Addie Whiteman Dickerson

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Addie Whiteman Dickerson, 1878-1940

By Dr. Jennifer Fry, Independent Scholar

Addie Whiteman was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Educated at Gregory Institute and Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina, she taught grammar school before moving to Pennsylvania. In 1908 Whiteman married G. Edward Dickerson, a prominent African American attorney from Philadelphia.

Early in her career, Dickerson was active in the club movement and used this platform as a springboard for her suffrage activism. In 1915, she shared the stage with W.E.B Du Bois during a rally sponsored by the Pennsylvania Men's League for Woman's Suffrage. Dickerson was one of the founders of the Federated Women's Club movement in Philadelphia. In the years leading up to gaining the franchise, women's clubs in Philadelphia actively worked preparing women for voting by offering classes on citizenship and voting procedures. On the national level, Dickerson was a prominent member of the National Association of Colored Women and was elected auditor and statistician of the organization during the 1920's and the 1930's. She was one of the original members of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and was elected treasurer in 1936.

After passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Dickerson became a prominent political leader, she was a sought-after speaker on both the local and national levels. She recognized the power of grass roots organizations and actively facilitated cooperation between neighborhood political organizations, city wide organizations and national groups. A lifelong Republican, in 1930 Dickerson mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and during her campaign advocated for old age pensions, equal educational opportunities for every child, equal pay for equal work regardless of race or sex, a civil rights bill, and equal political recognition for African American women. As chairman of the Philadelphia Republican Council of Colored Women she was often on the program of political rallies. During the 1932 presidential campaign Dickerson was tapped to discuss the Republican platform on a CBS national radio program. In 1936 she met with the leaders of the Eastern Colored Voters Division of the GOP to plan strategy and was designated a member of the “Flying Squadron” – a group of four female African American women appointed to provide Republican speeches throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. In 1938 Dickerson was part of an NCNW delegation that was invited to the White House to discuss social welfare issues with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the heads of several bureaus and was one of the six women called upon to provide greater insight into the needs of the African American community.

Dickerson is best known for her involvement in the international peace movement. She spoke on behalf of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the American Interracial Peace Committee and was a co-founder of the International Council of Women of the Darker Races (ICWDR), an organization focusing on three main goals: education, political affairs, and social uplift. During the first meeting Dickerson was elected Foreign Relations Committee Chair and represented the ICWDR as a delegate to the Fourth Pan-African conference in New York City in August 1927. She was elected president of the ICWDR in 1928, a post she held until her death.

Addie Dickerson was a successful real estate broker and the first female African American notary public in Pennsylvania. The Dickerson estate, probated upon the death of G. Edward, included twenty-seven houses and additional investments valued at $40,000. The Dickersons died in 1940; Addie in June and G. Edward in September. The value of the real estate was used to establish the “G. Edward and Addie W. Dickerson Foundation,” a trust fund designed to aid worthy African American students. In 2018 the Philadelphia Mural Arts' Program dedicated a mural on the “Dickerson Building” on the corner of 16th and Bainbridge Streets in Philadelphia. The mural celebrates the achievements of the Dickersons on the building they which they left in their wills to “improve the Negro race.”


Booker, Bobbi. “Mural honors city's early Black power couple,” The Philadelphia Tribune, July 31, 2018.

Dickerson, Addie W. “Mrs. Dickerson Gives Her Impressions of Conference Held by W.I. L at Prague,” The Philadelphia Tribune, November 14, 1929, p. 5.

Fry, Jennifer Reed. ‘Our girls can match ‘em every time': The Political Activities of African American Women in Philadelphia, 1912-1941. PhD diss., Temple University, 2010.

Rief, Michelle. ‘Banded close together': An Afrocentric Study of African American Women's International Activism, 1850-1940, and the International Council of Women of the Darker Races. PhD diss., Temple University, 2003.

Shelton, Bernice. “Famous Team Broken Up by Grim Reaper's Visit,” The Philadelphia Tribune, June 6, 1940.

Available on Women and Social Movements:

Letter from Addie Dickerson to International Council of Women of the Darker Races, August 27, 1934 written by Addie Whiteman Dickerson, 1878-1940, in Mary Church Terrell Papers, 1851-1962, of United States. Library of Congress. Manuscript Division (District of Columbia) (27 August 1934) , 2 page(s) [LINK]|bibliographic_details|1745794

Letter from Addie Dickerson to Mary Church Terrell, December 10, 1934 written by Addie Whiteman Dickerson, 1878-1940, in Mary Church Terrell Papers, 1851-1962, of United States. Library of Congress. Manuscript Division (Containers 9-10, Reel 7) (District of Columbia) (10 December 1934) , 2 page(s) [LINK]|bibliographic_details|1745784

The Status of the Negro Woman in the Nation written by Addie Whiteman Dickerson, 1878-1940, in National Association Notes, Vol. 17, no. 3, Jan.-Feb. 1915, pp. 3-9, 6 page(s) [LINK]|bibliographic_details|3969905


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