Grace Booth Valentine

 

Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Grace Booth Valentine, 1879-1950

By Lisa Hendrickson, Independent Historian

Grace Booth was born on November 23, 1879 in New Haven, CT, the first-born child of George Christopher Booth and Eudora "Nellie" McLinn Booth. She had a sister Eleanor (1882-1979) and a brother George Chester Booth MD (1893-1929). Her brother George received a degree from University of Michigan in 1914 and a D.D.S. from Northwestern University Dental School in 1916. It is not known Grace's educational history or her early work history. The 1900 federal census shows her still living in New Haven, but by 1904 she was living in Indianapolis, IN.

On August 10, 1907 Grace married William Robert Valentine Sr. (1879-1954) in Marion, IN. The couple had two children, William Valentine Jr. (1914-1979) and Dorothy (1910-1964). William Sr. was born in Virginia and reared in Montclair, NJ. He graduated from Harvard University with classmate Franklin D. Roosevelt and received a master's degree from Columbia University and an honorary degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. After graduating, he served as a principal for a public school in Indianapolis, IN. In 1915 the couple had moved to Bordentown, NJ where William Sr. became the principal of the Bordentown Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth (BMTIS), a position he held for 35 years. Grace was named matron of the school. The school was known as "Tuskegee of the North" because of its dual focus on students obtaining a solid academic program with practical work experience. Through their work at the school, the couple interacted with prominent African American educational leaders including Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois. Ethel Cuff Black, a Delaware suffragist who marched in the 1913 Suffrage March in Washington DC and was one of the founders of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, was a graduate of the school. The school is currently on the National Register of Historic Places and the oldest of the girls' dormitories was named Grace B. Valentine Hall in 1951.

Grace was an active member of the New Jersey Federation of Colored Women's Clubs (NJFCWC), which was led by prominent activist and suffragist Reverend Florence Spearing Randolph. 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.

Grace attended numerous annual NJFCWC conventions. She was a featured speaker at the 1916 event titled "Temperance and Women Suffrage" along with national figures including Ray Nash of the NAACP, Mary Talbert, president of the NACW, Madam C. J. Walker, and Dr. Mary Waring. In 1917, Lilian Feickert, President of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association,

spoke at the second annual 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." Grace, chairman of the education committee, also addressed the convention, urging the club women to get in closer touch with public schools. The 1918 convention was held in Bordentown and Grace served as convention chairman. Over the years she served on the NJFCWC executive committee in several positions including education committee chair, financial secretary, treasurer, and president from 1933-1937. At their meetings and conventions, she interacted with other prominent activist/suffragists from across New Jersey including Florence Randolph of Summit, Ida B. Brown of Jersey City, Musette Gregory of Newark, Armita Douglas of Newark, and Violet Johnson of Summit.

In 1921, the NJFCWC created a scholarship honoring federation member Musette Brooks Gregory, a fellow NJ activist/suffragist. Musette was the sister-in-law of James Francis Gregory, a former dean of Howard University, who was the first principal of BMTIS in 1897, serving until Grace's husband, Dr. Valentine, took over in 1915.

Grace died on May 29, 1950 and is buried at Mt Hebron Cemetery in Montclair, NJ. William Sr. passed away in November 1954 and was also buried at Mt. Hebron Cemetery. He was described as a "wise counselor, a valuable public servant and one whose life was devoted to helping others."

Sources:

U.S. Census: 1880, 1900, 1910

Marion County IN Marriage Records 1805-1967

U.S. City Directories 1822-1995

"James F. Gregory," Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, PA), August 12, 1911, pg. 6.

"State School for Negroes," The Montclair Times (Montclair, NJ), July 10, 1915, pg. 8.

"Women's Federation of Jersey to Meet," The New York Age (New York, NY), July 20, 1916, pg. 5.

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

"New Jersey Federation," The New York Age (New York, NY), March 9, 1918, pg. 5.

"Plainfield Woman Elected Financial Secretary," The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), August 1, 1921, pg. 4.

"New Jersey Women Hold Annual Session," The New York Age (New York, NY), August 6, 1921, pg. 2.

"Mrs. W. R. Valentine," The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), May 31, 1950, pg. 40.

"Mourners for Dr. Valentine," The New York Age (New York, NY), November 13, 1954, pg. 3.

It Happened Here: New Jersey, The Bordentown School https://nj.gov/state/historical/assets/pdf/it-happened-here/ihhnj-er-bordentown.pdf

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. 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15.

Journal of Social History, https://academic.oup.com/jsh pgs. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

 

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