Josephine St. Pierre was born in Boston on August 31, 1842. Her mother was an English-born white woman, and her father was the son of a Frenchman from the island of Martinique. John St. Pierre was a prosperous clothing dealer and the founder of a Boston Zion church. He sent his daughter to Salem to get her education. In 1858 at the age of 16, Josephine graduated from a Boston finishing school, completed two years of private tutoring in New York, and got married to George Lewis Ruffin. George Lewis Ruffin was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from Harvard Law School. Shortly after their wedding, the Ruffins moved to England.
They were both active in the struggle against slavery. During the Civil War, they helped recruit black soldiers for the Union Army. Ruffin was involved in various civil rights causes, charity work, and the women's suffrage movement. Ruffin became friends with Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone. A group of these women founded the New England Women's Club in 1868. In 1879 she established the Boston Kansas Relief Association, a charity organization that provided food and clothing to African-Americans who were migrating to Kansas. In 1894, she organized the Women's Era Club, a group for black women, with help from her daughter, Florida Ruffin, and a school principal, Maria Baldwin.
From 1890 to 1897 Ruffin served as the editor and publisher of Women's Era, the first newspaper published by and for African-American women. It was used to highlight the achievements of the African-American woman and to acknowledge black women's rights. Ruffin's writing was instrumental in starting clubs for black women. The New Era Club was disbanded in 1903. Josephine Ruffin still remained active, though, and in 1910, she was one of the charter members of the Boston Chapter of the NAACP. She also co-founded the League of Women for Community Service; along with some other women who belonged to New Era Club. On March 13, 1886, George Lewis Ruffin died. He was a successful lawyer and municipal judge and left his wife a considerable amount of money.
Ruffin was a strong, intelligent woman who did everything for her newspaper. She edited, wrote for, and published it, and she sold advertisements and designed the pages.Women's Era contained news about the struggle for women's rights from all over the country. Ruffin believed women had been ignored for too long, and stayed at home when they should have also been out fighting for the women's movement. She hoped that women would realize they had many talents besides being wives and mothers, and by learning what women across the country were doing, then maybe more of them would join the fight. She also wrote about racial issues like segregation, and thought the laws that were racist and sexist should be broken. She contributed so much; she also supported Ida Wells Barnett's anti-lynching campaigns. On March 13,1924, Josephine Ruffin, co-founder of the League of Women for Community Service, died.
I believe Josephine Ruffin was an amazing woman. She wrote about and spoke out for all women, despite the circumstances she might have had to face. Even today in our generation we still face many of these same problems, but there are a lot of outstanding women out there like Josephine Ruffin, that we can look up to and learn from.
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