In the late 1800’s, young Black girls and women looking to escape the dearth of opportunities for education and jobs in the south traveled north. In New York, the White Rose Mission was established by a pair of Black women activists who saw a need to subvert the men who often preyed on the new arrivals.
The White Rose Mission, also known as White Rose Home for Colored Working Girls, first opened its doors in 1897 by women authors and activists Victoria Earle Matthews (pictured) and Maritcha Redmond Lyons.
The Mission was located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York in a region formerly known as San Juan Hill. Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar’s first wife, Alice Dunbar Nelson, was also an instrumental figure in helping the Mission along.
The Mission’s main objective was to educate and train attendees for domestic jobs to work for middle-class families as it was one of the few jobs available to them. Despite the remedial nature of the job offerings, the girls and women were exposed to the arts and sciences, including the poetry and writings of Mr. Dunbar.
As the Mission expanded, it began reaching out to all Black families in need of help and education across the region. The building also housed one of the most impressive libraries of African-American literature of the time. The Mission was also a hub for social workers, lecturers and educators in search of a base of operations.
The Mission operated well into the 20th Century, closing its doors in 1984.