Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Ella Taylor, 1874-?

By Brianna So, undergraduate student, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

Ella Taylor was born in New York around June 1874 to Thomas and Susan Taylor of Virginia. After her father passed away in 1889, the family moved from Manhattan to Williamsbridge in the Bronx. Her younger brother, Thomas Taylor, worked as an actor. Ella Taylor remained single, working around the home and as a factory dressmaker and cook. She and her mother resided in the same six-block radius of Williamsbridge for much of their lives, establishing themselves in the Williamsbridge community. Ella Taylor was often invited to and honored at dinner parties; the New York Age even made note of her becoming seriously ill. After her mother's passing, Ella Taylor became a boarder with the family of Ida Ball, a black college-educated teacher. The two attended events together, one as late as 1950.

A notable musician, performer, and organizer, Ella Taylor dedicated her life to the arts. She was involved in various music and cultural groups, including the Culture Club, the Music Study Club, and the Women's Industrial Club. In addition to these clubs, she was an active member of Trinity Baptist Church whose pastor, Reverend Burwell T. Harvey, was a Tuskegee Institute graduate and "progressive preacher," recommended by Booker T. Washington. The church had an "undeniable love for music" and held communal arts-related fundraisers for black scholarship. Two of Ella Taylor's paintings hung in the undercroft of the church. Despite her limited education, she presented select readings and recitations for the Trinity Baptist Lyceum. She also planned and managed programs for Ladies' Auxiliary meetings and lyceums across the city—all of which were hailed "excellent" by the New York Age.

Given her reputation in social, religious, and musical circles, Ella Taylor became a delegate to convention of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs (ESFWC) in 1913. At this meeting in Buffalo, the federation endorsed women's suffrage and demanded the right to vote. Although the historical record is sparse on Taylor's activities, she shared the goals of the federation to promote the cultural growth and well-being of the black community through her daily church and club activities. She continued to attend meetings and associate with members of the Music Study Club, a "small group of music-loving women" that intended to be a "vital, hopeful force in race cultural growth." In addition, Taylor attended a talk by Lucretia Freeman, the regional president for the city's affiliate of the ESFWC, with Benjamin Brown, a fellow member of the Culture Club. Ella Taylor also had the opportunity to speak alongside Dr. Jerry Jarmon—a veterinarian and Tuskegee alumna—in October 1925 at the New York Tuskegee Association, which sought to organize educational opportunities in the state.

One of the last public mentions of Ella Taylor was her participation in a musical program to raise funds for a new building for the Lincoln Settlement House, a free kindergarten and clinic that sponsored debate and choral clubs. Even in her later years, Taylor's dedication to music and her community was unwavering. The exact date of death is not known for Ella Taylor, and she was mentioned in the New York Amsterdam News as late as 1950. There were several women with the same name who died in New York City during the late 1950s and early 1960s, but none listed as living in the Bronx, as she was in 1940.

Ella Taylor contributed to the black women's movement through her steady involvement in her local church, the site for the expression, celebration, and pursuit of the black collective will and identity across the country. In addition, she was committed to supporting the black community through the arts. Taylor lent her name to women's suffrage, and she shared interests and characteristics with activists around her. Taylor's first love was to the arts, and she promoted the growth of her black community in her own circles.

SOURCES:

"Art Exhibit at Harlem Library." New York Amsterdam News. November 25, 1950. Black Studies Center.

"Benefit Recital for Lorenza Cole, Pianist." New York Age. May 11, 1929. Newspapers.com.

"Intimate Companionship between Parents and Children Is Needed." New York Age. February 22, 1936. Newspapers.com.

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

Find a Grave. Thomas Taylor, d. Jan. 28, 1889. December 11, 2017. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/185836129/thomas-taylor.

"Lincoln Settlement Follies a Success; Draws Large Crowd." New York Age. May 17, 1930. Newspapers.com.

McGill, Charles. "Women of Williams Bridge." Chicago Defender. July 20, 1918. Black Studies Center.

"N.Y. Tuskegee Association holds First Fall Meeting." New York Age. October 31, 1925. Newpapers.com.

New York City News: Manhattan and Bronx. New York Age. February 22, 1906. Newspapers.com.

New York, New York, Death Index, 1949-1965 and 1957-1968. Ella Taylor, various. Ancestry Library.

"Trinity Baptist Church." New York City Organ Project. New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (NYCAGO). Accessed August 2, 2019, http://www.nycago.org/Organs/Brx/html/TrinityBaptist.html.

United States Census 1880, s.v. "Ella Taylor, New York City, NY." Ancestry Library.

United States Census 1900, s.v. "Ella Taylor, Manhattan, NY." Ancestry Library.

United States Census 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, s.v. "Ella Taylor, Bronx, NY." Ancestry Library.

Williamsbridge Notes. New York Age. March 28, 1907; April 4, 1907; March 9, 1911; August 10, 1911. Newspapers.com.

Williamsbridge, NY, Items. Chicago Defender. August 31, 1918. Black Studies Center.


Related Writings in Database

View works by

View works about

 

 

 

Back to List of Black Woman Suffragists
back to top