Birth: April 28, 1912
Death: January 8, 2006
The first Black woman elected to Baltimore City Council
Founder – the Colored Women’s Democratic Campaign Committee
Founder – Baltimore Fuel Fund
Victorine Quille Adams (1912-2006) was a Baltimore Public School teacher, business manager of the Charm Center, Founder of the Colored Women’s Democratic Campaign Committee, Co-Founder of Woman Power, Incorporated, and first African American Baltimore City Councilwoman. She was a native Baltimorean whose contributions sought to improve political participation, economic opportunity and equity for all.
Born on April 28, 1912 to Joseph Quille and Estelle Tate Quille. Victorine graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1928 and Morgan State College in 1940. After graduating from Morgan State she entered the segregated Baltimore Public School system as a teacher. In 1943 Adams became one of five women who chartered the National Council of Negro Women Baltimore section. These women were influenced by Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the national organization, who was nearby in Washington, D.C.
In 1946 Adams founded the Colored Women’s Democratic Campaign Committee which encouraged black women to register to vote and recruited them to run for public office. Their efforts resulted in the election of two African Americans firsts: attorney Harry A. Cole as the first African American in the Maryland State Senate in 1954, and Verda F. Welcome as the first woman State Senator in Maryland in 1962. Welcome was the first black woman elected to a state senate anywhere in the nation.
In 1948 Adams opened the Charm Center, the only black owned and operated clothing store for women in Baltimore. She created Project Beauty and Charm, through the store, which was a six-week course offered to women over 18. Project Beauty taught its students to improve their poise, charm, and appearance.
Ten years later, in 1958 she and Ethel P. Rich cofounded Woman Power, Incorporated to mobilize black women for political action/ power, community involvement, and educational commitment. They believed that every woman could teach something and every woman could learn something. Men were welcome to join the Minute Men, an affiliate of the WP. Two notable male members were Carl Murphy the publisher of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper and Willard W. Allen, owner of an insurance company.
In 1966 Victoria Adams ran successfully for the Maryland House of Delegates. She resigned after a year and won a seat on the Baltimore City Council, becoming the first black woman to serve on that body. During her tenure she created the Baltimore Fuel Fund, a public-private partnership that raised money to provide impoverished families financial assistance for heating costs. The Fund was replicated in other cities.
Early during her career, she married William Adams on July 28, 1935. Their union produced no children, however, their philanthropy provided a number of African Americans the opportunity to pursuit higher education. On January 8, 2006 Victorine died from a poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma of the left parotid gland. She is buried in Arbutus Memorial Park in Arbutus, Maryland. She was 93 at the time of her death.
Baltimore Civil Rights Leader Victorine Q. Adams: The Power of the Ballot
Series: American Heritage
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: The History Press (January 21, 2019)