Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cleveland's Black History - Jane Edna Hunter

Jane Edna Hunter (1882-1971)

Jane Edna Hunter trained as a nurse before becoming one of the leading settlement house workers and institution-builders in the country. When she arrived in Cleveland in 1905 she could not find decent housing or professional work because of segregation laws and practices. Having no friends or relatives, her first residence turned out to be a place where prostitutes stayed. With the help of other women, she formed the Working Girl’s Home Association, which eventually became known as The Phillis Wheatley Association. The purpose of this voluntary association was to build a safe residence for the homeless, unprotected and working women and girls of the race. The first home was a 23 room facility that opened in 1913.

The demands upon the new home were amazing and its services had to be increased from housing girls and women to providing a cafeteria for them, finding work for newcomers, providing recreational activities for their leisure time and starting clubs and classes, such as those in home economics. A second more expanded facility opened in 1917. Known as the Winona Apartments, this eighty room building was located at East 40th street and central avenue.

Jane Edna Hunter founded the Women's Civic League of Cleveland in 1943. She established the Phillis Wheatley Foundation scholarship fund; the foundation later established the Jane Edna Hunter Scholarship Fund. She held executive offices in the National Association for Colored Women (NACW). In 1937 she was a nominee for the NAACP's Spingarn Medal. She was granted honorary degrees from Fisk University, Allen University in South Carolina, Central State University in Ohio and the Tuskegee Institute. In 1940 she penned her autobiography, A Nickel and a Prayer."

The Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Department of Children and Family Services building at 3955 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland is named in her honor. There is a Jane Edna Hunter Museum at the Phillis Wheatley Center at 4450 Cedar Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.

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