Josephine Ruffin, activist, philanthropist and newspaper publisher

Josephine Ruffin
Wed, 1842-08-31

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, a Black journalist and civil rights leader, was born on this date in 1842.

Ruffin was born into one of Boston's leading black families. In 1858, at the age of 15, she became the wife of George Lewis Ruffin, the first African-American to graduate from Harvard Law School. During the Civil War, Ruffin was involved in various civil rights causes, charity work, and the women's suffrage movement. In 1879, she established the Boston Kansas Relief Association, a charity organization that provided food and clothing to black Bostonians who were migrating to Kansas.

Her philanthropic work brought her in contact with many eminent white and black leaders, and her close friends included William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Booker T. Washington. From 1890 to 1897, Ruffin served as the editor and publisher of Woman's Era, the first newspaper published by and for African-American women. It was used to highlight the achievements of African-American women and to champion black women's rights.

In 1894, she organized the Women's Era Club, an advocacy group for black women, with the help of her daughter Florida Ridely, and Maria Baldwin, a Boston school principal. Ruffin died on March 13, 1924.

Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

To Become a News Editor & Publisher

Person / name: 

Ruffin, Josephine