A group of black women, wives of prominent black leaders in Nashville’s church, business, and professional arenas, organized the Phillis Wheatley Club in 1895. The club, established its headquarters at the AME Publishing House on the public square in Nashville, supported missions in Africa as well as charitable outreach work to the needy in Nashville.
Active primarily from 1895 to 1925, the Phillis Wheatley Club was affiliated with the National Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, and in 1897 Nashville’s Phillis Wheatley Club hosted the first meeting of the National Association of Colored Women. Along with other progressive organizations in the black community, the Phillis Wheatley Club worked to raise money and to encourage the school system to provide better equipment for Nashville’s African American high school. Along with Nashville’s black newspaper, the Globe, the club also campaigned for better treatment of African American inmates in state and local prisons.
Like many other progressive organizations sponsored by women, the Phillis Wheatley Club worked among, as one of their publications reads, “the sick, the poor, the unfortunate, and the aged.” In 1907 the club designated departments, creating the group’s basic organization. Members served in either the Temperance, Social Purity, Educational, Charitable, Mother’s, Literary, or Industrial Department. Under the leadership of Mrs. Lewis Winter, the Charitable Department distributed food baskets and donated clothing and shoes to Nashville’s poor. The club sponsored a daycare for children who were left unattended by working parents. Club members also volunteered at Mercy Hospital, maintaining the Phillis Wheatley Room. In 1921 the club decided to purchase and maintain a home for aged women; it completed this priority project in 1925.