Hester Whitehurst Jeffrey


Hester Whitehurst Jeffrey
1843 – 1934
First Unitarian Church of Rochester

  • Born circa 1843 to free Black parents in Norfolk, Virginia; was well-educated and an accomplished musician
  • Married Roswell Jerome Jeffrey in 1865; moved to Rochester, New York in 1891 and joined African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, where her father-in-law had been a well-known pastor
  • Joined First Unitarian Church of Rochester in 1895 while remaining a member at AME Zion
  • Collaborated with Ida B. Wells-Barnett and other Black leaders to organize the National Afro-American Council, a precursor to the NAACP, and was a major contributor to the effort that resulted in the construction of a bronze statue of Frederick Douglass in Rochester in 1899
  • Served as national organizer for National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (currently the Federated Women’s Clubs), and later as president of the New York State Federation
  • Established the Susan B. Anthony Club, including the Mothers’ Council to serve mothers with young children, and the Hester C. Jeffrey Club to support young girls seeking higher education by awarding scholarships to the Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Hailed by Susan B. Anthony’s biographer as “a woman of education and influence who was often at Anthony’s Rochester home,” the National American Woman Suffrage Association headquarters; gave a eulogy at Anthony’s funeral service in 1906; coordinated the placement of a stained glass memorial portrait window of Anthony for the new AME Zion Church
  • Was pictured on a flyer circulated in southern states from 1918 to 1920, identifying her as one of Susan B. Anthony’s closest friends and a staunch supporter of the women’s suffrage movement
  • Actively countered racism, serving as officer and state delegate for both Black and white organizations, especially the predominantly white Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and the Rochester Political Equity Club