“Called ‘a woman of rare force of character, mental alertness and of generous impulses’ by Booker T. Washington, Ruffin dedicated her life to bettering the lives of women and African Americans both locally and nationally.”

~ National Park Service

On August 31, 1842, in Boston, Massachusetts, John St. Pierre and Elizabeth Matilda Menhenick welcomed their daughter into the world.  The youngest of six children, the parents named her “Josephine”.  Her father, of African and French ancestry, was from Martinique and her mother was from England.  While Elizabeth led the domestic management of their home, John was highly esteemed as a leader in the African-American community of Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.  He attained great success professionally, as a tailor, and communally, having founded Boston Zion Church. 

Strong advocates of education, the parents sent Josephine to matriculate schools in both Charlestown and Salem, Massachusetts as well as in New York City.  Institutions in Boston were segregated and all too often, those servicing “Colored” learners were severely lacking in academic, financial and personnel resources essential to positive achievement and growth.  Josephine  graduated from the Bowdoin Finishing School in Boston, Massachusetts.

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