Ruffin, Josephine St. Pierre, 1842-1924

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Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (August 31, 1842 – March 13, 1924) was an African-American publisher, journalist, civil rights leader, suffragist, and editor of Woman's Era, the first national newspaper published by and for African-American women.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she attended public schools in Charlestown and Salem, and a private school in New York City because of her parents' objections to the segregated schools in Boston. She completed her studies at the Bowdoin School after segregation in Boston schools ended.

At 16 years old, she married George Lewis Ruffin (1834–1886), who went on to become the first African-American graduate from Harvard Law School, the first African American elected to the Boston City Council, and the first African-American municipal judge. During the Civil War, the Ruffins were involved in various charity works, civil rights causes, and Mrs. Ruffin, especially, was involved in the women’s suffrage movement where she worked with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

From 1890 through 1897, Ruffin edited Women's Era, the first newspaper published by and for African American women. She also founded, with her daughter Florida Ridely and Boston school principal Maria Baldwin, the “Women’s Era Club.” Believing that a national organization for black women was needed, she convened the first annual convention in 1895 which drew 100 women from 20 clubs across the United States. She named the organization the National Federation of Afro-Am Women, which a year later united with the Colored Women’s League to become the National Association of Colored Women. Mary Church Terrell was the organization’s president while Ruffin and several others served as vice-presidents.

Although the Women’s Era Club later disbanded, Ruffin remained active and became one of the founding members of the Boston NAACP in 1910. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin died in Boston on March 13, 1924.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Records of the National Park Service, 1785 - 2006. National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 - 2017 National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
referencedIn Records of the First Lady's Office (Clinton Administration), 1993 - 2001. Christine Macy's Files, 1998 - 1999 William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum
referencedIn Records of the First Lady's Office (Clinton Administration), 1993 - 2001. Laura Schiller's Files, 1993 - 2001 William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum
referencedIn Dobbs, Jeannine. Class essays, 1977. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Caroline Bond Day papers Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University
Place Name Admin Code Country
Liverpool ENG GB
Salem MA US
Charlestown MA US
New York City NY US
Boston MA US
Boston MA US
Newspaper editors


Birth 1842-08-31

Death 1924-03-13






Ark ID: w6qp6x5x

SNAC ID: 84413169