Chicago: Donnohue & Henneberry, 1893. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine and front board. Professionally recased and retaining cloth from the original spine. Corners bumped and spine sunned; some marks to rear board. Endpapers replaced. Internally clean and unmarked. xvi, 17-365, [1, blank]: complete, including frontis and illustrations. A scarce book in any condition, this important African American women's biography is the only copy on the market and appears only once in the modern auction record, in 1948.
Sitting almost three decades after emancipation and three decades before woman suffrage, Noted Negro Women carved out space for the names and accomplishments of black women in the U.S. Participating in the tradition of female biography, Majors' compilation was "the strongest proof that we appreciate the high ground our sisters have reached, consequent of their tireless efforts for the good of humanity." Majors, himself a success story of emancipation, was a near-perfect candidate for publicizing these women's achievements. Born in Texas in 1864, he was able through the Freedmen's Aid Society to attend college and medical school, living and working in Texas, Tennessee, and California. Using his authority both within and outside of his own community, Majors educated American readers about all black women had achieved even in the face of enslavement and prejudice: 311 individuals in all, each with a profile written and submitted by another individual in the community. Among the biographies are names that today survive in fame or are gaining increasing attention as part of the expanding literary canon: the poet Phillis Wheatley, for example, or groundbreaking writers Frances Harper and Elizabeth Keckley. Some are women who established themselves in fields previously inaccessible to women, much less women of color: Dr. Carrie V. Still Anderson and Dr. Georgia E. L. Patton, medical doctors, and Mrs. Professor Wadkins and Miss Mattie E. Anderson, instructors in higher education. The women included were activists, educators, community leaders, doctors, reverends, musicians, artists, writers -- a wide range of talent and contribution among them, each capable of providing a role model to the next generation of girls. Concluding essays include on Girlhood and its Opportunities, by Katie D. Tilman, about the new doors open to African American girls; as well as The Negro's Triumph, which emphasizes advancements being made across the country. Ultimately, the tome begins the long process of writing women into history, and reshaping views of a community: "A race, no less than a Nation, is prosperous in proportion to the intelligence of its women." Very Good + (Item #3360)