Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists
Biographical Sketch of Emma S. Ransom, 1865-1943


By Amber Pelham, Undergraduate student, Hampton University

Emma S. Comer Ransom became one of the most prominent women within the religious field during her time period. Her diligence and commitment changed the circumstances of women in her lifetime as well as those of women today. Emma Comer was born on August 8, 1864. Growing up in a religious background, Comer attended Wilberforce University, a highly-esteemed Ohio university closely affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Comer became a teacher at Wilberforce University upon graduation; She met Bishop Reverdy C. Ransom, who also attended Wilberforce University, and the couple married in 1886.

Reverdy C. Ransom was born on January 4, 1861 to Harriet and George Ransom. He graduated Wilberforce University in 1886, and during that same year he was ordained and licensed to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Emma Ransom, Reverdy's second wife, spent time traveling with her new husband to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, and South Carolina, before settling down in New York City. Reverdy Ransom became the pastor of Bethel AME Church, where Emma Ransom is most known for combining her religious work and feminist activism.

Understanding the untapped opportunities for women in the religious community, Emma Ransom started to make her mark in America. Ransom and her colleague, Lida A. Lawry, became the first women to create and publish a missionary journal for the regional missionary convention within the AME church. The journal, Women's Light and Love for Heathen Africa, was an important document considering that mission trips were increasing in popularity within the black religious community. Ransom also became involved in the growing national African American women's club movement. Ransom's involvement with Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) began when she and her husband moved to New York. Emma Ransom's most important appearance came when she spoke before the Equal Suffrage League, a Brooklyn-based club headed by Dr. Verina Morton Jones. In June 1908, Ransom delivered an address on social service at the African American YWCA in Manhattan. In 1909, she was elected president of the branch's volunteer committee of management, a position she held for the next fifteen years. Ransom helped stabilize the YWCA financially through fundraising, increasing its membership, attendance, and revenue.

A leader in her own right but also a dutiful wife, Emma Ransom relocated to Nashville after her husband was elected an AME bishop in 1924. Emma Ransom died in May 1943, and was buried in her home state of Ohio, in Massies Creek Cemetery, Cedarville, Green County, Ohio. Emma Comer Ransom's legacy still lives on through the YWCA; her dedication to the intersecting religious, feminist, and African American communities to which she belonged is easy to discern.

Sources: Susan D. Carle, Defining the Struggle: National Organizing for Racial Justice, 1880-1915 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Judith Weisenfield, African American Women and Christian Activism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997); Find a Grave, "Emma S. Ransom," accessed online at; Payne Theological Seminary, Reverdy C. Ransom Collection, "Biography," accessed online at


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