Janette "Jennie" Thomas

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Janette 'Jennie' Thomas, 1867-?

By Amelia Gothreau Newett, undergraduate student, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

On July 10, 1913, the New York Age published an article featuring a list of some of the women who were in attendance of the fifth annual convention of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs. The federation served as a blanket organization for black women's groups, allowing black women to come together and speak with one another about the goals they had and the actions they were taking to reach them. Described by the New York Age in 1912, the federation was noted as an organization "striving for the betterment of the race." Along with covering the topics spoken about at the convention, the federation aimed at achieving women's suffrage. One of the women listed as a delegate of the fifth annual convention was Miss Jennie Thomas.

Janette "Jennie" Thomas was born around 1867 in Canada to Emeline Thomas of Pennsylvania. The family returned to the United States around 1882 and settled in Binghamton, New York. As of the 1900 census, Emeline Thomas lived on Spruce Street and was a widow with eight of her ten children still living. Jennie Thomas's siblings included sisters: Julia (Lipscomb), Mae (Gibbons), Louisa (McKay), Susan; and brothers: James, Edward, and Leonard.

Jennie Thomas was an active member of the AME Zion Church in Binghamton. In 1909, she served as a Club No. 4 president, and her sister Julia Lipscomb led Club No. 3 at the church. Both clubs participated in an event to burn the mortgage of the church, celebrating the ownership of the building. In addition to the clubs, the AME Zion Church also had a Harriet Tubman Literary Society, which was likely the connection that took Thomas to the 1913 convention in Buffalo. Jennie Thomas led exercises for the literary society in 1916, according to the New York Age. Thomas also planned and participated in other church events, covered during the 1910s in the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. In addition to her church activities, Jennie Thomas joined the Sheba Chapter, 3, Order of the Eastern Star in Binghamton. She held various leadership roles from 1912 to 1915.

Jennie Thomas likely died sometime in the 1920s. Upon her brother James Thomas's death in 1919, she was listed in the obituary as still living. However, in 1930, her brother-in-law William Lipscomb's will was executed, and letters were sent to her sister, Susan Thomas, a dressmaker in New York City, with no mention of Jennie Thomas. It is possible she lived into the 1930s, but she likely never married and did not have children.


Binghamton, NY. New York Age. April 21, 1916. Newspapers.com.

"Father Named to Sue for Boy in Bite of Dog." Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. December 20, 1930. Newspapers.com.

"Federation to Convene Next Week." New York Age, June 27, 1912. Newspapers.com.

"Female Smokers Are Criticized." New York Age, July 10, 1913. Newspapers.com.

"Installs Officers of the Sheba Chapter, O.E.S." Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. December 20, 1912. Newspapers.com.

New York State Census, 1905, "Janette Thomas, Binghamton, Broome, NY." Ancestry Library.

Obituary. James N. Thomas. Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. December 31, 1919. Newspapers.com.

"Sheba Chapter, Easter Star, Elects New Officers." Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. January 12, 1915. Newspapers.com.

"Sheba Chapter Elects New Officers for 1914." Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. January 28, 1914. Newspapers.com.

"To Burn Mortgage on Zion Church." Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. December 9, 1909. Newspapers.com.

"Valentine Supper at Zion Church." Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. February 17, 1906. Newspapers.com.

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