Women’s Organizations

What was the White Rose Mission?

Victoria Earl Matthews (1861–1907) and Maritcha Lyons (1848–1929) founded the White Rose Mission on February 11, 1897. Matthews was the organization’s first superintendent. Its mission was a home for black girls and women, the purpose of which was to train them for “practical self-help and right living.” The home operated from the San Juan Hill district in the Manhattan section of New York City and provided food and living quarters for Southern and West Indian migrants. Matthews was born in Fort Valley, Georgia, one of nine children of a slave mother. Her mother relocated to New York after emancipation, taking with her the only two of her children that she could find. Although she had little formal education, Matthews was an avid reader and took advantage of every opportunity to grow intellectually and culturally. She used the pen name “Victoria Earle” and wrote a number of works. She became founder and first president of the Woman’s Loyal Union of New York City. Lyons, an educator, writer, and lecturer, was born a free black in New York City. After graduating from high school, she became a teacher, since a high school education, at that time, qualified one to teach. She taught in the Brooklyn schools for forty-eight years and later became an assistant principal and teacher trainer. She was also active in the women’s club movement.

Dorothy Height is shown here presenting former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with the Mary McLeod Bethune Human Rights Award in 1960. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957 to 1998.


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