Mary Dickerson and her husband Silas arrived in Newport from New Haven, Ct. around 1865. By 1872 she established a “Fashionable Dressmaking Establishment” at 5 Travers Block along Newport’s Bellevue Avenue servicing the needs of Newport’s summer residents. Dickerson and her husband also owned numerous rental properties in Newport, providing housing and business space for Newport’s large African American community.
In 1895 Dickerson was a founding member of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Dickerson would also organized the New England Federation of Colored Women's Clubs that was later changed to the Northeast Federation of Women's Clubs. Mrs. Dickerson went on to become the first President of the Rhode Island Association of Colored Women's Clubs. In 1895 she also organized the Women’s Newport League still active today as one of the oldest women of color civic clubs. During her life, Dickerson was considered one of the most influential woman of color in the nation leading issues that promoted the social uplift of women, children and families.
This is part of an ongoing series by Keith W. Stokes, Lead Researcher for the NPS Grant - Civil Rights in 20th Century Rhode Island.