Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Mary Goodwin, 1870-?

By Lisa Hendrickson, Independent Historian

Mary Goodwin was born in Virginia in 1870. According to the 1880 US Census, there were several Mary Goodwins born in 1870 & 1871 in Virginia, so the author was unable to verify who her parents were. The 1910 US Census shows that she had been married for 8 years and was living at 35 Hill Street in East Orange, NJ, working as a dressmaker (several newspaper articles confirm her address). Given that in 1910 she had been married for 8 years, she must have married in 1902, but it is not known who her husband was. In 1920 she was still living at 35 Hill Street.

She was very active in the New Jersey Federation of Colored Women's Clubs (NJFCWC). founded by suffragist and activist, Reverend Florence Spearing Randolph in 1915. In 1918, the NJFCWC became a branch of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) led by Mary Talbert. The NJFCWC mottos were "Lifting as We Climb" and "Work and Serve the Hour," which aligned with their focus on "uplifting" the status of African Americans as a whole. While being a non-partisan organization, members were encouraged to take action when pertinent issues arose which might affect its racial group. Beginning in 1916, its conventions covered many topics including suffrage, temperance, education, and race history.

In a pamphlet detailing the history of the NJFCWC called Our Heritage, it was noted that the theme of the first annual convention in 1916 was "Temperance and Women Suffrage" and featured national figures including Ray Nash of the NAACP, Mary Talbert president of the NACW, Madam C. J. Walker, and Dr. Mary Waring. Mary Goodwin was in attendance and was elected Chairman of Women Suffrage. Lilian Feickert, President of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association, spoke at the 1917 convention, as did Mrs. Addie Hunton, president of the Equal Suffrage League in Brooklyn, who gave a talk titled "Colored Women at Work in the United States". In 1917, Mary Goodwin continued as suffrage chairman and was elected a delegate to the 11th Biennial Convention of the NACW. As a member of the NJFCWC, she regularly interacted with key New Jersey African American activists and suffragists including Florence Randolph of Summit, Ida E. Brown of Jersey City, Musette Brooks of Newark, Armita Douglas of Newark, Ella Barksdale Brown of Jersey City, and Violet Johnson of Summit. In September 1920, colored women from across America were represented at the fifth quinquennial meeting of the International Council of Women held in Christiania, Norway and Mary Goodwin wrote an article for The New York Age summarizing woman's work in the world movement. The article began with the work of Sojourner Truth and Frances E. W. Harper and also covered the formation of the International Council of Women. At the 1922 NJFCWC Executive Committee Meeting held at the Monumental Baptist Church in Jersey City, she was noted as still serving as head of the suffrage department.

She was also active in the Mt. Teman A. M. E. Church of Elizabeth, NJ, serving as president of the stewardesses of the church. The author was unable to ascertain her date of death or where she is buried.

Sources:

US Census: 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920.

"Colored Women of State Closed Session Here Last Night," The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), July 28, 1917, pg. 9.

"Elizabeth, N.J." The New York Age (New York, NY), February 16, 1918, pg. 5.

"Notes", The New York Age (New York, NY), May 4, 1918, pg. 5.

Mrs. Mary Goodwins [sic], "Colored Women to International Body," The New York Age (New York, NY), August 7, 1920, pg. 1.

"Jersey City, N. J.," The New York Age (New York, NY), May 13, 1922, pg. 3.

New Jersey Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, "Our Heritage," Newark Public Library Digital Collections, https://ia801407.us.archive.org/15/items/Kukla035/035.pdf pgs, 8, 9, 10, 15.

"African American Women and the Drive for Suffrage," accessible online at https://blogs.libraries.rutgers.edu/womensuffrage/exhibits/show/womenssuffrage/africanamericanwomen

 

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