Alice Gertrude Baldwin

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists
Biography of Alice Gertrude Baldwin, 1859-1943


By Alison Lewis, Undergraduate Student, University of Delaware
Edited by Anne M. Boylan, University of Delaware

An exceptional woman of admirable achievements, Alice Gertrude Baldwin was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1859 and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her father, Peter L. Baldwin, of West Indian origin, was first a sailor but spent most of his working life as a letter carrier; her mother, Mary E. Baldwin, was a Baltimore native. By 1870, the couple had accumulated around $2,000 in real estate, rendering the family solidly middle class. Alice Baldwin was the second of three children born to her parents. Her older sister Maria Louise Baldwin seems to have paved the way for Alice’s interest in the teaching profession, as she became a prominent figure in Cambridge, first as a teacher at the Agassiz School in Cambridge and then the school’s first African American principal. Maria Baldwin was revered by black and white communities alike. At her death in 1922, W.E.B. Du Bois, who had attended Maria’s weekly reading group when he was a student at Harvard, eulogized her in The Crisis as a woman of “splendid, quiet courage,” but above all “a teacher.” Maria’s and Alice’s brother, Louis F. Baldwin, a mail clerk and real estate dealer, became known for his political, business, and civil rights leadership. In 1891, he was elected to the Cambridge Common Council; in 1900, he was a founding member of the National Negro Business League. But he gained recognition in the African American community in 1912 for taking a stand against racial discrimination when he successfully sued a New York theater’s treasurer for refusing to honor his purchase of orchestra seats and ejecting him from the theater. Alice Baldwin embodied both of her siblings’ spirited success: becoming a well-known teacher as well as a strong advocate for racial and gender equality.

In Cambridge, Alice Baldwin was sculpted into an educator and activist. She attended local schools, and then attended a teacher training college. Later, she furthered her studies through summer courses at New York University. By 1887, Baldwin had moved to Wilmington, Delaware, and was teaching at The Howard School in the Grammar School Department. By 1899, she had moved up to become the “first assistant” in the Grammar School, and by 1904, she had taken over as head of the Normal Training School, a one-year program designed to prepare pupils for teaching careers. The principal’s annual report for 1904-05 praised her as “a most efficient, caring, and inspiring instructor.” She found a spiritual home, joining the Gilbert Presbyterian Church and serving as the secretary of both its Literary Association and its Christian Endeavor Society, as well as secretary of the Women’s League of Wilmington, which in 1898 hosted the educator and activist Anna Julia Cooper at a reception.

The Howard School, which became Alice Baldwin’s professional home, was a crucial learning facility for the black community. It was the only educational facility for black children combining Primary, Grammar, and High School instruction, and the only institution at which African American youth could take a full four-year curriculum leading to high school graduation. Students whose families did not live in Wilmington either had to travel long distances to receive a high school education or move to Wilmington for their high school years. As a result, only fairly well-off families could afford to send their children to high school and graduating classes were very small, perhaps a dozen students each year. The principal was Edwina B. Kruse, a formidable educator who insisted that the high school’s curriculum include classic college preparatory courses in Greek, Latin, and languages, along with “industrial” studies. Teachers at the Howard School shared a strong sense of camaraderie that often carried over to their personal lives. Alice Baldwin experienced that close companionship from the start, as she boarded at Edwina Kruse’s home on East 10th Street in Wilmington’s small middle-class neighborhood, an area favored by other teachers, including Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar (later Dunbar-Nelson), who arrived in Wilmington in 1902. Over the years, Kruse’s home served as the residence for individual Howard School teachers as well as her Trinidad-born ward, Etta Roach, who had been a student at Howard High School and then taught music there. When Etta Roach married John H. Woodlen, Jr., in 1920, Alice Baldwin served as a witness. In these ways, Alice G. Baldwin amassed an impressive and useful tree of connections that supported her as she engaged in endeavors promoting and supporting equal rights.

Baldwin was a passionate advocate for suffrage and racial equality in her adopted state. On March 19, 1914, when a group of like-minded African American women met at the home of teacher Emma Belle Gibson Sykes to form the Wilmington Equal Suffrage Club, Alice Baldwin “made a spirited address, calling upon those who were familiar with the subject to help those less well-informed and to dissipate some of the ignorant prejudices on the question.” Once organized, with Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar as president and Emma Sykes as vice-president, the club planned a series of talks, discussions, and lectures for the members and the general public. On May 2, 1914, led by Blanche Williams Stubbs who served as marshal, the group marched (separately) in Wilmington’s first suffrage parade. Alice Baldwin’s continued commitment to woman suffrage was evident during the effort to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. On August 1, 1919, as National Woman’s Party (NWP) members, including Florence Bayard Hilles, lobbied the governor to convene a special session of the legislature to consider ratification, she joined the delegation, acting as the sole representative for African American women. Two days later, she was the only African American speaker at an NWP “suffrage mass meeting” held at the (segregated) Majestic Theater in Wilmington. Using the model of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the speakers provided individual perspectives on the importance of suffrage. Alice Baldwin’s address was entitled “The Colored Teacher’s Tale.”

