Woman's Era

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Woman's Era

Woman's Era, the first monthly newspaper published by African-American women, was a key factor in the creation of national networks of middle-class black activist women at the turn of the twentieth century. The paper was established in 1894 by Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and her daughter, Florida Ruffin Ridley. The two had founded the Boston Woman's Era Club that same year, and Ruffin served both as the club's president and as editor of the paper until 1903. The paper dealt with issues of politics, family, health, fashion, and community. It had correspondents from around the country, many of whom were renowned activists. Victoria Earle Matthews reported from New York, Fannie Barrier Williams from Chicago, Josephine Silone-Yates from Kansas City, Mary Church Terrell from Washington, D.C., Elizabeth Ensley from Denver, and Alice Ruth Moore (later known as Alice Dunbar-Nelson) from New Orleans.

The paper was of great use in 1895 in calling a meeting to protest a letter insulting the character of black women. Using the vehicle of the Woman's Era, Ruffin insisted that African-American women could no longer stand idle while whites asserted that black men were natural rapists and that black women were amoral. Out of this national conference of a hundred women representing ten states came the National Federation of Afro-American Women. The federation pledged itself to deal with these attacks, among other pressing issues. The organization would become part of the larger National Association of Colored Women the following year.

Although the Woman's Era did not have the longevity of many other periodicals, it played a key role at a critical time for black women. Ruffin's creation of the paper as a means of linking the work of various women from around the country made possible the creation of such vitally important organizations as the National Association of Colored Women.

See also Journalism; National Association of Colored Women; National Federation of Afro-American Women; Women's Magazines


Neverdon-Morton, Cynthia. "The Black Woman's Struggle for Equality in the South, 18951925." In The Afro-American Woman: Struggles and Images, edited by Sharon Harley and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, pp. 4357. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1978.

Salem, Dorothy. To Better Our World: Black Women in Organized Reform, 18901920. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Carlson, 1990.

judith weisenfeld (1996)