The Shoulders We Stand On: A Reminder Why I Come to Work, Ready To Work Each Day


This 'REMINDER' (PHOTO BELOW) is engraved in the sidewalk right in front of my office at 518 West Main Street, Rochester, NY. It's 'A REMINDER' that my office is where a person who fought for MY and YOUR Opportunity once lived!

Hester C. Jeffrey, nee Whitehurst (c. 1842 - January 2, 1934, also known as Jeffreys or Jeffries, or Mrs. R. Jerome Jeffrey, after her husband) was an African American activist, suffragist, and community organizer in New York City. She is known for her involvement with the Political Equality Club, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs.


Jeffrey was born to free black parents, Robert and Martha Whitehurst, circa 1842 and probably in Norfolk, Virginia. She was educated, and was considered an accomplished musician. In 1860, Jeffrey and her brother and sister moved to Boston where they lived with her uncle, Coffin Pitts. She married R. Jerome Jeffrey in 1865. Her husband's father, the Reverend Roswell Jeffrey, was a political activist in Rochester. Jeffrey eventually moved to Rochester in 1891.

In Rochester, she became involved in the Political Equality Club and the Women's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.), She later became a national organizer for the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC). She served at various times as the National Organizer of Colored Women's Clubs, New York State President of the Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, County Superintendent of the W.C.T.U., Secretary of the Third Ward W.C.T.U., and Section President of the Needlework Guild of America.

Jeffrey helped create clubs for African American women, including the Susan B. Anthony Club for black women. This club worked towards women's suffrage and created a Mother's Council, to help women with small children. Other clubs she created were the Climbers and the Hester C. Jeffrey Club for young black women.The Hester C. Jeffrey Club helped raise money for young black women to take classes at what later became the Rochester Institute of Technology.

She served on the Douglass Monument Committee, which raised funds and commissioned the first monument to an African-American in 1897, a statue of Frederick Douglass, in his hometown of Rochester, New York. She was chosen to direct the music at its unveiling, as well as at the memorial service prior to it that would have included the unveiling, were the statue not delayed.

Jeffrey was friends with Susan B. Anthony and was often seen at Anthony's home in Rochester. Jeffrey was the only layperson to give a eulogy at Anthony's funeral service held in 1906. She had also been selected to represent on "behalf of the negro" at the funeral. The eulogy expressed both sorrow for Anthony's death and also praised her advocacy for women's suffrage. Jeffrey also created the first memorial for Anthony which was a stained glass window installed at the A.M.E. Zion church and unveiled in 1907.

Jeffrey moved back to Boston several years before she died, in order to live with her relatives. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett next to her sister, Phoebe Whitehurst Glover.
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