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Toward a Tenderer Humanity and a Nobler Womanhood: African American Women's Clubs in Turn-Of-The-Century Chicago

ANNE MEIS KNUPFER
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 222
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg7pk
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    Toward a Tenderer Humanity and a Nobler Womanhood
    Book Description:

    During the Progressive Era, over 150 African American women's clubs flourished in Chicago. Through these clubs, women created a vibrant social world of their own, seeking to achieve social and political uplift by educating themselves and the members of their communities. In politics, they battled legal discrimination, advocated anti-lynching laws, and fought for suffrage. In the tradition of other mothering, in which the the community shares in the care and raising of all its children, the club women established kindergartens, youth clubs, and homes for the elderly. In Toward a Tenderer Humanity and a Nobler Womanhood, Anne Meis Knupfer documents how the club women created multiple allegiances through social and club networks and sheds light on the life experiences of African American women in urban centers throughout the country. Drawing upon the primary documents of African American newspapers, journals, and speeches of the time, this book chronicles and analyzes the complexity and richness of the African American club women's lives as they lifted while others climbed.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6359-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)

    Orginally i was going to write a book about mothers’ clubs in Chicago, comparing those of African American, native-born white, Jewish, and Italian women. Although I was able to locate many historical materials on native-born white mothers’ clubs, there were few sources on African American mothers’ clubs or the kindergartens with which most clubs were affiliated. However, when I turned to two Chicago African American newspapers published during the Progressive Era, theChicago Defenderand theBroad Ax, I found materials not only on kindergartens and mothers’ clubs, but also about a multitude of women’s clubs—more than 150. These...

  5. ONE AFRICAN AMERICAN CLUB WOMEN’S IDEOLOGIES AND DISCOURSES
    (pp. 11-29)

    The african american club women’s movement evoked multiple ideologies, discourses, motifs, and images of womanhood, motherhood, and home life. Club members conjoined the dominant ideologies of the cult of true womanhood, progressive maternalism, the Republican motherhood, and municipal housekeeping with culturally specific ones: African American Christianity, Booker T. Washington’s industrial education, and W.E.B. Du Bois’s model of “talented tenth” leadership.¹ For example, the club women’s allegiances to Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois were not neatly cleaved, as they wedded self-help strategies to political protest.² Likewise, in promoting female suffrage, the African American club women not only espoused the...

  6. TWO AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES IN CHICAGO
    (pp. 30-45)

    From 1890 to 1920 the economic, political, and social lives of African Americans in Chicago underwent tremendous transformations. During this time period the city’s African American population grew from 15,000 to more than 110,000, resulting in the establishment of a number of African American communities defined by social class, type of business, social institution, and political organization.¹ By the 1890s the influence of the African American elite had diminished as the middle class had burgeoned. While Chicago’s Black Belt expanded to accommodate an influx of poor Southern migrants, it became increasingly segregated and impoverished. Despite social class and economic position,...

  7. THREE THE WOMEN’S CLUBS AND POLITICAL REFORM
    (pp. 46-64)

    There were many political issues around which Chicago African American club women rallied. Faced with discrimination in schools, businesses, and public facilities, women held forums and discussions, conducted letter-writing campaigns, and wrote editorial and speeches. In some cases the women’s clubs assisted in providing legal representation and counsel to political prisoners and others who could not afford it. However, female suffrage was one of the more pressing issues and the one in which the club women most demonstrated their political clout.

    Before World War I African American and white club women had formed fledgling coalitions, at least in Chicago. These...

  8. FOUR HOMES FOR DEPENDENT CHILDREN, YOUNG WORKING GIRLS, AND THE ELDERLY
    (pp. 65-84)

    There were many facilities founded by the African American club women for African American children, young working girls, and the elderly. This chapter focuses on four such homes: the Louise Juvenile Home, for dependent and orphaned boys; the Amanda Smith Home, for dependent and orphaned girls; the Phyllis Wheatley Home, for single working girls; and the Home for the Aged and Infirm Colored People, for the elderly. Although social and economic tiers were created through charity balls, theater productions, victrola recitals, and other exclusive philanthropic endeavors, which supported these homes, there were also numerous activities that did not necessarily accord...

  9. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  10. FIVE AFRICAN AMERICAN SETTLEMENTS
    (pp. 90-107)

    In chicago, as in other urban settings, settlements were created to accommodate the educational, economic, and social needs of the rapidly growing number of immigrants and African Americans. Although many Chicago settlements opened their doors to immigrants, most denied access to African Americans. Such exclusion was not always deliberate; some settlements were circumscribed according to geographic neighborhoods, specific ethnic groups, or religious denominations. In other cases, however, the color line was distinctly drawn. Accordingly, African American church leaders, club women, and settlement workers created settlements, missions, and social centers for poorer African Americans. Although most of these settlements were short-lived,...

  11. SIX LITERARY CLUBS
    (pp. 108-122)

    Literary events, like many other african american club activities, were not subject to narrow purposes or expressions. Whether in the form of lyceums, debates, or essay contests, literary study was often wedded to the oral traditions of oratory, elocution, recitation, testimony, and sermons.¹ Likewise, the study of “literature” embraced many topics, ranging from politics and philosophy to art, religion, travel, and sociology. The literary artifacts examined in this chapter include essays, editorials, newspaper columns, addresses, and published speeches, all of which illustrate club women’s versatility. The scope of literary activities points to the ways in which the club women related...

  12. SEVEN SOCIAL CLUBS
    (pp. 123-134)

    Although most clubs engaged in some form of social uplift, there were other clubs whose primary purpose was social. This was especially true of dancing clubs, whist clubs, and matrimony clubs, which were often criticized for their superficiality and lack of community commitment. Nannie Burroughs expressed dismay at what she called the “mania for club life” among African American women; she thought whist clubs were especially nonsensical.¹ Katherine Tillman, too, criticized African American women who aspired to be or were “society women,” characterizing them as “fashionable Afro-Americans, like her Caucasian sisters [who] spends [sic] her time in novel reading, card...

  13. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 135-138)

    The once middle-class african american com-munities of Woodlawn, Englewood, and Morgan Park in Chicago are now known more for their rival gangs and their segregated islands of poverty. In 1992 the district of Wentworth, in the heart of what was once called the Black Belt, had the highest violent crime rate in Chicago; Englewood rated fourth.¹ Although theChicago Tribunerecently reported that African Americans lived in nearly every neighborhood in Chicago, percentages overwhelmingly demonstrate that most African American communities are still highly segregated. The Near South Side’s and the Far South Side’s African American population in the Hyde Park—...

  14. APPENDIX 1 AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN’S CLUBS, CHICAGO, 1890-1920
    (pp. 139-143)
  15. APPENDIX 2 BIOGRAPHICAL SKFTCHES OF PROMINENT AFRICAN AMERICAN CLUB WOMEN, CHICAGO, 1890-1920
    (pp. 144-158)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 159-186)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 187-204)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 205-210)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-211)