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Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

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Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, was born in Boston, on August 31, 1842. The St. Pierres’ were one of the leading families in Boston. Her mother was an English born white lady and her father was from the island of Martinique, and founder of the Boston Zion Church. They were able to send young Ms.St. Pierre to Salem, where the schools were integrated mainly from the work of John Lenox Remond (children denied admittance to school, helped desegregate).

Josephine graduated from Boston finishing school, and completed two more years of private tutoring in New York. She married George Lewis Ruffin, who was the first African American to graduate from Harvard Law School. Soon after they moved to England.

They were actively involved in the struggle of slavery, civil rights causes, charity work, recruiting soldiers for the Union Army and the women suffrage movement. Upon meeting Julia Howe and Lucy Stone (founder of New England Women’s Club) she established the Boston Kansas Relief Ass., they gave food and clothing to black people migrating to Kansas. She also organize the Women’s Era Club, for black women, with the help of her daughter, Florida Ruffin and a school principal, Maria Baldwin.

She served as editor and publisher of Women’s Era, the first newspaper published by and for African American women during 1890 to 1897, which was disbanded in 1903. She did everything for her newspaper, which highlighted the struggle for women’s rights over the country. She believed women had been ignored far too long. She thought women should’ve been fighting for the movement, and not staying at home. She wanted them to realize they were more than mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives, that they had talents beyond the home. Ruffin also wrote about the injustice of segregation. And thought laws that were racist and sexist should be broken.

She remained active after the paper, co-founding the League of Women for Community Service, along with other members from the Women Era Club. She was one of the charter members of the Boston-Chapter of the NAACP. She died on March 13, 1924, on the same day as her husband, just years later. Josephine was an amazing woman. She spoke for all women, despite whatever the circumstances she had to face. Still today we face some of these same issues that she and others fought against. We have plenty of outstanding women we can look up to and learn.

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