During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a new type of woman appeared in the United States. She was educated, intelligent, and committed to improving her life, the lives of children and other women, and her community. She organized with other women into clubs dedicated to creating a better world. Although she was ridiculed by spokesmen for the status quo, especially men, the CLUBWOMAN became an important force for good.
Christina Richards, one of Sedalia’s leading African American women, exemplified the clubwoman who improved herself and her community. Christina Diggs married David Forest Richards on September 19, 1923. The couple had two children, Violetta and David, Jr. Some of Mrs. Richards’s club work was related to her husband’s activities. Mr. Richards was a veteran of World War I and involved in the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mrs. Richards was active in the VFW Ladies’ Auxiliary.
Mr. Richards was active in Sedalia’s organization of Prince Hall Masons, a Masonic group made up of African Americans. He was also involved in the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, a Shriners organization for affiliated with the Prince Hall Masons. Many of Mrs. Richards’ activities centered around the various female groups affiliated with the Prince Hall Masons. She was active in the Order of the Eastern Star and served as Grand Worthy Matron. In October 1967, she was honored for her work with the Queen City No. 47 Order of the Eastern Star, where she had been secretary of the group for seventeen years. Mrs. Richards served in other auxiliary groups, including the Order of Cyrene, the Heroines of Jericho, and Allah Court No. 6 of the Daughters of Isis, the women’s auxiliary of the Ancient Eqyptian Arabic Order of the Noble Mystic Shrine, a black Shriner’s group.
In addition to her work with the women’s organizations affiliated with the clubs her husband was involved in, Mrs. Richards was involved in her own right in many women’s clubs. She was active in Josephine Silone Yates Art and Charity Club, an organization of black women who raised money to equip Sedalia’s hospitals for African Amercians, made lap robes for nursing home residents, and studied literature and the arts in order to improve themselves. She helped organize the Federated Girls’ Club to involved girls and young women in charitable work. In the 1960s, she organized the Christian Richards Charity Club, a small group of local women who volunteered at Bothwell Regional Health Center.
Mrs. Richards’ work with local women’s clubs led to her activities in the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, an organization founded in Washignton, D.C. in 1896 to enable local black women’s clubs to have a wider influence. Their motto was “Lifting as we Climb,” a slogan that exemplified their work to raise “to the highest level the home life, moral standards, and civic life” by working together and helping others.
In the 1960s, Sedalia’s African Americans formed the Northside Citizens’ Association, a group of men and women who wanted to help the residents to Sedalia’s black community, then living primarily on the north side of Sedalia. Mrs. Richards was an active member. She was also involved in the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a group dedicated to assuring that the constitutional rights of all Americans, but especially those of people of color, are guaranteed.
A talented musician, Mrs. Richards played the piano at Taylor Chapel Methodist Church and was known for the quality of cantatas and musical programs she directed. She also played the piano at Burns Chapel Free Will Baptist Church.
In 1976, Mrs. Richards was nominated as a candidate for the DIANA Award, the Distinguished International Academy of Nobel Achievement. Even to be considered for the DIANA award is high recognition for a life dedicated to helping others.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.