Fern Gayden


Fern Gayden
September 29, 1905 – May 27, 1986
All Souls Unitarian Church (Chicago)

  • Born in Dunlap, Kansas; educated at Kansas State Teachers College
  • Moved to Chicago in pursuit of a law career; worked briefly as a stenographer
  • Attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern University; was employed as a caseworker at the Cook County Department of Welfare
  • During her 50-year career as a caseworker, met Richard Wright while she was assigned to his family; joined Wright’s South Side Writer’s Group in 1936 as one of its original members
  • Was instrumental in attempts to form the first Chicago social workers’ union
  • Co-published Negro Story magazine with Alice Browning; was among the contemporaries of Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Burroughs, Margaret Walker, Grace Tompkins and Alice Browning in 1930’s and 1940’s Chicago, earning her reputation as one of the foremost literary, fine arts, and political activists of the Chicago Renaissance
  • Organized and presented at the Interracial South Side Cultural Conference in 1944
  • Was a co-founder of All Souls Unitarian Church in the 1940’s, a congregation focused on interracial cooperation
  • Member of the Jean Baptiste Point DuSable League and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
  • As President of the South Side Community Art Center for nearly 10 years, revived the center’s membership and programs