African Methodist Episcopal Zion (A.M.E. Zion), that is! This one in Summit was the home base of Florence Spearing Randolph, Awesome Lady Extraordinaire.
Randolph was a major figure in local women’s history in the early 20th century. She started life as a dressmaker in South Carolina, but moved north in 1885 (when she was 19) as soon as she discovered that New Jersians would pay more for their dresses.
From 1897 through 1903, she left dressmaking behind as she became a full-fledged preacher, deacon, and elder. With these new responsibilities, Randolph began moving from church to church in NJ and NY, giving these congregations spiritual and financial leadership.
She landed in Summit’s Wallace Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in 1925, and remained there until she retired in 1946, longer than she stayed at any other church. When she started, the congregation met in a local YMCA; it later moved into the living room and dining room of a nearby home, and finally into a permanent structure (above), built in 1935-1937. Randolph was pivotal in raising funds for its construction.
A few other highlights from Randolph’s life-list:
- 1892: Joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (the organization responsible for establishing the Summit Opera House).
- 1911: Founded the Supply Department of the Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society, and served in various lead roles.
- 1915: Organized the New Jersey State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.
- 191*?: Member of the Executive Committee of New Jersey’s Suffrage Association.
- 1920: Invited by the chair of the NJ Republican Party to help with Warren G. Harding’s presidential campaign (because she was so influential with the Suffrage Association).
- 1933: Was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity from Livingstone College.
It’s people like these who make me reevaluate my own life, y’know? Wow.
On an unrelated note, hey, we’re done with the alphabet! I think we’ve seen the last of this for a little while.
Hageman, R.A. (2004). “The Rev. Florence Randolph: Pastor of Wallace Chapel Helped Spearhead Women’s Suffrage.” The Summit Historical Society. http://www.summitnjhistory.org/Historian_Florence%20Randolph.php
New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail. (n.d.). Women’s Heritage Trail. Department of Community Affairs: New Jersey Historic Trust; Department of Environmental Protection: Historic Preservation Office. [Informational plaque.]