Ora Brown Stokes was an influential leader in Virginia. She spent the majority of her life working on improving the lives of African American women and young girls.
Stokes was born in born in Chesterfield County and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She was the daughter of Rev. James E. Brown and Olivia Knight Quarles Brown. After completing high school, she trained as a teacher at Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, graduating in 1900. She also studied at Hartshorn Memorial College and the University of Chicago. In 1917, she was refused admission to the New Richmond School of Social Economy because of her race.
After completing her formal training, Stokes taught school in Milford, Virginia for two years, before marrying and taking up the work of a pastor’s wife. In 1911, she addressed the Hampton Negro Conference on the topic “The Negro Woman’s Religious Activity.”
In 1912, she started the Richmond Neighborhood Association to help black working women, and it quickly expanded to support a nursery, a residence for young girls, and other community services. For twenty years she was employed as a probation officer with the Richmond City Juvenile Court. She organized the National Protective League for Negro Girls and a local chapter of the Council of Colored Women.
Stokes was also president of the Southeastern Section of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and the Virginia Negro League of Women Voters. In 1948, Stokes was married again, to physician and hospital administrator J. Edward Perry, the widower of Fredericka Douglass Sprague Perry. She died in 1957, at the age of 75.