February 28: Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, Educators, 1964, 1904

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Anna Julia Haywood Cooper

Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

About this Commemoration

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was born about 1859 in Raleigh, North Carolina, to an enslaved woman and a white man, presumably her mother’s master. She attended St. Augustine Normal School and Collegiate Institute, founded by the Episcopal Church to educate African American teachers and clergy. There she became an Episcopalian and married George Cooper, one of her instructors, who was the second African American ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in North Carolina.

Widowed in 1879, Cooper received degrees from Oberlin College, and was made principal of the African American high school in Washington, D.C. Denied reappointment in 1906 because she refused to lower her educational standards. Cooper emphasized the importance of equal education for African Americans. An advocate for African American women, Cooper assisted in organizing the Colored Women’s League and the first Colored Settlement House in Washington, D.C.

At the age of 65, in 1925, Cooper became the fourth African American woman to complete a doctorate, granted by the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1930-1942, she served as President of Freylinghuysen University. She died at the age of 104.

Elizabeth Evelyn Wright was born in Talbotton, Georgia, in 1872. Her father was an African American and her mother of Cherokee descent.

With the encouragement of her teachers, Lizzie, as she was called, enrolled at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. She worked for the school during the day and attended night classes, but Olivia Washington, wife of the head of Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington, noted her promise and strength of character. Mrs. Washington made it possible for Lizzie to attend day classes.

Wright interrupted her studies and went to Hampton County, South Carolina, to establish a school for rural black children. Arsonists thwarted her efforts and she returned to Tuskegee to finish her degree, graduating in 1894. She returned to Hampton County to re-start her school, but once again her efforts were turned back. Together with two colleagues, Jessie Dorsey and Hattie Davidson, she ventured to friendlier territory near Denmark in 1897. There she started the Denmark Industrial Institute, modeled after Tuskegee. It continues today as Voorhees College, affiliated with the Episcopal Church.


I    Eternal God, who didst inspire Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright with the love of learning and the joy of teaching: Help us also to gather and use the resources of our communities for the education of all thy children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II    Eternal God, you inspired Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright with the love of learning and the joy of teaching: Help us also to gather and use the resources of our communities for the education of all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Proverbs 9:1–6

1 Timothy 4:6–16

Luke 4:14–21

Psalm 78:1–7

Preface of a Saint (3)

Text from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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15 thoughts on “February 28: Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, Educators, 1964, 1904

  1. Collect. I think that the LFF 06 collect prays better (though ‘that John Lavoe’will point out that it, too, does not have a ‘so that’ clause).

    The LFF 06 Collect:
    Almighty God, you inspired your servant Anna Julia Haywood Cooper with the love of learning and the skill of teaching: Enlighten us more and more through the discipline of learning, and deepen our commitment to the education of all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    [‘love of learning and skill of teaching’ (LFF) vs. ‘love of learning and joy of teaching’ (HWHM). ‘Enlighten us more and more through the discipline of learning, and deepen our commitment to the education of all your children’ (LFF) vs. ‘Help us also to gather and use the resources of our communities for the education of all your children.’ (HWHM.] Is it just me?

    Bio. Throughout this bio the term: African American – capitals with no hyphen – is repeated. This is not consistent throughout HWHM. And, in the last paragraph ‘rural black children’: Black is not capitalized. This is not consistent through HWHM either.

    3rd paragraph: Was Ms Cooper really the fourth African American woman in the whole world to complete a doctorate? Or just the fourth African American woman to complete a doctorate at the Sorbonne? That sentence is not clear one way or another.

    6th paragraph: Ms Wright ‘… ventured to friendlier territory near Denmark in 1897.’ I know you mean Denmark, South Carolina, but you had best say it. She also needs a ‘She died in 1904.’statement.

  2. A quick web search seems to indicate that Ms. Cooper was the fourth African American female to earn a Ph.D. from anywhere, not just the Sorbonne.

  3. I think a lot of rewrite is in order. Other than one being married to a priest and the other starting Vorhees, there is virtually nothing about these descriptions that connects them to Christianity. Right now, they are just good people.

  4. re Black/black etc – I repeat my strong advice that the commision set up a style book for HWHM to settle these inssues consitently. I would advice looking at the Chicago Manual of style, the style books of The NYTimes and the WPost, who have to know their correct style daily. The I would note in the introduction that such a style book was used and direct readers to a copy of it on this website. On issues like Native American/indigenous people, the style book should show not only the correct usage, but offer a brief rationale. This will not please all of the readers all of the time, but vacilation is even worse, and is both annoying and distracting.

  5. I agree with Cyynthia. I hadn’t heard of the Chicagoi Manual of Style before she mentioned it a few commemorations ago, but found out more on the internet. — “Le vers le mieux rempli, la plus noble pensee, ne touche pas a l’esprit quand l’oreille est blessee (accents missing, I’m not on my home computer). I think Boileau said it, Literal translation: “the most-fillled-verse (with ideas), the noblest thought, doesn’t touch the mind when the ear is wounded.”

  6. Incomplete sentence, second paragraph, NEEDS to be fixed (print edition, too):

    “Denied reappointment in 1906 because she refused to lower her educational standards.”

    I think this is what they call an antecedent clause without a ride to the prom.

