DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN)– National Votes for Women Trail through The Pomeroy Foundation, an organization whose mission is to celebrate community history, is honoring Ohio Suffragist Jewelia Galloway Higgins with a historic marker.
“She would go to the Dayton Courthouse on Mondays, babies in tow, and she would give speeches on suffrage movement and women’s right to vote,” said Jewelia’s great-granddaughter Patricia Smith Griffin.
Dayton Native Jewelia Galloway Higgins, born in 1873, started the Montgomery County Equal Association. For over 25 years, she was a trustee of the YWCA and a founding member, instrumental in obtaining their new building on S. Paul Laurence Dunbar. Her granddaughter Patricia Smith Griffin says nothing ever silenced Jewelia.
“Women and especially black women, were traditionally pushed to the background, but Jewelia was blessed to have a husband Rev. Charles Higgins who not only encouraged her work but he celebrated her work, celebrated her success,” said Smith Griffin.
Jewelia and her husband also founded the First Wesleyan Church, which has been serving Dayton for 180 years, all thanks to the United Daughters of Zion. A historical marker was unveiled Sunday evening to honor Jewelia, the First Lady of First Wesleyan Church, and her fellow trailblazers.
“It’s not just to commemorate the work of Jewelia Galloway Higgins but to commemorate the United Daughters of Zion,” said Smith Griffin. “One of our ancestors, Charity Davis was a member of that organization that founded this church so we are celebrating Jewelia and the history of First Wesleyan.”
Jewelia’s community work and philanthropy in Dayton drew the attention of civil rights activist Marcy Church Terrell, sociologist W.E.B. DuBois and educator Booker T. Washington, all to educate Dayton’s black community.
Sherri Goudy, the lead researcher behind this project, says she’s beyond positive that Dayton wouldn’t be where it is today without Jewelia.
“Without Jewelia Higgins, we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are today,” said Goudy. “It wasn’t just she was doing things in community, it wasn’t just she helped found the Colored YWCA, it wasn’t just she helped to bring the first Red Cross Chapter into Dayton and she was the First Red Cross nurse in Dayton, she was preserving her family’s history.”
Jewelia’s husband Rev. Higgins was a close personal friend to Paul Laurence Dunbar. Together, the three of them focused on advancing the literacy of Dayton’s black community.