Fourth Ward Colored Women's Republican Club, Camden, NJ


4th Ward Colored Women's Republican Club of Camden, New Jersey


By George Robb, professor, William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey

Elizabeth Sheppard, President (b. 1870)
Elizabeth Bond, Vice President (b. 1892)
Florence Roberts, Secretary (1887-1987)
Alice Laws, Assistant Secretary (b. 1884)
Mamie Williams, Treasurer (b. 1891)
Annetta Ireland, Campaign Committee (b. 1882)
Anna Fisher, Campaign Committee (b. 1880)
Rose Taylor, Campaign Committee (b. 1881)

The 4th Ward Colored Women's Republican Club was organized in Camden, New Jersey on September 10, 1920. With the ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920, many such clubs were established throughout America to politically mobilize newly enfranchised black women. The Camden women were initially motivated to register other black women as voters. They also advocated for racially progressive policies, for example, opposing segregation and lynching, and they campaigned for Republican candidates. At the time, most African Americans supported the Republican Party, which was then more supportive of civil rights than the Democrats.

Camden had a large and well established African American community. In 1920 the black population of Camden was around 8,500, or 8% of the city's total population–the largest percentage of African Americans in any New Jersey city. That population had grown 40% since 1910, as Southern blacks flocked to Northern cities as part of the Great Migration. It is significant that black women in Camden organized Republican clubs in several of the city's wards, unlike in other New Jersey cities, like Paterson or Newark, where there was only one Colored Women's Republican Club for the entire city.

Little is known specifically about the eight women officers of Camden's 4th Ward Colored Women's Republican Club, though collectively they had much in common. Most of them had been born in the 1880s and several of them had migrated to Camden from Southern states. They were a tight-knit group, with two of them being sisters-in-law and four of them living within a block of each other on West Street.

Elizabeth Sheppard was born in 1870 in Canada. Upon moving to the United States, she married William Sheppard, a mason from South Carolina. Their only child, Hobart, was born in 1898. In Camden, William worked as a janitor for the railroad and Elizabeth as a dressmaker. Elizabeth Roberts was born in New Jersey in 1892. In 1914 she married Oliver Bond, a housepainter from Maryland. Florence Roberts was born in Washington, D.C. in 1887. She graduated from Howard University and taught school in Camden until her marriage to Herbert Roberts, a railroad clerk. (Herbert was the brother of Elizabeth Roberts Bond.) The Bonds had six children: Beverly (1915), Carroll (1917), Ezelta (1918), Donald (1920), Mary (1922), and Florence (1924). Alice Laws was born in New Jersey in 1884. She worked as a domestic servant until later achieving a position as a supervisor in a factory. At the age of 40 she married Willis Holly, a laborer from Pennsylvania, and she later worked as a seamstress. Mamie Williams was born in Maryland in 1891. In Camden she worked as a servant and her husband, Henry, was a factory worker. Annetta Ireland was born in New Jersey in 1882. She worked as a music teacher and sang in local theaters. Her husband, Henry, was a waiter. Anna Fisher was born in 1880 in Maryland.

Her husband, Charles, was a music teacher. The couple had three children: Helen (1905), Clarence (1908), and Bernice (1910). Widowed in her twenties, Anna Fisher supported her family as a boarding house keeper. Rose Taylor was born in Delaware in 1881. In Camden she worked as a laundress and her husband, Roland, was a factory worker. The couple had one child, Carrie (b. 1908).

When these eight women organized the 4th Ward Republican Club in 1920, most of them were in their thirties. One was single, one a widow, and four of them had no children. Three of the women did not work for wages. This probably afforded them more time for political activity, but it does not mean that they were ladies of leisure. Some of them had hardscrabble lives, working as maids and laundresses and married to unskilled laborers. They nonetheless found the time and energy to volunteer as community organizers and civil rights activists.

Only fragmentary information exists to document these women's later lives, but it suggests an ongoing commitment to social justice and political activism. For example, in 1926 Elizabeth Sheppard and Annetta Ireland participated in a statewide meeting of the Colored Women Republican Voters of New Jersey held in Camden. When Lillian Feickert, a white Republican activist and former leader of the New Jersey suffrage movement, addressed the black women in Camden, she was startled by their demands for more political jobs for black women. Two decades later Elizabeth Bond was an active member of the Camden NAACP, leading a drive for new members in 1942.

During the 1930s, at least one of the Camden women, Alice Laws Holly, was now an officer in the 4th Ward Colored Democratic Club. Like many other African Americans, Alice had switched her allegiance to the Democratic Party in response to the progressive policies of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The Democratic ward organization was not sex segregated, but, like the Republican ward clubs, was still racially segregated.


"Colored Women Busy Preparing to Register," Camden Courier-Post, 13 September 1920, p.5.

United States Census Returns, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930

New Jersey State Census, 1905, 1915

"Women Voters Will Hear Mrs. Feickert," Camden Courier-Post, 2 August 1926, p.14.

"Brunner Wins Backing from 4th Ward Group," Camden Morning Post, 1 March 1939, p.2.

"1200 Enlist in Work for Negro Welfare," Camden Morning Post, 26 November 1942, p.3.

"Retired Teacher Turns 100," Camden Courier-Post, 15 February 1987, p.25.


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