  7. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, Educators, 1964, 1904
    I want to underline Michael’s point about adding the state name to “Denmark” – how would anyone know if the “friendlier territory” were Denmark, Denmark, or Denmark, South Carolina? (All the more so, when Mrs. Cooper went from North Carolina to Ohio to D.C. to France without much comment here.) From the name, Frelinghuysen University, I thought maybe she moved from France to Germany before finding out the latter is in Washington, D.C.
    (As an aside, I found this online about Cooper’s home and Frelinghuysen, in Washington, D.C.: “Before the university purchased 1800 Vermont Avenue (formerly the home of Edwin P. Goodwin, an insurance agent) they operated the school out of private homes and businesses around the city. The university only used the house for 6 years, from 1921 to 1927, as classrooms. They then operated out of a larger house at 601 M Street NW, and then the home of Anna Cooper at 201 T Street, NW. . . . In 1940 the university became the Frelinghuysen Group of Schools for Colored Working People under Anna Cooper. The institution dissolved in the late 1950s.”)
    I also want to pick up on Kevin’s comment. I see it as tremendously important, in light of our baptismal theology, that lay people are featured in HWHM, without which it turns into a cross between “Who’s Who” and “Crockford’s.” Kevin rightly notes that there is “virtually nothing about these descriptions that connects them to Christianity. … they are just good people.” Martin Thornton, somewhere in his book “Christian Proficiency” affirms that it is acceptable and normal that many lay people’s role in “the church gathered” be limited but regular and heartfelt, finding their ministry callings primarily in the “outside” world, not circumscribed or defined by church committees,organizations, projects, classes, guilds, etc. (This is my summary from memory, not a quote or close paraphrase.) So the issue for HWHM is always, how do we NOT neglect their faithfulness to the baptismal covenant and their life in Christ, while also highlighting their contributions as part of “the church scattered.” I have to agree with Kevin’s point, that this write-up doesn’t include that element. I do expect it exists and still needs to be expressed, however. And, it’s our task to express it not only in this particular commemoration, but in every case where it is part of someone’s active contributions that take place beyond the four walls of the church (literally, and in terms of officially organized ministries). The flip side of that is, we shouldn’t only look, or expect to find it, in typically “church-bound” parameters. This particular write-up does the latter (their contribution beyond church) very well, but not the former (highlighting their connection to the church gathered). The baptismal covenant doesn’t ask us to become church mice or SNL’s character from yesteryear, “Churchlady”. It asks us, among other things,
    Celebrant – Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
    People I will, with God’s help.
    Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human
    People I will, with God’s help.
    All the readings selected are very good. See my “proxy vote” in Michael’s comments, about the collect (the new one and the former one). The lack of meaningful petition, AND the lack of meaningful “so that” clause, weakens the effectiveness of both prayers (new and old). This petition seems especially trivial, like asking God to host a curriculum fair, then resolving nothing except an airy wish for “quality education.” It’s not exactly a breakthrough vision of transforming and empowering ministry in the community.

  8. John LaVoe picked up well on my point. I know both of these women were faithful Christians, but nothing about this writeup makes it seem like they considered their work in education to be ministry. It may be even more important to make the explicit connection that their work is a way of living out of their Christian identity when the people we highlight are lay people because there are lots of good people in the world’s history who are not Christians; let’s make sure the ones on our calendar are recognizable as showing Christian witness.

  9. Lots of good points above, I think. I’m not clear, though, why a layperson’s work in the world doesn’t count as “ministry” unless that person uses the word at some recognizable point. (For instance, Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was very explicit to a congressional committee that funded public TV that what he was doing was a “ministry to children” and he made it clear other places, too. And he really was an ordained Presbyterian minister. But would he have called his work “ministry” back then if he hadn’t been an ordained minister? The term “lay ministry is fairly recent, I think. I first heard about it in the mid 1970s)
    HOWEVER, mission and ministry in TEC today do seem to have left out anything other than “good works” in their identification. I’ll have to look at the Virginia Theological Seminary’s website again to be sure of this, but verbal Christian witness to the Gospel is not included in their definition of ministry in the world Anglican Communion). Could this omission of verbal witness to the Gospel as a part of explicitly Christian ministry be part of what some of the comments above be alluding to?

  10. My comment is about the writeup, not the lives of these two remarkable women. I don’t really care if they were making some kind of verbal witness or not; their ministry as educators is enough for me.

    However, I do care that we somehow identify them as actually being Christians. At least the info about Cooper mentions she was an Episcopalian and married to a priest. That is still pretty skimpy information. We have even less about Wright; the best we get is that her school at some point becomes connected to the Episcopal Church (possibly even after her death).

    Were they active in their churches? Did they write anything that says this was ministry to them? Do we know anything that makes this connection. I am sure we do; why isn’t it here? This is a church calendar, not an African American History calendar. Our write ups should reflect that particular bent.

  11. Since Anna died on February 27, I suggest this commemoration be held on that day. (Evelyn died on December 14, so these women would need to share that date with John of the Cross: I suggest 2/27 is preferable.)

    Line 1, first paragraph: substitute “on August 10, 1858” for “about 1859”. (Various sources are definite about Anna’s date of birth as being on that day.)

    Line 3, second paragraph: add “In 1892, her book A View from the South was published.” after “D.C.”

    Line 4, third paragraph: add “on February 27, 1964” after “died”.

    Line 4, third paragraph: substitute “105” for “104” (if the 1858 date of birth is accepted.)

    Line 1, fourth paragraph: substitute “on April 3” for “in”.

    Line 1, sixth paragraph: substitute “Lizzie” for “Wright”.

    Add a final paragraph: “Lizzie died on December 14, 1906, in Battle Creek, Michigan.”

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