Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biography of Jennie Howard Ross, 1873-


By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Jennie Howard was born in 1873 in Baltimore and completed four years of college. In 1906 she married Vernon Ross, a painter. This may well have been a second marriage, as the 1910 census noted she had given birth to six children, one of whom, a thirteen-year-old, was still living. Her occupation that year was given as laundress. By 1930 Jennie headed her own household and lived with three lodgers. Her age, marital status, and birthplace were not recorded in 1930.

Mrs. Jennie H. Ross was a member of the DuBois Circle in Baltimore and an activist in women's reform circles in the city. In the early decades of the twentieth century she was president of the Day Nursey Association for Colored Children. In 1916 she served as a lead organizer for the "Queen's Rally," a fundraiser for the First Independent A.M.E. Church.

She was also a leader in the local Baltimore activities of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). In 1910 she served as a Baltimore delegate to the NACW's national convention in Louisville, KY. In 1912 she spoke at an NACW banquet held in conjunction with a Baltimore meeting of the State Federation of Colored Women. In August 1916 she spoke at the NACW's national convention held in Baltimore.

Jennie Ross joined in Black women's suffrage activities, though surviving evidence is modest. In November 1915 the Maryland Federation of Christian Women endorsed woman suffrage and prohibition and Jennie Ross was elected an organizer. In 1920 she campaigned extensively for William A. Hawkins, Black candidate for the Senate from Maryland. Newspaper stories indicate she gave frequent public speeches on Hawkins's behalf. In 1921-1922 she served on the Women's Auxiliary of the 14th Ward Republican Club.

Ross's other affiliations included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where she served on the Conference Committee when the NAACP met in Baltimore in May 1914. She also was a member of the Knights of Pythias, where in 1915 she served as supreme worthy councilor of the Supreme Court of Calanthe.

After the passage of the 19th Amendment, Ross continued to be active in Baltimore politics. In September 1922 she was among speakers at a mammoth anti-lynching meeting at the Ames Methodist Episcopal Church and in April 1936 she was serving as a delegate to the Republican State Convention for Baltimore's 4th Legislative District. She was also an election judge and served as treasurer of the Fourth District Republican League.

No record of Jennie's death has survived, but she continued to live in Baltimore through at least 1940. She owned her own home that year, valued at $4,000. and three lodgers and her son William also lived in the household.


Dennis A. Doster, "'The Independent Fight We Are Making Is Local': The Election of 1920 and Electoral Politics in Black Baltimore," Journal of Urban History, 44:2 (Jan. 2018), 134-52.

Diane E. Weaver, "Maryland Women and the Transformation of Politics, 1890s-1930 (Unpublished Ph.D. Diss., Univ. of Maryland, 1992), chap. 2. Accessed online at

"The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" Sixth Annual Conference," The Crisis, 8:2 (June 1914), p. 81.

New York Age, 9 September 1915, p. 1.

"Women Hold Annual Session," Baltimore Afro-American, 6 Nov. 1915, p. 1.

"Mrs. Jennie Ross Out for Harlem, Baltimore Afro-American, 24 September 1920.

"Four Hundred Women Organize," Baltimore Afro-American, 1 Oct. 1920, p. 16.

Baltimore Afro-American, 22 November 1913.

"State G.O.P. Youth Split Five Ways," Baltimore Evening Sun, 13 August 1936, p. 19.

Baltimore City Directory, "The First Colored Professional, Clerical, and Business Directory of Baltimore City,"1921-1922, accessed on Archives of Maryland Online.

Federal Manuscript Census, Baltimore, 1910, 1930, and 1940, entries for Jennie Ross. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.


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