“When we broaden our view, the landscape broadens.”
Ione Wood Gibbs, “Woman’s Part in the Uplift of the Negro Race,” The Colored American Magazine, April 1907
Ione Wood Gibbs was a prominent journalist and editor of the magazine Our Women and Children. She was a passionate advocate for temperance. She argued that Black homemakers held a unique position of power from which they would lead the struggle for racial equality.
When the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs denied admission to Black women, the Minnesota Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (MFCWC) formed in response. Gibbs became its first president in 1905. The MFCWC worked with other networks in the Black community, including churches such as Pilgrim Baptist in St. Paul and St. Mark AME in Duluth.
Gibbs catalyzed the growth of the MFCWC. From 1905 to 1922, membership increased tenfold. In the spirit of their slogan, “Lifting As We Climb,” the MFCWC improved the lives and protected the civil rights of Black Minnesotans. The MFCWC focused on anti-lynching issues, child welfare, housing, homemaking, and social services.
Under Gibbs’s leadership and after, the MFCWC chose not to prioritize suffrage or seek coalitions with suffrage organizations. This sparked disagreement with Nellie Griswold Francis, who advocated for votes for women and coalitions with suffrage organizations. Each side believed its strategy was optimal for improving the welfare of Black women and communities.
“Form Own Society: Colored Women to Have Federation of Clubs,” The Appeal, February 9, 1905. MNHS collections. Gibbs was elected the first president of the Minnesota Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.
Members of the Minnesota Federation in front of Pilgrim Baptist Church, St. Paul, 1907. MNHS collections. Pilgrim Baptist Church was a frequent meeting place for members of the Minnesota Federation of Colored Women Clubs.