We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Toward a Tenderer Humanity and a Nobler Womanhood

African American Women's Clubs in Turn-Of-The-Century Chicago

Anne Knupfer, Leonard Silk

Publication Year: 1997

During the Progressive Era, over 150 African American women's clubs flourished in Chicago. Through these clubs, women created a vibrant social world of their own, seeking to achieve social and political uplift by educating themselves and the members of their communities. In politics, they battled legal discrimination, advocated anti-lynching laws, and fought for suffrage. In the tradition of other mothering, in which the the community shares in the care and raising of all its children, the club women established kindergartens, youth clubs, and homes for the elderly.

In Toward a Tenderer Humanity and a Nobler Womanhood, Anne Meis Knupfer documents how the club women created multiple allegiances through social and club networks and sheds light on the life experiences of African American women in urban centers throughout the country. Drawing upon the primary documents of African American newspapers, journals, and speeches of the time, this book chronicles and analyzes the complexity and richness of the African American club women's lives as they lifted while others climbed.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (250.2 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (410.3 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (2.1 MB)
pp. 1-10

Originally I was going to write a book about mothers' clubs in Chicago, comparing those of African American, native-born white, Jewish, and Italian women. Although I was able to locate many historical materials on native-born white mothers' clubs, there were few sources...

read more

1. African American Club Women's Ideologies and Discourses

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.9 MB)
pp. 11-29

The African American club women's movement evoked multiple ideologies, discourses, motifs, and images of womanhood, motherhood, and home life. Club members conjoined the dominant ideologies of the cult of true womanhood, progressive maternalism, the Republican

read more

2. African American Communities in Chicago

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.5 MB)
pp. 30-45

From 1890 to 1920 the economic, political, and social lives of African Americans in Chicago underwent tremendous transformations. During this time period the city's African American population grew from 15,000 to more than 110,000, resulting in the establishment of a...

read more

3. The Women's Clubs and Political Reform

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.0 MB)
pp. 46-64

There were many political issues around which Chicago African American club women rallied. Faced with discrimination in schools, businesses, and public facilities, women held forums and discussions, conducted letter- writing campaigns, and wrote editorial and speeches. In some cases the women's clubs assisted in providing legal representation...

read more

4. Homes for Dependent Children, Young Working Girls, and the Elderly

pdf iconDownload PDF (5.3 MB)
pp. 65-89

There were many facilities founded by the African American club women for African American children, young working girls, and the elderly. This chapter focuses on four such homes: the Louise Juvenile Home, for dependent and orphaned boys; the Amanda Smith...

read more

5. African American Settlements

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.8 MB)
pp. 90-107

In Chicago, as inn other urban settings, settlements were created to accommodate the educational, economic, and social needs of the rapidly growing number of immigrants and African Americans. Although many Chicago settlements opened their doors to immigrants, most denied access to African Americans. Such exclusion was not...

read more

6. Literary Clubs

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.0 MB)
pp. 108-122

Literary events, like many other African American club activities, were not subject to narrow purposes or expressions. Whether in the form of lyceums, debates, or essay contests, literary study was often wedded to the oral traditions of oratory, elocution, recitation, testimony, and sermons.1 Likewise, the study of "literature" embraced many...

read more

Social Clubs

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.4 MB)
pp. 123-134

Although most clubs engaged in some form of social uplift, there were other clubs whose primary purpose was social. This was especially true of dancing clubs, whist clubs, and matrimony clubs, which were often criticized for their superficiality and lack of community commitment. Nannie Burroughs...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (866.0 KB)
pp. 135-138

The once middle-class African American communities of Woodlawn, Englewood, and Morgan Park in Chicago are now known more for their rival gangs and their segregated islands of poverty. In 1992 the district of Wentworth, in the heart of what was once called the Black...

Image Plates

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.3 MB)

Appendix 1: African American Women's Clubs, Chicago, 1890-1920

pdf iconDownload PDF (907.4 KB)
pp. 139-143

Appendix 2: Biographical Sketches of Prominent African American Club Women, Chicago, 1890-1920

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.4 MB)
pp. 144-158


pdf iconDownload PDF (5.4 MB)
pp. 159-186


pdf iconDownload PDF (3.4 MB)
pp. 187-204


pdf iconDownload PDF (952.1 KB)
pp. 205-209

Back Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (286.7 KB)
pp. 210

E-ISBN-13: 9780814763599
E-ISBN-10: 0814763596
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814746912
Print-ISBN-10: 0814746918

Page Count: 424
Publication Year: 1997

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • African American women -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Societies and clubs.
  • Chicago (Ill.) -- Social conditions.
  • Chicago (Ill.) -- Social life and customs.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access