The Social Status
and Needs of the Colored Woman
c. August 6-11, 1902 — The Negro People’s Christian and Educational Congress, Atlanta GA
The many-sided woman question has invaded all realms, even those where crowns are worn. Never before in history were so many of the world’s chief rulers women. For more than sixty years Victoria of England was queen of the greatest nations on the earth. In all the line of English history only two epochs have had a gracious queen’s reign, the Elizabethan and the Victorian ages. Then there was the reign of the good Queen Anne. Surely these facts have high significance in helping to work out a solution of one of the mightiest problems of our time —woman in government.
The Colored woman has awakened to her responsibility and realizes that she is a factor in the world’s civilization and in the race’s progress. Her ability to discuss logically and philosophically the most complex questions of the day, and to fully grasp their bearing upon church and state is no longer in doubt. In the religious and philanthropic world she plays a prominent part.
Statistics show that women in general compose more than two-thirds of the church members of the world, and we think the proportion of women church-goers is even greater.
How is it in your churches, Sabbath-schools and all religious organizations at home? Who compose the membership of these bodies, and furnish the greater part of the spiritual, financial and other material necessary to success? I am deeply interested in whatever concerns woman, and want to see statistics carefully and periodically compiled on the social status of the sex in general and particularly as relates to the Negro woman. The reform movements among woman to-day are showing them capable of doing a powerful work to make the state, the church and the home more happy and more holy.
Hundreds of our women are engaged in the work of the King’s Daughters, a society 200,000 strong, and the majority of the workers in the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor are women. The same is true of the Epworth League, seventy-five thousand of whom are Negroes. In the educational world it is a fact that ninety per cent of the school teachers are women; over two hundred colleges and now over four hundred thousand women students. This includes both races, but a handsome percentage of these are Negro young women. Long service in this important calling has naturally brought efficiency.
I have been thinking for a long time about the parallel of prejudice between the races and the sexes. I have been strikingly impressed that just as the Negro race has for so many years suffered oppression at the hands of the Anglo-Saxon, because of years of advancement on the part of the latter, so has woman ever since God said: “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a helpmeet for him,” been oppressed and circumscribed, and it must be upon the principle which seems to obtain the world, that the strong shall oppress the weak. But I am happy that woman herself, the only one who can break down this sex prejudice, is doing so by showing herself capable of doing many things which her noble brother does. The time is fast coming when the sex is no longer to be judged by the weakest woman in it, but by woman’s general ability when given a fair showing with man. The strongest point in favor of woman’s capacity is the manner in which she has filled her special sphere to which God has divinely called her the home. The efficiency with which she has molded within its sacred walls the character of the statesmen who have legislated for the world, the clergymen who have evangelized the world, the educators who have taught the world, the professional men and women who have filled their respective callings and the women who have mothered the world. Women have been the civilizers of mankind, for says Emerson/’Civilization is the power of good women.” It was also he who said also that “woman is the best index of the coming hour.”
There is the awakened woman to-day who yearns to vote against the saloon, the gambling house, the den of vice and all the corruptions of politics. She is clear in her mind that no one has one regret to set these degrading along the street in nearness to her home, to offer temptation to her children.
But we rejoice that sentiment is fast making in favor of the freedom, the time is fast hastening for woman, and more homelike for humanity.
Source: The United Negro: His Problems and His Progress, Containing the Addresses and Proceedings The Negro Young People’s Christian and Educational Congress Held August 6-11, 1902, ed. I. Garland Penn (Atlanta: D.E. Luther Publishing Co.) 1902, pp. 185-187.