Jewelia Ann Galloway Higgins


Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Jewelia Ann Galloway Higgins, 1873-1955


By Sherri Goudy, independent historian and writer

African American Suffragist, Community Activist, Civic Leader, Red Cross Nurse

Jewelia Ann Galloway was born December 29, 1873, to Mary Louisa Chittendon and William Galloway in Dayton, Ohio. She was born into a family that represents generations of community activists and leaders, freedom fighters, and empowered women. Jewelia Galloway married Charles D. Higgins in 1894.

Jewelia Galloway Higgins's grandfather, James Chittendon, was a Civil War veteran. Her great-grandmother was Charity Broady, born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1802, the daughter of a freed slave and a Cherokee woman. As an infant, she was brought to Dayton, Ohio, by her father, among the first black settlers there. Her mother died of smallpox prior to the trip. Charity later married John Broady and together they became conductors on the Underground Railroad. Fugitive slaves would hide in the Broady home, then slip into First Wesleyan Methodist Church, which was next door, were given clothes provided by church members, and continued on their journey to freedom.

Jewelia Galloway Higgins lived with her great-grandmother growing up. Higgins knew that Broady had been an attendee at the Woman Suffrage Convention in Akron, Ohio, where Sojourner Truth gave her famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech in 1851. Perhaps this was one of the driving factors in Higgins's conviction to work with the Dayton Woman Suffrage Association (DWSA), a white woman's suffrage organization.

The DWSA was unique in that they appeared to have actively sought the cooperation of black women, as well as immigrants and working-class women. Jewelia G. Higgins served as a member of the DWSA beginning in 1912. The organization's records indicate Higgins and other African American women worked the suffrage booth on Mondays during the Ohio push for suffrage in 1912. Under Higgins's leadership, the women also gave speeches and organized gatherings in the community.

Among Higgins's other leadership roles, she was a founding member of the Unique Study Club in 1900. After World War I, the club formed a black chapter of the American Red Cross. Higgins became one of the first, if not the first, black Red Cross nurse in the Dayton area. She also served as matron of the Holloway Colored Orphans' Home after founder Julia Holloway retired.

Her husband, Rev. Charles Higgins, served during World War I as secretary under the War Work Council of the YMCA. Jewelia Higgins served for many years alongside her husband with the YMCA. In 1951, she was honored by the YMCA as one of the fifteen Pioneer Mothers. She was also a founding member of the black affiliate of the YWCA in Dayton, otherwise called the WCA no. 2.

Jewelia Higgins was an elected officer of the Colored Citizens Protective League (CCPL) which formed in 1914 and was later called the Colored Citizens Protective Association (CCPA). This organization's work mirrored the work of the NAACP. When the Dayton Chapter of that organization formed in 1915, the CCPA appears to have dissolved, perhaps merging with the NAACP.

Jewelia and Charles Higgins instilled the same community leadership and female empowerment in their children that had been passed down since John Davis brought baby Charity to Dayton in 1802. The Higgins's daughter, Rita, became a leader within the First Wesleyan Methodist church and the community.

Their daughter, Charlest, wrote the history of the first hundred years of the First Wesleyan church. She, alongside her husband Ernest Johnson, Dayton's first Black master plumber, continued the legacy of success for their family.

Jewelia Galloway Higgins died December 14, 1955, and her funeral was held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Her service was the first for an African American person in that church. Like most of her family, she was buried in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.


Ali, Derek. "History Drives Family Forward," Dayton (OH) Daily News, October 31, 1990.

Austin, Charles M., Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University, Dayton, OH.

"Dayton Club to Observe 95th Year," Dayton (OH) Daily News, November 15, 1995.

Hundley, Wendy. "Milestones in the History of Women: Forgotten Stories." Dayton (OH) Daily News, March 22, 1994.

"Funds Lacking to Assist Negro Home," Dayton (OH) Daily News, November 28, 1912.

Interviews with Patricia Smith Griffin, great-granddaughter of Jewelia Higgins and family historian, June 4, 2019, and August 28, 2019.

Interview with Andrea Walker-Cummings, Dayton historian, June 18, 2019.

"Mrs. Jewelia Higgins Dies; West Side Civic Leader," Dayton (OH) Journal Herald, December 16, 1955.

Minutes, July 22, 1912. Dayton Woman Suffrage Association. Records. Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, OH.

"Negro Citizens Hold a Suffrage Meeting." Dayton (OH) Daily News, August 17, 1912.

Peters, Margaret E. Dayton's African American Heritage. National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, Wilberforce. 1995, 2005

"What the Past Year Brought to Dayton," Dayton (OH) Daily News, January 1, 1915.


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