Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biography of Florena Kerr Owens, 1877-1967

By Maxine Dumyahn, Student, Saint Martin's University

Mrs. Florena Kerr Owens was born to Charles and Mary Kerr (both of whom were born in Maryland) in February 1877 in Baltimore, Maryland (where she was raised) and passed away on September 15, 1967. Florena Owens's family included a sister-in-law, May Robertson, who was about six to eight years her junior, and a mother-in-law, Caroline Owens. Florena Kerr graduated from Douglas High School in 1898, proceeding to marry her high school sweetheart George Owens in 1901 at the age of 24. There's no evidence that that Florena and George had children.

Florena Owens has been listed under a multitude of professions/responsibilities, including a hair culturist, a journalist, a drug store clerk, secretary of a religious department, councilor of an organization, and importantly as a chairperson of a committee connected to the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). In 1912, Owens is cited as attending the eighth biennial National Association of Colored Women meeting in Hampton, Virginia as a member from Maryland. Major topics discussed in this meeting included antilynching, anti-segregation, and woman suffrage. In November 1915, Owens was elected statistician of the group. In 1916 Owens acted as the chairperson of the committee in charge of arranging a pageant that was part of the tenth biennial session of NACW that was held in Denver, Colorado. The pageant was titled "The Vindication of Negro Womanhood" and depicted African American women facing prejudice, rising against it, and eventually changing society for the better and working with society to bring on justice. The meeting also discussed different matters, such as that of "'Negro Womanhood, a Factor of Race Uplift,' and the 'Value of Club Work to our Women'" (Williams and Boehm, pg. ix).

Florena K. Owens also had ties to a fraternal organization called the Knights of Pythias, Eastern and Western Hemispheres under different roles. Owens was noted as an officer of the Supreme Court on September 26, 1925 and as the Supreme Worthy Council of Baltimore on September 7, 1939. The Knights of Pythias is listed as a secret society first founded in 1864 in Washington, D.C. However, the Knights of Pythias was an organization for white males at its conception and later broke off into several branches that contained people of color (which includes the Eastern and Western Hemisphere branch that Florena Owens was a part of). The Knights of Pythias's main principles revolve around friendship, service to everyone, kindness, tolerance, generosity, and benevolence.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census[database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA.

"Baltimore Afro American Ledger Archives, Apr 23, 1910, p. 1-5." NewspaperArchive.com, Baltimore Afro American Ledger, 23 Apr. 1910, https://newspaperarchive.com/baltimore-afro-american-ledger-apr-23-1910-p-1/.

"Baltimore Afro American Ledger Archives, Aug 3, 1912, p. 1." NewspaperArchive.com, Baltimore Afro American Ledger, 3 Aug. 1912, https://newspaperarchive.com/baltimore-afro-american-ledger-aug-03-1912-p-1/.

"Baltimore Afro American Archives, Jan 13, 1945, p. 12." NewspaperArchive.com, Baltimore Afro American, 13 Jan. 1945, https://newspaperarchive.com/baltimore-afro-american-jan-13-1945-p-12/.

"Baltimore Afro American Ledger Archives, Sep 20, 1913, p. 8." NewspaperArchive.com, Baltimore Afro American Ledger, 20 Sept. 1913, https://newspaperarchive.com/baltimore-afro-american-ledger-sep-20-1913-p-8/.

Davis, Allen. "About the Order." The Knights of Pythias, 23 Feb. 2018, https://knightsofpythias.squarespace.com/supreme/about.

The Epworth Herald. Vol. 20, Methodist Book Concern, 1909. Pg. 486-7.

FamilySearch, https://www.familysearch.org/search/record/results?count=20&query=+givenname:Florena~+surname:owens~.

"National Session Women's Clubs." Indianapolis Recorder, 19 Aug. 1916.

Mjagkij, Nina, ed. Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations. (Routledge, 2001).

Williams, Lillian Serece., and Randolph Boehm. Records of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, 1895-1992. University Publications of America, 1993.

"15 Feb 1930, Page 2 - The New York Age at newspapers.com." newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/40797195/?terms=florena+owens.

"26 Sep 1925, Page 7 - The New York Age at newspapers.com." newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/40472129/?terms=florena+owens.

The Afro American Ledger. November 6, 1915 https://news.google.com/newspapers/p/afro?nid=ztWeZN2wRXQC&dat=19151106&printsec=frontpage&hl=en.


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