National League for the Protection of Colored Women

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National League for the Protection of Colored Women

Founded by Frances Kellor and S. W. Layten in 1906, the National League for the Protection of Colored Women concerned itself with the predicament of women in domestic labor in northern cities. Job opportunities for African-American women in the cities were severely restricted; nearly 90 percent were employed in households as domestic servants. Wages were low and unregulated, and the hours were extremely long for women who worked as live-in domestics. Layten, a black Baptist activist, and Kellor, a white reformer, joined black and white women in New York to study these conditions and to try to change them. In addition to its base in New York, chapters of the league were active in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

A major focus of the league's work was the migration of southern African Americans to northern cities in search of a better life. Whereas the numbers migrating at the turn of the century were fewer than would come later, the predicament of young women was a matter of great concern for workers in the league. Many women arrived knowing no one, with little money, and with no arrangements for lodging. The league feared that these women might fall into dangerous situations, especially associations with houses of prostitution. Additional difficulties were presented by labor agents working in the South to encourage migration. Often, anxious migrants were tricked into signing contracts that left them little of their wages at the end of the month.

In order to deal with these issues, the league distributed information among southern black women about the realities of life in the North and warning of unscrupulous labor agents. In addition, it sent out its own people to meet new arrivals at train stations and ports to guide them to safe places to lodge. The league worked in conjunction with existing black women's shelters and created an effective network to deal with these problems. In 1911 the league became one of the founding organizations under the umbrella of the National Urban League.

See also National Urban League


Kellor, Frances A. Out of Work: A Study in Unemployment. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1915. Reprint, New York, 1974.

Layten, S. W. "The Servant Problem." Colored American 12 (January 1907): 1317.

Weiss, Nancy J. The National Urban League, 19101940. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.

judith weisenfeld (1996)

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National League for the Protection of Colored Women

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National League for the Protection of Colored Women