|Perhaps it would have been more
appropriately titled "The Organizational Work of Black Baptist Women,"
chronicling as it does the formation of women's church groups in Kentucky, Alabama, Texas,
Georgia, South Carolina, and other Southern states. The groups were all founded to
do something "for the elevation of the race."
In line with the standard arrangement for persuasive discourse of this kind, the essay opens in the Bible. She began this essay with the New Testament and the women surrounding Jesus, to show that there had always been "work" for Christian women. Cook seemed to have assumed here primarily male readers as she described the activities of these various groups. She stressed in general terms the advantages of having women as helpmeets, assisting the men in all aspects of church work. Cook closed with an appeal that women be allowed to do more and be "made to feel that they too are personally responsible for the salvation of the world, and are enlisted to labor by the side of the men" (285: emphasis added). Cook was more interested here in writing a history that would establish the work of black Baptist women than in pushing ahead into new frontiers.
The texts coming out of the black Baptist women's movement centered on women and work represent only a small portion of the persuasive discourse from the organizational activities of church women at the turn of the century. For example, at the 1890 Convention, Virginia Broughton from Tennessee delivered a speech titled "The Ideal Woman," in which she argued for a separate women's convention (Broughton 100). Many other black Baptist women spoke at conventions, eventually organizing themselves into the Woman's Convention, auxiliary to the National Baptist Convention in 1900, under the leadership of Washington, D.C., born Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Broughton.
Women's Work: Racial Uplift as Home Uplift
Toward the end of the century, a number of conferences were organized to discuss "the Negro problem" or "the Negro question" in America.