Phillis Wheatley Association

Social worker Jane Edna Hunter established the Phillis Wheatley Association - originally named the Working Girls Home Association - in 1911 to provide support and a safe place to stay for young, unmarried African American women who had recently arrived in Cleveland from the South. The Association started as only a small boarding house, but thanks to charitable contributions it soon expanded. In 1927, it built the 9-story Emeritus House at 4450 Cedar Avenue where it is still located. The Association's activities expanded, too, with the opening of a daycare center, the Sutphen School of Music, and Camp Mueller during the 1930s.

Gradually, the Phillis Wheatley Association shifted its role, aiming its uplift efforts at not just young women, but rather the entire African American community. The Emeritus House became a widely used community center and a prime spot for social gatherings. The Association also began programs and services especially designed to appeal to youngsters and the elderly. Today, the Phillis Wheatley Association continues to play a key role in the community, providing social services and support to a large number of Clevelanders.

Video

The Camp Mueller Song Along with the provision of neighborhood services in Cleveland's urban core, the Phillis Wheatley Association established Camp Mueller in the 1930s to provide children a respite from city life. Camp Mueller is situated in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where it continues to operate under PWA management. Source: Center for Public History + Digital Humanities

Audio

A "Small Town" In A Big City Jacqueline Bradshaw, Executive Director of the Phillis Wheatley Association, discusses the surrounding neighborhood Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
A Refuge in a Segregated City Jacqueline Bradshaw discusses the important civic role the Phillis Wheatley Association plays in the local community Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Renovating Emeritus House Jacqueline Bradshaw explains the renovation of Emeritus House Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
The PWA's Early History Jacqueline Bradshaw explains the founding of the Phillis Wheatley Association Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
The Sutphen School of Music Jacqueline Bradshaw explains the foundation and purpose of the Sutphen School of Music at the Phillis Wheatley Association Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Adapting to Changing Needs Jacqueline Bradshaw recalls how the Phillis Wheatley Association has expanded its role in the community Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Children at Phillis Wheatley, 1951 Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Emeritus House, 1935 Jane Edna Hunter raised over $7 million dollars to build Emeritus House on Cedar Avenue. The building opened as the headquarters of the Phillis Wheatley Association in 1927. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Friendship Hunt, 1960 Throughout its history, the Phillis Wheatley Association has relied on the generosity of donors to achieve its goals. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Jane Edna Hunter, 1946 Jane Edna Hunter serving milk to children in 1946. She was the Association's executive secretary until her retirement in 1948. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Elderly Care, 1936 In addition to providing support for young African-American women, the Phillis Wheatley Association provided care for the elderly in the Central neighborhood. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Patty P. Tommie With Musicians Patty P. Tommie (standing), executive director of The Phillis Wheatley Association in the 1960s and 1970s, looks on as students at the Sutphen School of Music discuss a piece of music with their teacher. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Location

4450 Cedar Avenue # 1, Cleveland, OH 44103

Metadata

“Phillis Wheatley Association,” Cleveland Historical, accessed January 23, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/19.