Jane Edna Hunter
Jane Edna Harris

(1882-12-13)December 13, 1882
DiedJanuary 19, 1971(1971-01-19) (aged 88)
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Alma materBaldwin-Wallace College
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
OccupationSocial work
EmployerPhillis Wheatley Association
Known forWork for African-American children and families
Board member ofNAACP
Spouse(s)Edward Hunter
Parent(s)Edward Harris
Harriet Milner

Jane Edna Hunter (December 13, 1882 – January 13, 1971), an African-American social worker, was born near Pendleton, South Carolina. In 1911 she established the Working Girls Association in Cleveland, Ohio, which later became the Phillis Wheatley Association of Cleveland.[1][2][3][4]


Her parents were wage earners on the Woodburn Plantation Farm. After her father died in 1892, she did housework for local families. She began school at the age of 14, attending the Ferguson and Williams Academy in Abbeville, South Carolina. She graduated with an eighth-grade education in 1900. She returned to work as a domestic.[2][4][5][6][7]

She was briefly married to Edward Hunter, who was about 40 years her senior. She moved to Charleston, South Carolina. She began nursing training at the Cannon Street Hospital and Training School for Nurses. In 1904, she completed one year of training at the Hampton Institute in Virginia.[1][2][6]

She moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1905. In 1911, she founded the Working Girls Association to offer shelter, assistance, and education to women. The Phillis Wheatley Home was opened in 1911 with 23 rooms; Hunter worked with white leaders to expand the size and service of the facility.[8] In 1912, the Phillis Wheatley Home became the Phillis Wheatley Association of Cleveland, named in honor of the African-American poet Phillis Wheatley.[2][3][6]

In 1925, Hunter graduated from the Cleveland Law School,[1][9] which was then affiliated with Baldwin-Wallace College.[10][11] She was admitted to the Ohio Bar.[1][6] Hunter oversaw the construction of an eleven-story residence for black women, completed in 1927, that had beauty school, dining facilities, a nursery school and the Booker T. Washington playground.[8]

She had invested in Cleveland real estate and was active in the National Association of Colored Women. She also served as a trustee of Ohio's Central State University. In 1937 Hunter was awarded the NAACP's Spingarn Medal.[8]

She served as executive director of the Phillis Wheatley Association of Cleveland until she retired in 1947.[1][3] She wrote an autobiographical book entitled A Nickel and Prayer, which was published in 1940.[12]

She held honorary degrees from Allen University, Fisk University, Central State University and Tuskegee Institute.[1][3] She was on the board of directors and was a vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.[1]

Her health failed in the mid-1950s. She lived in a nursing home from the early 1960s until her death on January 13, 1971, in Cleveland.[2][3]


The Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services Agency named its principal building the Jane Edna Hunter Social Services Center to honor her work with children and families.[13] The Jane Edna Hunter Museum is at the Phillis Wheatley Center in Cleveland.[4]

Jane Edna Hunter: a case study of Black leadership is a book about her life.[14] Jane Edna Hunter was born Jane Harris in 1882.[8] She was a fair complexion woman, because her father was born to a slave and a Caucasian overseer.[8] As a young girl growing up Hunter felt that her lighter complexion made her greater than her dark skin mother, family friends, and friends.[8] It was not until her teenage years that Hunter started to embrace who she was as a black woman.[8] After receiving training as a nurse at several nursing schools, Hunter moved to Cleveland Ohio, where she was confronted with racism, in not being able to find a job in nursing, or housing accommodation at the local YWCA.[15] The YWCA, like many other foundations, was refusing to house Negro women migrating from the South.[15] Jane Edna Hunter decided to try to convince the white woman who was running the YWCA to establish a separate foundation for black women.[8] However many of the older Negro women were opposed, feeling that Hunter was starting self-segregation,[15] which then prompted Jane Edna Hunter "with a nickel and a prayer" to establish the Phillis Wheatley Association.[15] That functioned as an employment agency and a summer camp to help elevate African-American women and children.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Hunter, Jane Edna (Harris)". Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University and the Western Reserve Historical Society. Retrieved 2 May 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e Edgar, Walter (2006). South Carolina Encyclopedia. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press. pp. 467–468. ISBN 1-57003-598-9.
  3. ^ a b c d e Van Tine, Warren R.; Pierce, Michael Dale (2003). Builders of Ohio. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press. pp. 228–239. ISBN 0-8142-0951-3.
  4. ^ a b c "Jane Edna Hunter". Women in History. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
  5. ^ Badders, Hurley E. (2006). Remembering South Carolina's Old Pendleton District. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press. pp. 40–41, 65. ISBN 1-59629-197-4.
  6. ^ a b c d Bagby, Ellen. "African American Women in Education" (PDF). LP-MAJC-1. Midlands Technical College. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
  7. ^ "Jane Edna Hunter". Honorees. South Carolina African American History Calendar. March 1991. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hine, Darlene Clark, William C. Hine, and Stanley Harrold. "Chapter 16", The African-American Odyssey Combined Edition. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2010. 425. Web.
  9. ^ Mearns, Geoffrey (February 2006). "Equal access to educational opportunities: Our proud past and future challenges" (PDF). The Gavel. Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Marshall College of Law. 54 (4): 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
  10. ^ "CLEVELAND-MARSHALL LAW SCHOOL". Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University and the Western Reserve Historical Society. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  11. ^ "Baldwin-Wallace College Celebrates the Accomplishments of Our Alumni". News and Information. Baldwin Wallace College. Archived from the original on 5 September 2006. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
  12. ^ Hunter, Jane Edgar (1940). A Nickel and a Prayer. Cleveland, Ohio: Elli Kani Publishing Company.
  13. ^ "Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services Agency History" (PDF). Cuyahoga County Department of Human Services. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 17, 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
  14. ^ Jones, Adrienne Lash (1990). Jane Edna Hunter: a case study of Black leadership, 1910-1950. Brooklyn, New York: Carlson Publishing. ISBN 0-926019-18-X. Jane Edna Hunter: A Case Study of Black Leadership, 1910-1950.
  15. ^ a b c d Reviewer, Woodson, C. G (1941). [A nickel and a prayer, by J. E. Hunter], The Journal of Negro History, 26(1), 118–120.

Further reading