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Benjamin Griffith Brawley, 1882-1939
Women of Achievement: Written for the Fireside Schools Under the Auspices of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society
[Chicago, Ill.]: Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society, c1919.


In Women of Achievement, Benjamin G. Brawley praises the successes of African American women in various fields of endeavor. He begins with an examination of the progress of African American women in general. He claims that, among other things, they have been responsible for the rapid expansion of intellectual and charitable clubs and organizations in the black community; they have played the primary role in educating African American children; and they are making their way into the industrial labor force. Brawley points to the gains African American women are making in medicine, law, and literature, but claims that their strongest contributions are to the field of music. In the remaining chapters, Brawley offers biographical sketches of individual women "whose achievement has been most signal and whose interest in their sisters has been unfailing."

Harriet Tubman fled slavery in 1849, and devoted the next decade of her life to leading others out of slavery. At great peril to herself, she would go South (usually to Maryland) and lead slaves to freedom in the North. Brawley praises her for helping free over 300 slaves, and he calls her the "bravest and noblest of all heroines of freedom."

Nora Gordon was an early missionary worker in Africa. After attending Spelman Seminary, she traveled to the Congo where she would spend much of the rest of her life engaged in mission work. Brawley claims that in the worthy cause of Christianizing Africa, "Woman must take the lead."

Meta Warrick Fuller was a prominent African American artist. Her interest in sculpture led her to Paris for work and study, where she met many artists, including Auguste Rodin. She placed works in the Salon and won awards in America. Brawley notes an increased interest in social concerns in her later work.

Mary McLeod Bethune was a successful and influential educator in Florida. She began a tiny school in 1904 and turned that school into the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls. In 1912, the school expanded to include the McLeod Hospital and Training School for Nurses.

Mary Church Terrell was a well-educated lecturer and spokeswoman on African American issues. She spoke in Europe and throughout the United States. Among other topics, she wrote anti-lynching articles and lectured on Harriet Beecher Stowe. Brawley presents her intelligence, energy and poise as an inspiration to others. He writes that she is "an asset to her country and an honor to the race to which she belongs."

The Fireside Schools were founded 1884 by Joanna P. Moore, a white missionary who dedicated her life to improving the condition of African Americans in the South. The object of the Fireside Schools was "to secure the daily prayerful study of God's word by having this read to parents and children together; to teach parents and children, husbands and wives, their respective duties one to another; to supply homes with good reading matter; and also to inculcate temperance, industry, neighborly helpfulness, and greater attention to the work of the church." (6)

Andrew Leiter

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