Mary Church Terrell

Address to National Council of Negro Women - 1 May 1938

Mary Church Terrell
May 01, 1938— Newark, New Jersey
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The Meeting of the National Council of Negro Women. Newark N.J. May 1, 1938

I wish I could give you a full account of a meeting which colored women held in Washington a fewws ago. They met to consider what they could to promote the welfare of our women and children. In the morning we met in the auditorium of the Interior Department and discussed the problems affecting us. In the afternoon we went to the White House and were most graciously received by that charming, broad-minded, generous-hearted wife of the President of the United States, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. She had invited to meet us the women who are heads of the women’s departments or bureaus.

For three hours we remained at the White House, colored women and white women talking together. Every now and then I saw Mrs. Roosevelt take her pencil and make a not of some statement which one of our women had made.

We stated that colored women do not participate in federal welfare programs of the Govt in proportion to their need. We beoieve, we said, that the reason this is so is because as a group we virtually excluded from the administrative offices of the various federal departments and bureaus which have charge of the programs for women and children. We stated that we are eager to contribute everything possible to the social advancement of our nation. And we stated quite franmly and emphatically that we could not do this so long as we are excluded from the full benefits of social welfare legislation.

For that reason we recommended that stage be taken immediately to include representative leadership among colored people in the various administrative posts, so that our women and children may participate fully in the various Government programs. This is the only way, we said, that the view point of our group can be properly presented and the only way that the special problems and difficulties confronting our women and children can be satisfactorily met and solved.

For that reason we asked that a capable colored woman should be placed in the Children’s Bureau, so that she may safeguard the intersts of our children.

We called attention to the fact that although there are at least 12,000,000 colored people in this country only one colored health officer is employed in the Bureau of Public Health Service. We asked, therefore, that the Bureau of Public Health Service employ an administrative officer, physicians, medical service workers, and nutritionists, so that the health needs of colored people may be adequately provided for.

Since many colored women are bread winners, and there is a largeer proportion of wage-earning women in our group than can be found in any other racial group we asked that a colored woman familiar with the labor problem and with both the economic and industrial situation of our group be appointed in the Women’s Bureau of the United States Department of Labor.

We recommended that a colored woman be appointed in each department or bureau which has charge of the education of women and children.

We called attention to the fact that the Red Cross is a national agency established to alleviate human suffering, but has no colored administrative officer and only one colored chapter. We therefore, requested the President of the United States, its ex officio head, to suggest to the American Red Cross that it should appoint a colored administrator, so that our group could participate in the activities of the Red Cross.

We commended also that a colored woman should be placed in an administrative capacity in both the Federal and the United States Housing Authority and that a colored woman should also be placed on the Social Security Board.

It was a wonderful meeting we had with the wife of the President of the United States and it shows how marvellously to what great proportions colored women have grown to be able to secure such recognition from the people who represent the the most important bureaus of the federal government.

Terrell, Mary Church. “Address to National Council of Negro Women.” Mary Church Terrell Papers. Library of Congress. 1 May 1938.