She Raised Millions And Turned A Boarding House Into A Community Complex

Family Gathering for a group hug
Via Wikimedia Commons
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
November 9, 2021

In 1905, Jane Hunter sought housing in Cleveland, Ohio – but between being Black and unmarried, landlords refused to offer her residence. Outraged, she devised a plan – one that was dependent on a “nickel and a prayer.”

After years of laboring, with Hunter and friends each setting aside a nickel per week, Hunter was able to rent a home in 1911, within which she established The Phillis Wheatley Association. The PWA housed single Black women, providing residents with educational programming and training in domestic services. 

Community naysayers discouraged her – but Hunter understood the value of teaching these sessions, so they continued.

Between 1911-1927, through donations and her own determination, Hunter raised $7 million and built The Emeritus House, a 9-story building that became the PWA’s headquarters, establishing it as the nation's largest residence for Black women!

This upgrade allowed the PWA to expand their programming efforts to the entire local Black community, with a special focus on the youth and elderly. Today, The Emeritus House honors Hunter by continuing to provide communal social services.

Jane Hunter’s resilience was the foundation that built the PWA’s legacy; she was determined to see her community succeed. Like Hunter, when we root ourselves in our purpose and refuse to quit, we will not only persevere but positively impact others as we thrive!

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