Named after the inspirational slave poet Phyllis Wheatley, The Phyllis Wheatley Women’s Clubs and Homes engaged in a wide range of charitable, political, and social activities. The club provided lodging for women, homes for the elderly, job referral services, settlement housing, and recreation for young children.
During this time, Black women struggled to find decent housing and work, so the clubs provided services to help establish these women in urban society in the North. The first club was established in Nashville, Tennessee in 1895. Afterwards, others followed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1096; and Detroit, Michigan, in 1987. The Chicago’s clubwomen sought to rescue and protect young women from urban vices, and foster racial uplift and provide training in domesticity. Within a year, they purchased a building and opened the first Phyllis Wheatley Home for Young Women in the nation.
The Phyllis Wheatley Club started in Buffalo, New York, was founded by a social worker from Chicago. The club models that of the one in Chicago, Illinois. Buffalo women were similarly concerned with the negative racial stereotypes that dominated press coverage of the African American community.
Most of the clubs consisted of two models after the 1900s: those that were independent, and those that were considered colored branches of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). The clubs affiliated with the YWCA received financial support, but were supervised by the white board that technically had control over the club. In 1931, the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) formed its own Phyllis Wheatley Home Department, which provided the same services as YWCA-affiliated clubs in cities that did not have them.