Josephine Ruffin

Josephine Ruffin

Josephine St. Pierre, was born in Boston on 31st August, 1842. Her mother was a white woman and her father had been born in Martinique. John St. Pierre was a successful clothes dealer and was able to afford a good education for his daughter. He objected to the segregated schools in Boston and so she was sent to Salem to be educated.

When Josephine was sixteen she married George Lewis Ruffin, the first African-American to graduate from Harvard Law School. The couple were both active in the struggle against slavery and during the Civil War they helped recruit black soldiers for the Union Army.

Josephine also supported women's suffrage and in 1869 joined with Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in Boston.

George Lewis Ruffin died in 1886. He had been a successful lawyer and municipal judge and left his wife a considerable amount of money. Josephine decided to use this to fund the Woman's Era, the country's first journal published by and for African-American women. Edited by her daughter, Flora Ruffin, the monthly magazine advocated women's suffrage and equal civil rights.

In 1895 Ruffin organised the formation of the National Federation of Afro-American Women. The following year it merged with the Colored Women's League to form the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). Mary Church Terrell was elected president and Ruffin served as one of the organization's vice-presidents.

Ruffin remained active in the struggle for equal rights and in 1910 helped form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Josephine Ruffin, co-founder of the League of Women for Community Service, died in Boston on 13th March, 1924.