Verina Morton-Jones


Verina Morton Jones (1865-1943)
Verina Morton-Jones
The Crisis, 4:5 (September 1912), p. 216.

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists
Biographical Sketch of Verina Morton-Jones, 1857-1943

By Maya Coleman, Undergraduate student, Hampton University and Thomas Dublin

Verina Harris was born in Columbus, Ohio January 28, 1857, the daughter of William O. Harris and Kitty Stanley Harris. She graduated from Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, and began teaching there, before leaving for the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. She graduated in 1888; her thesis was titled "Cholera Infantum."

Upon graduating, Verina Harris relocated to Holly Springs, Mississippi, and became the first woman to pass Mississippi's medical board examination and the first woman licensed to practice medicine in the state. She became resident physician of Rust College and married fellow physician Walter Morton in 1889. Verina Morton would move again, as the couple relocated to Brooklyn and they set up their own practice. She gave birth to a son, Franklin, in 1892. The 1895 Brooklyn city directory recorded Verina H. Morton as a physician at 395 Gold Street. It is believed that she practiced out of her Brooklyn home that would later become the Lincoln Settlement House and for the final twelve years of her career she had a practice in Hempstead on Long Island. Morton was also an active member of the Kings County Medical Society. Walter Morton and an infant daughter died in 1895 and Verina Morton married Emory Jones in 1901.

She not only broke barriers by being a female physician, but she was also a suffragist, social justice activist, and clubwoman involved in several community organizations. She volunteered teaching health classes for the Phillis Wheatley chapter of the YWCA. While living in Brooklyn she became president of the Equal Suffrage League, director of the Mothers' Club, an affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women, and a leader of the Association for the Protection of Colored Women. One of Morton-Jones's most notable accomplishments was her work with the Lincoln Settlement House in Brooklyn, providing the down payment and co-founding the house with Mary White Ovington in 1908. Morton-Jones became head of the Lincoln Settlement House and set up a day nursery and lecture series on health and hygiene. The Settlement House also offered a kindergarten and classes for older children, including sewing, crocheting and carpentry.

Morton-Jones discontinued her private practice and became the head worker at the Lincoln Settlement House between 1914 and 1920. The Brooklyn Urban League took over the Lincoln Settlement and she remained active in both the settlement house and the League. She also served on the Committee of Management and on the Education Committee of the Ashland Place YWCA throughout the 1920's.

Morton-Jones was a strong supporter of woman suffrage. In September 1911 she served as mistress of ceremonies at an Equal Suffrage League reception at which W.E.B. Du Bois spoke. That same month a New-York Tribune newspaper article was headlined, "No Suffrage Color Line," and noted that Dr. Morton-Jones was on the receiving committee at a meeting of the Kings County Woman Suffrage Association. In May 1912 she led a Brooklyn contingent from the Woman's Equality League to join a Suffrage Parade in Manhattan. In May 1920 she sponsored a meeting of the Equal Suffrage League at the Lincoln Settlement.

Morton-Jones had a strong commitment to the emerging Black civil rights movement. In 1907 she joined three other leaders of the Equal Suffrage League in writing to W.E.B. Du Bois to express their support for the Niagara Movement that had recently met in Boston and within three years led the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1913 she was elected to the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn chapter of the NAACP and up until 1923 she was in attendance at almost every meeting. In July 1918 she wrote a letter to W.E.B. Du Bois in support of his appointment for a government position that he would hold while continuing as Director of Publications and Research for the NAACP.

Verina Morton-Jones survived both of her husbands. In the 1920s, she moved to Hempstead, Long Island and re-established her medical practice. She also helped found the Harriet Tubman Community Center and the Harriet Tubman Community Club. She also served as director of the Community Center. The 1930 census recorded her as a widowed boarder continuing to be employed as a doctor. In February 1930 she was re-elected to the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Urban League-Lincoln Settlement. She was also active in the Frank Graham Colored Republican Club of Nassau County, founded in April 1930. Morton-Jones lived in the Community Center between 1933 and 1939, when she moved back to Brooklyn. She died February 3, 1943 in Brooklyn. Her obituary in the New York Age claimed she was the "oldest Negro physician" in the United States at this date. She left a legacy of accomplishment for women in medical science and social justice—fighting to improve the lives of women and African Americans throughout her life.


Susan K. Riskworth, "Verina Morton Jones, MD," Journal of the National Medical Association (2012): 224-28; Alissa Falcone, "Examining Drexel's Ties to the First African-American Women Physicians," DrexelNow. Drexel University; Verina Morton-Jones, Letter from Verina Morton-Jones to W. E. B. Du Bois, July 3, 1918, W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312), Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries; "Jones, Verina Morton," in Jessie Carney Smith, ed., Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research, 1996); Geraldine Rhoades Beckford, Biographical Dictionary of American Physicians of African Ancestry, 1800-1920 (Cherry Hill, N.J.: Africana Homestead Legacy, 2011).

"Brooklyn Notes," New York Age, 14 Sept. 1911, p. 7.

"No Suffrage Color Line," New-York Tribune, 17 Sept. 1911, p. 5.

"Will Parade but Balk at 39c. Hats," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 3 May 1912, p. 2.

"Woman's Part in Campaign," New York Age, 7 Nov. 1912, p. 5.

"Lincoln Settlement Doing Splendid Work," New York Age, 18 Jan. 1917, pp. 1-2.

"Equal Suffrage League," New York Age, 1 June 1918, p. 8.

"Lincoln Settlement Head Worker Resigns," New York Age, 22 May 1920, p. 8.

"Brooklyn Urban League Elects 1930 Officers," New York Age, 8 Feb. 1930, p. 3.

"Dr. V. M. Jones, 86, Oldest Negro Woman Physician, Succumbs," New York Age, 13 Feb. 1943, p. 7.

Federal Manuscript Censuses, (for Verina Morton Jones) Brooklyn, 1920 and (for Verina Martin) Hempstead, NY, 1930; New York state census, Brooklyn, 1915. Death record, Verina Morton, 3 Feb. 1943. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

Find-a-Grave death record for Dr. Verina Morton Jones, 3 Feb. 1943.

Floris Barnett Cash, African American Women and Social Action: The Clubwomen and Volunteerism from Jim Crow to the New Deal, 1896-1936 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001).

Floris Barnett Cash, "Gender and Race Consciousness: Verina Morton-Jones Inspires a Settlement House in Suburbia," in Long Island Women and Activists and Innovators, Natalie A. Naylor and Maureen O. Murphy, eds. (Interlaken, NY: Empire State Books, 1998), pp. 133-45.

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