Born in 1867 in Providence to Henry and Amelia Jackson, Mary Elizabeth Jackson was a member of Pond Street Baptist Church and charter member of the Providence NAACP. One of the best known woman of color of her day, Jackson worked tirelessly to halt discriminatory practices and improve working conditions for women of color. A statistician at Rhode Island Labor Department, during WWI she was appointed as a Special Worker for Colored Girls on the YWCA War Work Council, analyzing employment trends and recommending programs to encourage fair employment of women of color across the country.
As an early advocate of the rights of working women, she wrote an article in NAACP’s Crisis Magazine in November 1918 entitled, “The Colored Woman in Industry” detailing the working conditions of many of the women in factories, the many industries that they were working in, and the hopeful future of colored women in industry. This forward thinking woman not only discusses the prejudice and poor working conditions these women faced, but also the inequality of wages between blacks and whites, and between men and women. Jackson was also a member of Rhode Island Colored Women’s Club, Anti-Lynching Crusaders, League of Women Voters, and Women’s Beneficial Association.
This is part of an ongoing series by Keith W. Stokes, Lead Researcher for the NPS Grant - Civil Rights in 20th Century Rhode Island.