Washington, Josephine (1861–1949)

views updated

Washington, Josephine (1861–1949)

African-American writer. Born Josephine Turpin on July 31, 1861, in Goochland County, Virginia; died in 1949; daughter of Augustus A. Turpin and Maria V. Turpin; educated in Richmond's public elementary and high schools; attended Richmond Institute (later Richmond Theological Seminary); graduated from Howard University, 1886; married Samuel H.H. Washington (a physician), in 1888.

Born in Virginia in 1861, Josephine Turpin Washington was taught by a family employee to read at an early age and attended public schools in Richmond. She studied at Richmond Institute, which later became the Richmond Theological Seminary, before entering Howard University, where she spent her summer vacations working as a copyist in the office of Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist who was then recorder of deeds in the District of Columbia. After her marriage to physician Samuel Washington, the couple moved to Birmingham, Alabama.

Washington's literary career began in 1877 when the Virginia Star, the state's only black publication, published her article "A Talk about Church Fairs," in which she protested the selling of wine at social functions designed to benefit the church. Most of her writings, however, focused on racial problems and women's issues. She believed that men and women were equal and advocated for improving women's lives through education. In an essay entitled "Impressions of a Southern Federation," published in Colored American Magazine, Washington dealt with the problems of both race and gender. The article detailed the topics addressed at the State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs held in Mobile, Alabama, in 1904. However, in addition to describing the city, the attire worn by the attendants, and the various activities sponsored by the clubs, she also discussed black womanhood, motherhood, morality, and character and spoke of the establishment of a reformatory for youths convicted of minor offenses. A deeply religious woman, Washington expressed her convictions through prose and poetry. She is also credited with playing a significant role in the development of Selma University in Alabama, founded in 1878 to train ministers and teachers. Little is known about Washington's later life.


Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Notable Black American Women. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1992.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland

About this article

Washington, Josephine (1861–1949)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article