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Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

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Title: Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin  
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Subject: African-American women in politics, Black genocide, National Women's Hall of Fame, Kate Stoneman, Sister Elaine Roulet
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Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin
Born (1842-08-31)August 31, 1842
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died March 13, 1924(1924-03-13) (aged 81)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Publisher, journalist, activist
Spouse(s) (m. 1858–86)
Children Hubert, Florida Ridley, Stanley, George, and Robert
Parent(s) John St. Pierre and Elizabeth Matilda Menhenick

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (August 31, 1842 – March 13, 1924) was an African-American publisher, journalist, civil rights leader, suffragist, and editor of Women’s Era, the first newspaper published by and for African-American women.


Early years and education

Ruffin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to John St. Pierre, of French and African descent from Martinique, and Elizabeth Matilda Menhenick from Cornwall, England. Her father was a successful clothier and founder of a Boston Zion Church. She attended public schools in Charlestown and Salem, and a private school in New York City because of her parents' objections to the segregated schools in Boston. She completed her studies at the Bowdoin School (not to be confused with Bowdoin College), after segregation in Boston schools ended.


Ruffin supported women's suffrage and, in 1869, joined with Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone to form the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in Boston. A group of these women, Howe and Stone also founded the New England Women's Club in 1868. Josephine Ruffin was its first bi-racial member when she joined in the mid-1890s. Josephine also wrote for the black weekly paper, The Courant and became a member of the New England Woman's Press Association.

When her husband George died at the age of 52 in 1884, Josephine used her financial security and organizational abilities to start Woman's Era, the country's first newspaper published by and for African-American women. She served as the editor and publisher from 1890 to 1897. While promoting interracial activities, Woman's Era called on black women to demand increased rights for their race.

In 1895, Ruffin organized the Women's Era Club (later called the New Era Club), an advocacy group for black women, with the help of her daughter Florida Ridley and Maria Baldwin, a Boston school principal.

Just as the NACWC was forming, Ruffin was integrating the New England Woman's Club. When the

The New Era Club was disbanded in 1903, but Ruffin remained active in the struggle for equal rights and, in 1910, helped form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Ruffin was one of the charter members of NAACP. Along with other women who had belonged to the New Era Club, she co-founded the League of Women for Community Service, which still exists today.

Personal life

Ruffin married Harvard Law School, the first African American elected to the Boston City Council, and the first African-American municipal judge. Josephine and Ruffin were married in 1858 when she was sixteen years old. That year they bought a house on Boston's Beacon Hill, and began a family., they had five children: Hubert, an attorney; Florida Ridley, a school principal and co-founder of Women's Era; Stanley, an inventor; George, a musician; and Robert, who died in his first year of life. The couple became active in the struggle against slavery. During the Civil War, they helped recruit black soldiers for the Union Army, the Mass 54th and 55th regiments. The couple also worked for the Sanitation Commission, which provided aid for the care of soldiers in the field. Josephine remained active up to the time of her death in Boston in 1924.


External links

  • Josephine Ruffin, activist, philanthropist and newspaper publisher at the African American Registry
  • African American Women in History
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