Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander
|Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander|
Sadie Tanner Mossell receiving Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania
|Born||January 2, 1898
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
|Died||November 1, 1989 (aged 91)|
|Occupation||Lawyer; first national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated; Civil Rights activist|
|Spouse(s)||Raymond Pace Alexander|
|Children||Mary Elizabeth Alexander and Rae Pace Alexander|
Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, born Sadie Tanner Mossell (January 2, 1898 – November 1, 1989), was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. (economics) in the United States, the first woman to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and the first national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
She practiced as an attorney from 1927 to 1982. She was the first African-American woman appointed as Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia. She and her husband were both active in civil rights, and in 1952 she was appointed to the city's Commission on Human Relations, serving through 1968.
She was born as Sadie Tanner Mossell on January 2, 1898 in Philadelphia to Aaron Albert Mossell II and Mary Louisa Tanner (1867-?). Her siblings include Aaron Albert Mossell III (1893–1975), who became a pharmacist; and Elizabeth Mossell (1894–1975), who became a Dean of Women at Virginia State College, a historically black college. Her maternal grandfather was Benjamin Tucker Tanner (1835–1923), a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and editor of the Christian Recorder.
Mossell's father was the first African American to graduate from University of Pennsylvania Law School, and his brother, Nathan Francis Mossell (1856–1946), was the first African American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania medical school.
During her high school years, Mossell lived in Washington, DC with her uncle, Lewis Baxter Moore, who was dean at Howard University. She attended the academic high school, the M Street School, now known as Dunbar High School, graduating in 1915.
Mossell returned to Philadelphia to study at the School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1918. She pursued graduate work in economics, also at the University of Pennsylvania, earning her master's in 1919. Awarded the Francis Sergeant Pepper fellowship, she was able to continue her studies and in 1921 became the first African-American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. She was the first African-American woman admitted to the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 1927, she was its first African-American woman graduate, and the first to be admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar.
In 1923 after her marriage, Mossell returned to Philadelphia and entered law school. After passing the bar, she joined her husband's law practice, specializing in estate and family law. They both were active in civil rights law as well. Raymond Alexander was elected to the City Council.
Mossell Alexander worked in her husband's law firm from 1927 until 1959, when he was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia. She practiced law on her own until 1976. That year she joined the firm of Atkinson, Myers, and Archie as a general counsel. She retired in 1982.
In 1928 Mossell Alexander was the first African-American woman appointed as Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia, serving to 1930; she was reappointed from 1934 to 1938. Because of her work in civil rights, in 1952 she was appointed to the Commission on Human Relations of the City of Philadelphia, serving through 1968.
Marriage and children
Mossell married Raymond Pace Alexander (1897–1974) on November 29, 1923 in her parents' home on Diamond Street in North Philadelphia, with the ceremony performed by her father. Alexander had graduated from Harvard Law School.
They had two children: Mary Elizabeth Alexander (born 1934), who married Melvin Brown; and Rae Pace Alexander (born 1937), who earned a PhD. and married Archie C. Epps III. After divorce, in 1971 she married Thomas Minter, and they had two sons together.
Legacy and honors
- 1948, the National Urban League featured Alexander as "Woman of the Year" in its comic book of Negro Heroes.
- 1974, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Pennsylvania, her first of seven such honors
- An elementary school in West Philadelphia, the Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School ("Penn Alexander"), is named after her. The public school was developed in partnership with the University, which supports the school financially and academically.
- The Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professorship at the University of Pennsylvania is named in her honor.
- "Sadie T. M. Alexander". Washington Post. November 5, 1989. "Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, 91, who was appointed by President Truman to the Committee on Civil Rights in 1948, and by President Carter as chairman of his White House Conference on Aging in 1981, died Nov. 1 at her home in Philadelphia. She had Alzheimer's disease. Mrs. Alexander, who is believed to be the first black woman to hold a doctorate in economics and to become a lawyer in Pennsylvania, founded a chapter of the Howard University-based black sorority Delta Sigma Theta, and became its first national president. She was active nationally in the ..."
- "Alexander Family Collection". University of Pennsylvania University Archives and Records Center. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- Sowell, Thomas (2002). Lazear, Edward P, ed. The Education of Minority Children. pp. 79–92. ISBN 978-0-8179-2892-6. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- "Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander", University of Pennsylvania Almanac, accessed 31 March 2011
- Martin, Douglas (May 26, 2009). "Thomas Minter, 84, New York and Federal Education Official, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 27, 2009.
- "Delta Sigma Theta National Presidents". Delta Sigma Theta. Retrieved 2007-07-19.
- "Lawyer Sadie Alexander, a Black pioneer dies at 91.". Philadelphia Inquirer. November 3, 1989.
- Mack, Kenneth W., (2012). Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer (2012). ISBN 978-0-674-04687-0.
- Mack, Kenneth W., (2002) “A Social History of Everyday Practice: Sadie T.M. Alexander and the Incorporation of Black Women into the American Legal Profession, 1925-60,” Cornell Law Review, Vol. 87, p. 1405 
- "Imagining Sadie", a Penn Law student film about Alexander
- Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander at Find a Grave