Cincinnati Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs

African American Cincinnatians fared better than their sisters and brothers in the South during the years of Jim Crow beginning in the 1880’s, but even in this northern city they suffered tremendous radical prejudice and found themselves excluded from social services extended to the white population. African American women often took the lead in programs to support women, children and families. Mary Church Terrell started a movement of service clubs organized by “Colored Women” in Washington DC during the 1890’s, and the movement spread to Cincinnati.
Mrs. Terrell (later a founding member of the NAACP) arranged the affiliation of a number of clubs in Washington and Philadelphia as the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs; in Cincinnati, Mrs. Grace Slade and Mrs. Arizona Miller gained the cooperation of eight existing clubs to form the Cincinnati Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs in 1904. Mrs. Slade adopted the motto “Lifting Others as we Climb,” memorialized by the Federation as a sculpture.
The first project for the Cincinnati Federation supported a free Kindergarten in Brown Chapel, the AME church in Walnut Hills. The Kindergarten served the dual purpose of preparing African American children for school (which started with first grade for 6-year-olds at the time), and to allow their mothers to obtain employment. One of the clubs in the federation, the Fidelia Club, supported the Home for Aged Colored Women, and Old Men’s Home and the Negro Sightless Society.
In 1925, “at the very height of the nation flowering of black culture call the Harlem Renaissance,” the Federation bought a large house at 1010 Chapel Street in Walnut Hills. (Mrs. Terrell later addressed the Cincinnati Federation in the house.) The first floor severed as a gracious meeting place for the Federated Clubs, and as a center for fundraising sales, teas, recitals, theater parties, carnivals, lawn fetes and as a venue for weddings. The bedrooms upstairs served as a rooming house for African American women moving to Cincinnati from the South to find employment and community; some rooms accommodated women with children.
The Walnut Hills Historical Society was privileged to meet at the Federation’s house for its March 2017 On the Road meeting.