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Lest We Forget: Elizabeth Lindsay Davis

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A Champion for the Rights and Improvements of Black Women and Girls

Elizabeth Lindsay Davis is an overlooked heroine of Peoria, IL. Davis came from a family involved in organizations fighting for Black Peorians' rights, including education and better housing. Davis' father, Thomas Lindsay, owned property and was Peoria's first market master selling goods in downtown Peoria. Lindsay was respected in the community for his tireless efforts to build the city of Peoria.


Davis traveled over 50 miles away to Princeton Township High School, which offered a better education. In 1873, Davis graduated with high honors and delivered the commencement entitled "The Past and Future of the Negro."


In 1893, Davis and her husband, Dr. William H. Davis, moved to Chicago. Davis became heavily involved in several Black women's organizations protesting discrimination. Davis was a national organizer for the National Association of Colored Women ("NACW"), which helped uplift women to the best of their ability. NACW's motto was "Lifting As We Climb." Prominent women that led the organization included Mary McLeod Bethune and Mary Church Terrell. The same year, Davis was the first secretary of the Ida B. Wells Club, founded in 1893. The club was instrumental in establishing the first Black orchestra in Chicago and the first kindergarten for Blacks in the Bronzeville neighborhood. 


Davis founded the Phyllis Wheatley Woman's Club in Chicago in 1896, named after the first published black poet in the United States in the 18th century. The mission was to provide homes and employment for women and families that left the south to come to Chicago during the Great Migration. In 1908, the Phyllis Wheatley Home for Girls opened at 3256 Rhodes Avenue and was later located at 5128 S. Michigan Avenue, which provided accommodations, education, and health services for over twenty women. Davis served as the club's president for 28 years.


In 1918, Davis was the official historian of the Illinois Federation of Colored Women's Club, preserving Black women's stories of hardship and triumph during the early twentieth century. In 1933, Davis published "Lifting As We Climb, the history of the Black women's club movement. Davis' other work includes writing for "The Crisis." In 1944, Davis passed away at the age of 88. The Phyllis Wheatley Home continued to function until 1967. Elizabeth Lindsay Davis advocated for the uplifting of Black women and girls throughout Illinois who had nowhere to go.


In 1989, Dr. JoAnn Tate purchased the Phyllis Wheatley home on Michigan Avenue. A not-for-profit, the Phyllis Wheatley Home Group will be a transformative oasis providing family-building skills to create stability within the Black family. "It will be a place where it is about Black families. We will teach them entrepreneurship, leadership, and charity," says Tate. 


The Phyllis Wheatley Home Group's goal is to develop skills for family continuity. It will display Blacks' strides from racial injustice, migration, and shortcomings to black excellence as the platform for Black Family Development. The Phyllis Wheatley Home Renovation will be a collaboration of community, private, and public entities.


To help support the Phyllis Wheatley Home, contact phylliswheatleyhome5128@yahoo.com


"It is fitting at this time that the Negro woman should take her part in the Century of Progress and prove to the world that she, too, is finding her place in the sun." - Elizabeth Lindsay Davis

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