Jump to content

National Association of Colored Women's Clubs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
National Association of Colored Women's Clubs Emblem

The National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC) is an American organization that was formed in July 1896 at the First Annual Convention of the National Federation of Afro-American Women in Washington, D.C., United States, by a merger of the National Federation of Afro-American Women, the Woman's Era Club of Boston, and the Colored Women's League of Washington, DC, at the call of Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin.[1] From 1896 to 1904 it was known as the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). It adopted the motto "Lifting as we climb", to demonstrate to "an ignorant and suspicious world that our aims and interests are identical with those of all good aspiring women." When incorporated in 1904, NACW became known as the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC).[2][3]


National Association of Colored Women's Clubs headquarters in Washington, D.C., part of the Sixteenth Street Historic District.

The National Association of Colored Women (later National Association of Colored Women's Clubs) was established in Washington, D.C., on July 21, 1896. This first of what would later become biennial convention meetings of the association was held at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. The organizations attending this convention included the National Federation of Afro-American Women, the Woman's Era Club of Boston, and the National League of Colored Women of Washington, DC, the Women's Loyal Union as well as smaller organizations that had arisen from the African-American women's club movement. These organizations and later others across the country merged to form the National Association of Colored Women. The organization helped all African-Americans through its work on issues of civil rights and injustice, such as women’s suffrage, lynching, and Jim Crow laws.[4][5]


Two of NACWC's leading members were Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Mary Church Terrell, who organized their regional women's clubs at the July 1896 convention to resist negative representations of Black Women. To defend their respectability, they refuted a letter written by James Jacks, then president of the Missouri Press Association because Jacks' letter referred to them as thieves and prostitutes.[6][7] Mrs. Booker T. Washington, Margaret Murray Washington, convened the meeting.

Founders of the NACWC included Harriet Tubman, Margaret Murray Washington,[8] Frances E. W. Harper, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, Victoria Earle Matthews, Josephine Silone Yates, and Mary Church Terrell.[9]


The organization defined its first year agenda through multiple issues inhibiting the social mobility of black people. These included: "Chain Gang System of the South, the Separate Car Law of the South, the Plantation Mother and Child, Rescue Work in the Alleys and Slums of our Great Cities, the Founding of Homes for our Working Classes, and a Greater Interest in our Fallen and Wayward."[10]

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. Membership grew from 5,000 members in 1897 to 100,000 by 1924 before a decline during the Great Depression.[11]

Notable leadership[edit]

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Mary Church Terrell made major contributions to the National Association of Colored Women. Their efforts led the NACWC to become the most prominent organization formed during the African-American Woman Suffrage Movement.

Both women were educated and had economically successful parents. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin used part of her estate to fund Woman’s Era, the first journal published by and for African-American women. This publication established black women as a public audience and a community for both NACWC members and prospective members. Mary Church Terrell was a formidable organizer. She led the struggle in Washington, DC against segregation in restaurants and succeeded in winning a court decision for integration there.

Officers elected[edit]

Inaugural meeting[edit]

Officers elected at the first meeting of the National Association of Colored Women, July 1896.[12][13]

NACWC objectives[edit]

  1. To work for the economic, moral, religious and social welfare of women and children.
  2. To protect the rights of women and children.
  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 all citizens.
  5. To promote the education of women and children through the work of effective programs.
  6. To obtain for African-American families the opportunity of reaching the highest levels of human endeavor.
  7. To promote effective interaction with the organization's male auxiliary.
  8. To promote inter-racial understanding so that justice and good will may prevail amongst all people.


