Super-hero (without the cape)

I have a new hero to add to my small list (which includes Mother Theresa, MLK, several kiddos I worked with at CPS, and Obama), and it amazes me that I did not learn a thing about her until now, in graduate school, in my 30's.

Her name was Gertrude Brown. She was an African American female born in 1888, and here is a teeny list of her MONUMENTAL accomplishments:

  • She founded the first hospital for African Americans in Charlotte, NC

  • She received her BS from Columbia University in 1923.

  • Headed the Phyllis Wheatley settlement home in Minneapolis

At the Phyllis Wheatley SH, Gertrude Brown worked miracles. It was originally set up for African American women and children only, but over time, it became a place for everyone, no matter the age, gender, or color of their skin. People from all over the country visited: Bo Jangles, Duke Ellington, Marion Robinson.

She was gutsy, persuasive, aggressive, and motivated to create endless opportunities for those in her community. She fashioned programs and events around the home in the neighborhood, and invited all of the children. What started out as a place for children to participate in sports or Boy or Girl Scouts, ended in a meeting place for educational workshops, churches, and human rights' groups. The home provided prenatal care, birth control, employment services, daycare services, a place to sleep, a place to get a meal, a library, a gym, education services, and health care services.

Sheer numbers alone show her success: in 1926, a total of 46,000 people had passed through the doors of the Phyllis Wheatley, and by 1927, the number reached over 5,000 people per month.

Gertrude not only created an atmosphere of success, but she built up her community and the future of those in the community. The consequences of her hard work were far-reaching: other settlement homes throughout the United States modeled their programs after hers.

I am sad that this strong woman made such an impact on the entire history of our country, yet, I never learned about her while growing up. Nothing in my history books about her. Nothing in my United States history class in college. How can this be?

1 comment:

TUWABVB said...

That's really amazing. I had never heard of her either and graduatiing CU, never mind in 1923, is quite an accomplishment! Thanks for the history lesson - it was needed!