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Teacher, writer and women’s activist Hallie Quinn Brown was born on March 10, 1850 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of former slaves who in 1864 migrated to Ontario, Canada. The Brown family returned to the United States in 1870, settling in Wilberforce, Ohio. Brown attended Wilberforce College and received a degree in 1873. She then taught in freedman’s schools in Mississippi before moving to Columbia, South Carolina in 1875 where she served briefly as an instructor in the city’s public schools. By September 1875 she joined the faculty at Allen University. Brown taught at Allen between 1875 and 1885 and then for the next two years (1885-1887) served as Dean of the University. Brown also served as Dean of Women at Tuskegee Institute during the 1892-1893 school year before returning to Ohio where she taught in the Dayton public schools.
Brown had since childhood held an interest in public speaking. In 1866 she graduated from the Chautauqua Lecture School. By the time she began working at Allen University Brown was already developing a reputation as a powerful orator for the causes of temperance, women’s suffrage and civil rights. In 1895 Hallie Q. Brown addressed an audience at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Conference in London. In 1899, while serving as one of the United States representatives, she spoke before the International Congress of Women meeting in London. Brown also spoke before Queen Victoria.
Brown’s involvement in the women’s suffrage campaign led her to help organize the Colored Women’s League in Washington, D.C., one of the organizations that allied in 1896 to become the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). Hallie Q. Brown served as President of the Ohio State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs between 1905 and 1912. She also served as president of the National Association of Colored Women for four years, from 1920 to 1924. During her last year as president of the NACW, she spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Brown also became active in the election campaign of President Calvin Coolidge, working to deliver the vote of African American clubwomen to this former Massachusetts governor.
Hallie Q. Brown published four significant works during her lifetime. In 1880, Bits and Odds: A Choice Selection of Recitations
was published. Thirty years later, in 1910, she published Elocution and Physical Culture
. Brown’s First Lessons in Public Speaking
made its public debut in 1920. In 1926 her book Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction
appeared. This work profiled the leading African American women of the era and became her most popular work. Hallie Quinn Brown died in Wilberforce, Ohio in 1949.
Hazel V. Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
University of Washington