Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (b. 1842 –d. 1924)

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (b. 1842 –d. 1924)

Ruffin was born in 1842 in Boston Massachusetts. Her husband, George Lewis Ruffin, was the first black graduate of Harvard Law School, city councilmen, served on the state legislature, and was eventually the first black municipal judge in Boston. Ruffin was an active proponent for the women’s suffrage movement and worked with prominent activists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was on the board of the Massachusetts School Suffrage Association, working with community leaders such as Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone. Also, Ruffin was an editor of Women’s Era from 1890-1897, which was the first newspaper published by and for black women. She also co-founded the Women’s Era Club. The purpose of the club was to offer enrichment courses for members and to discuss issues that affected the black community such as education and discrimination. She later organized the first annual national convention in 1895, the National Conference of Colored Women in America, hoping to unify black women.  Women at the conference came together to speak out against adversity they had experienced due to the treatment of white media and white suffragists. She was also a vice-president of the National Association of Colored Women, which formed from the merging of the National Federation of Afro-Am Women and the Colored Women’s League.  She also was involved in other local and national suffrage organizations that were predominantly white such as the American Woman Suffrage Association and the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association.

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