational mentoring program that matches youth with adult mentors in order to promote the development of that "special" relationship often shared b children and their grandparents. Mentors volunteer their time to provide guidance and encouragement in a one-on-one partnership with a protégé to assure their connection with resources for safer and healthier living.

The Academy was designed to stimulate the educational, intellectual, physical and emotional aspects of the lives of all its participants.  Mentors influence their proteges development in three important ways:

  • By enhancing social skills and emotional well being
  • By improving cognitive skills through dialogue and listening
  • By serving as a role model and advocate

There are five Regional Organizations to interpret and promote the program of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubss in the respective states and to aid in the advancement and progress of the Association.  California is in the Southwest Region.

Compiled from Wikipedia and http://www.nacwc.org/.


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