Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biography of Annie E. Smith, 1882-?


By Amanda Fusting, undergraduate, University of Maryland, College Park

Teacher, Suffragist, and Activist

Miss Annie E. Smith was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1882. She graduated from Colored High and Polytechnic in 1902, and became a public school teacher. At the decennial reunion of her class, Smith, the class secretary, spoke on the history of its members. Her younger sister, Myrtle Smith, was born in 1894, and also worked as a public school teacher. As adults, the two sisters lived together at 1203 Harlem Avenue in the sixteenth ward of Baltimore. Involved in a number of civic clubs, Annie E. Smith dedicated her life to improving the conditions of students, mothers, African Americans, and Baltimore city at large.

Annie E. Smith taught stenography at Evening High School in Baltimore. On March 30, 1916, Smith's class honored her with “a grand and most agreeable surprise.” Her students and colleagues hosted a lunch to thank her, and they gifted her with a silver ice cream knife. Smith cared about improving and investing in education. She was the secretary of the Baltimore Educational Association, a professional association of African American educators. At their monthly meetings at Grace Presbyterian Church, the association hosted teacher trainings and discussions. They also brought in leading educators, black and white, from all over the country to deliver addresses on ways to improve education and end child labor.

Smith was an activist, not only for better education, but also for improvements in public health and social welfare. In 1915, Smith was the secretary for the Maryland Colored Public Health Association. She also served as secretary for the War Camp Community Club, which led a campaign in 1919 to raise funds for a second African American hospital in Baltimore. The club dubbed

the new hospital, “Victory Hospital,” in honor of African American soldiers. Smith devoted her energy to serving her community in several different areas.

As an active member of the United Workers for Social Service, Smith worked to improve social services and expand job opportunities for African Americans. This club supervised a local day nursery, serving mothers in a segregated neighborhood in Baltimore. Smith served as the secretary of the club's Joint Advisory Board, which included both white and African American women. In 1916, over 250 women from different women's clubs came together for the third annual Civic League Luncheon, at which Smith delivered an address on the activities of the United Workers for Social Service. Other prominent activists spoke about child welfare, poor housing conditions, impure foods, hospitals, and segregation. Mrs. Estelle Young delivered an address on woman suffrage, and the Civic League went on record as supporting woman suffrage. Mrs. George E. Frey spoke on the activities of the Dubois Circle, of which Annie E. Smith was also a member.

The Dubois Circle was founded in 1906 as an auxiliary women's club, representing the Niagara Movement in Baltimore. The meetings consisted of musical performances, guest lectures, discussions of lectures or readings, and social hours. Smith was a member of the Dubois Circle from 1914 to 1921. She served on the executive committee in 1919 and served as corresponding secretary in 1920. Smith hosted several meetings at her home on Harlem Avenue. She also led discussions on “American Negroes in Overseas Service” and “Modern German and French Operas.” The Dubois Circle supported woman suffrage and promoted civic participation. In the year the suffrage amendment passed, members delivered addresses titled, “Election Laws of Maryland,” “Courts and Jury Systems,” and “A Talk on Legislative Procedure.” Smith's passions for suffrage, public health, education, and social welfare are evident in her club

involvements. Through her various secretarial positions, Smith uplifted her community and mobilized civic engagement.

Sources: 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line] Census Place: Baltimore Ward 16, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland; Roll: T625_659; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 265; Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2010.

"Banquet of Class of 1902, C. H. S." Baltimore Afro-American, June 08, 1912. Proquest Baltimore Afro-American Historical.

"Civic League at Luncheon.” BaltimoreAfro-American, March 04, 1916. Proquest Baltimore Afro-American Historical.

Directory of Social Work for Baltimore and Maryland. 4th ed. Baltimore, MD: Baltimore Federated Charities, 1917.

Dubois, W.E.B. “Letter from W.E.B. Dubois to Dr. Ellen Irene Diggs.” May 19, 1950. Dubois Circle Records. Private Collection.

“Dubois Circle Minutes.”1930. Dubois Circle Records. Private Collection.

“Dubois Circle Program.” 1920-1921. Dubois Circle Records. Private Collection.

“Dubois Circle Yearbook.” 1916-1922. Dubois Circle Records. Private Collection.

"Holds Monthly Meeting." Baltimore Afro-American, May 17, 1913. Proquest Baltimore Afro-American Historical.

"Out of High School." Baltimore Sun, June 12, 1902. Proquest Baltimore Afro-American Historical.

"School Teacher Honored." Baltimore Afro-American, April 15, 1916. Proquest Baltimore Afro-American Historical.

"Victory Hospital Campaign." Baltimore Afro-American, June 27, 1919. Proquest Baltimore Afro-American Historical.

Young, Howard E. "Educational Progress of a Quarter." Baltimore Afro-American, August 26, 1916. Proquest Baltimore Afro-American Historical.


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