The Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (ISFCWC) was part of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Lillian Thomas Fox, a leading member of the Indianapolis African American community, organized the federation on April 27, 1904, at Bethel Ame Church in Indianapolis as part of a national movement. ISFCWC began with 14 clubs and 42 delegates, affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC). Three ISFCWC presidents, one from Evansville and two from East Chicago, went on to lead the NACWC.

Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s Club, ca. 1927 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The ISFCWC’s founding purposes aimed to organize Black women’s clubs and promote Black community life under the motto: “Step by step we reach the heights.” The federation also pursued a civil rights agenda. It opposed lynching, racism, and discrimination, and championed equity in housing, education, employment, and healthcare. The federation’s local clubs pursued projects with the common theme of improving the quality of life for African American communities. Clubs raised scholarship funds for high school students to attend college, organized day schools and kindergartens, provided relief to flood survivors, and funded healthcare when African Americans could not access medical resources.

The federation’s membership peaked in the 1910s and 1920s, reaching as many as 89 clubs nationally and over 1,600 members. During the peak years, members purchased property at 2034 N. Capitol Street in Indianapolis, known as the Minor House (John and Sarah Minor originally constructed the private dwelling in 1897). The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Club and individual memberships fell off sharply during the 1930s and declined gradually thereafter, consistent with the women’s club movement nationally. By the 1980s, the federation had nearly disappeared. The federation remains active today as the Indiana State branch of the NACW.

Revised December 2022

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