Delaware did not ratify the amendment, but once it went into effect, the members of the Equal Suffrage Study Club, led by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, re-organized themselves “for practical political purposes” and created a committee of “colored Republican women.” Alice Baldwin and her Howard School colleague Caroline B. Williams were the club’s secretaries; they “immediately blocked out the city into workable districts” in order to help register African American women voters and encourage voter turnout in November. (Although Delaware was a segregated state, it did not disfranchise African Americans.) Soon after the 1920 election, Alice Baldwin reported to the NAACP national headquarters that “things passed off here very nicely and peaceably. Many women voting and thanks to the instructions given before hand – they voted intelligently and honestly.”

Baldwin’s involvement in the Wilmington branch of the NAACP reflected another facet of her commitment to equality. Between 1915 and 1931, she was the branch secretary, working alongside Edwina Kruse and many of her co-workers in the Equal Suffrage Study Club, including Alice Dunbar-Nelson and other Howard High School teachers. During her time as secretary, the Wilmington branch worked on improving housing conditions for African Americans, ending segregation in city courtrooms, championing the rights of black rape victims, preventing the Ku Klux Klan from assembling in public spaces, prohibiting theater owners from showing the racist film, “The Birth of a Nation,” and working desperately to save the life of a black man sentenced to death for raping a white woman. After stepping down as secretary, Baldwin served on the executive committee. She became a member of one of the rare integrated churches in Wilmington, the First Unitarian Church, and devoted time and leadership to the inter-racial work of the city’s YWCA.

Throughout these years, Alice G. Baldwin continued her professional commitments, teaching pedagogy and heading the Normal Training School at Howard High School. Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s niece, Pauline A. Young, credited Baldwin’s “tireless zeal” and “inspiration” with producing a “studious body of elementary teachers” in the state. Beginning in 1925, she served as principal of two “colored” elementary schools (school #5 and the Samuel G. Elbert School). She continued, too, to live at 206 E. 10th Street, in Edwina Kruse’s household, along with Howard High School Latin teacher Anna Brodnax. Kruse’s death in 1930 did not change the arrangement. Baldwin retired in 1932 after some forty-five years of service to Delaware’s schoolchildren. She died January 31, 1943, at the home she had shared in her final years with Anna Brodnax.

Through Alice Baldwin’s extensive social connections, having known and worked alongside Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Caroline Williams, Edwina Kruse and many other influential faculty members at Howard High, in the Equal Suffrage Study Club and through the Wilmington Branch of the NAACP, she was able to promote both women’s suffrage and equal rights. Baldwin is one of the many forgotten revolutionists who helped paved the way for today’s freedoms and equality.

Note on Sources:

Biographical details for Alice Gertrude Baldwin and her family can be traced through Massachusetts and federal censuses and city directories, as well as birth and death records available via and, and African American newspapers, particularly the New York Age and the Chicago Defender. An article in the Defender, February 3, 1912: 1, covers Louis Baldwin’s lawsuit. Two biographical sketches of her sister, Maria Louise Baldwin, provide some family background: Dorothy B. Porter, “Maria Louise Baldwin,” Notable American Women, 1607-1950 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971); and Briallen Hopper, “Maria Louise Baldwin,” African American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). W.E.B. Du Bois published two brief articles on Maria Baldwin in The Crisis: April 1917: 281; and April 1922: 248-49. Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s diary, Give Us Each Day, ed. Gloria T. Hull (New York: Norton, 1984), includes a few details on Alice Baldwin, whom Dunbar-Nelson affectionately termed “Baldikins” or “Baldy.”

Obituaries appeared in the Wilmington Journal-Every Evening, February 1, 1943: 11; and Morning News, February 1, 1943, 2. The papers of the Wilmington Branch of the NAACP, available on microfilm, contain reports and letters written during her time as the branch secretary, including her November 14, 1920 letter discussing the recent election. New York University’s Catalogs, 1907: 49; 1909: 64; and 1910: 65, document her pursuit of advanced education. The Annual Reports of the City of Wilmington Public Schools, 1887-1910 and the Educational Directories of the State of Delaware, 1914-1934, list her roles as a teacher and principal. For Edwina Kruse’s comment on Baldwin’s teaching skills, see Annual Report of the City of Wilmington Public Schools, 1904-05: 40.

Newspaper articles chronicling her suffrage commitments include “Colored Women Want the Ballot,” Wilmington Evening Journal, March 21, 1914: 12; “Woman’s Party Plans Meeting Tomorrow,” Wilmington Every Evening, August 2, 1919: 2; “Local Suffragists Hold Mass Meeting This Afternoon,” Wilmington Sunday Morning Star, August 3, 1919: 11; “As Work for Ratification Proceeds,” The Suffragist, 7 (August 9, 1919): 8-9; and “Colored Women in Republican Club,” Wilmington Evening Journal, September 6, 1920: 8. There appears to be no extant copy of Alice Baldwin’s 1919 suffrage address, “The Colored Teacher’s Tale.”

On Alice Baldwin’s role in the NAACP, see Annette Woolard-Provine, Integrating Delaware: The Reddings of Wilmington (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2003). Other important secondary sources on Edwina Kruse and Howard High School include Pauline A. Young, “The Negro in Delaware: Past and Present,” in Delaware: A History of the First State ed. H. Clay Reed and Marion Björnson Reed (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1947): 592-94; Judith Y. Gibson, “Mighty Oaks: Five Black Educators,” and “Howard High School,” The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage (New York: Facts on File, 1997).

There is a copyrighted 1940 photograph of Alice Baldwin with Howard High School Latin teacher and co-resident of Edwina Kruse’s home, Oberlin graduate Anna F. Brodnax. See


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