Irene M. Gaines, 15th President[14]
  • 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)
  • Dr. Dolores M. Harris – 23rd President (1988–1992)
  • Savannah C. Jones — 24th President (1992–1996)
  • Dr. 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 (2010–2014)
  • Sharon R. Bridgeforth – 29th President (2014–2018)[15]
  • Dr. Andrea Brooks-Smith – 30th President (2018–2022)
  • Opal Bacon - 31st President (2022–present)


  • 1st, 1897, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 2nd, 1899, Chicago, Illinois
  • 3rd, 1901, Buffalo, New York
  • 4th, 1904, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 5th, 1906, Detroit, Michigan
  • 6th, 1908, Brooklyn, New York
  • 7th, 1910, Louisville, Kentucky
  • 8th, 1912, Hampton, Virginia
  • 9th, 1914, Wilberforce, Ohio
  • 10th, 1916, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 11th, 1918, Denver, Colorado
  • 12th, 1920, Tuskegee, Alabama
  • 13th, 1922, Richmond, Virginia
  • 14th, 1924, Chicago, Illinois
  • 15th, 1926, Oakland, California
  • 16th, 1928, Washington, D. C.
  • 17th, 1930, Hot Springs, Arkansas
  • 18th, 1933, Chicago, Illinois
  • 19th, 1935, Cleveland, Ohio
  • 20th, 1937, Fort Worth, Texas
  • 21st, 1939, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 22nd, 1941, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • 23rd, 1946, Washington, D. C.
  • 24th, 1948, Seattle, Washington
  • 25th, 1950, Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • 26th, 1952, Los Angeles, California
  • 27th, 1954, Washington, D. C.
  • 28th, 1956, Miami, Florida
  • 29th, 1958, Detroit, Michigan
  • 30th, 1960, New York, New York
  • 31st, 1962, Washington, D. C.
  • 32nd, 1964, Denver, Colorado
  • 33rd, 1966, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • 34th, 1968, Chicago, Illinois
  • 35th, 1970, Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • 36th, 1972, San Jose, California
  • 37th, 1974, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 38th, 1976, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 39th, 1978, Seattle, Washington
  • 40th, 1980, Washington, D. C.
  • 41st, 1982, Anchorage, Arkansas
  • 42nd, 1984, Norfolk, Virginia
  • 48th, 1986, Austin, Texas
  • 49th, 1988, Orlando, Florida
  • 50th, 1990, Cleveland, Ohio
  • 51st, 1992, Portland, Oregon[16]

Notable affiliates[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • "The Women of NACWC: Strong, Valiant, Innovative and on Whose Shoulders We Stand" (c) 2012, revised 2016 by the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, Inc.
  • "Lifting as They Climb" by MR Gates, David, Elizabeth Lindsay Davis


  1. ^ "Who Are We" Archived February 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, NACW.
  2. ^ "National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC)", Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. ^ See The Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1895–1992, Part 1: Minutes of National Conventions, and President’s Correspondence [microfilm] © National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1995.
  4. ^ "The Black Women's Club Movement". DeColonizing Our History. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  5. ^ "History | NACWC | National Association of Colored Women's Clubs". NACWC. Retrieved November 3, 2023.
  6. ^ "A Timely Call." Freeman (Indianapolis, Indiana) 7, no. 25, June 22, 1895: [4]. Readex: African American Newspapers.
  7. ^ Deborah Gray White, Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994, W.W. Norton & Co., 1999.
  8. ^ "Margaret Murray Washington". English.illinoisstate.edu. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  9. ^ Davis, Elizabeth Lindsay, Lifting As They Climb, Chicago: National Association of Colored Women, 1933.
  10. ^ Mahammitt, Ella L. "Woman's Column." Enterprise (Omaha, Nebraska), November 21, 1896: 2. Readex: African American Newspapers.
  11. ^ Raymond Gavins. The Cambridge Guide to African American History: National Association of Colored Women (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University, 2016), pp. 208–209.
  12. ^ "Women Meet In National Conventions at the Nation's Capital and Their Two Organizations Consolidate. Some." Cleveland Gazette (Cleveland, Ohio), August 8, 1896: 1. Readex: African American Newspapers.
  13. ^ All United. Washington Bee (Washington (DC), District of Columbia). Saturday, July 25, 1896. Volume XV, Issue 8, p. 4.
  14. ^ Taylor, Julius F. "The Broad Ax". Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  15. ^ "Roster of Officers" Archived May 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, NACWA.
  16. ^ Boehm, Randolph (1994). "A Guide to the Microfilm Edition of Records of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, 1895–1992" (PDF). LexisNexis. Bethesda, Maryland: University Publications of America. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 23, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2017.

External links[edit]