But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month. February is just the Blackest.
Today, our featured Black Educator is Gertrude E.H. Bustill Mossell.
Gertrude Emily Hicks Bustill Mossell was born in Philadelphia, PA on July 3, 1855. Her family was prominent in the city. Her great-grandfather, Cyrus Bustill, opened his own bakery in Philadelphia after serving as a baker for the troops fighting in the War of Independence. In addition, the Bustills were rooted in the tradition and work of abolitionism. Various family members worked along the Underground Railroad.
Sadly, Mossell lost her mother at a young age, and while her father’s work kept him away, he stressed the importance of his kids receiving the best education he could provide. She attended public schools in Philadelphia and eventually the Institute for Colored Youth and the Robert Vaux Grammar School. She gave a graduation speech titled “Influence,” which caught the attention of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, who published it in his national newspaper, The Christian Recorder.
After graduating, Mossell became a teacher, working seven years at schools in Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. Simultaneously, she wrote freelance on the side for various newspapers. As editor of the publication, Bishop Turner invited Mossell to contribute further writings to The Christian Recorder. This lit the fire of journalism for Mossell. She was a contributor to the Philadelphia Press, Philadelphia Independent, and Philadelphia Echo on issues related to African American women.
In 1883, Mossell married her husband, Nathan F. Mossell, the first African American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School and a leading African-American physician in Philadelphia. After having two children, Mossell took a hiatus from teaching and writing. She began writing again in 1885 when she became the woman’s editor of The New York Freeman (now the New York Age), the leading African American newspaper in the United States.
As woman’s editor, Mossell started a weekly column—the first woman’s column in the history of Black press—titled Our Women’s Department, dedicated to educating on how to care for a household and also to advocate for civil rights and influence her followers of the necessity of political involvement. Her work was exemplary. As a writer, she became the highest-paid newspaper woman, earning $500 a year. She also encouraged more women to become journalists as well as promoted the expansion of Black newspapers nationwide:
Mossell encouraged the growth of black newspapers and suggested that the African American press had a special mission within black America and therefore needed to excel in reporting and attempt to reach a larger audience.
In addition to her freelance work, she authored two books: The Work of Afro-American Women and Little Dansie’s One Day at Sabbath School. However, her greatest gift to her community was the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia. The hospital met the need for Black people yearning to enter the field of medicine and for Black people to be treated. Gertrude Emily Hicks Bustill Mossell died on January 21, 1948.
Gertrude Bustill Mossell; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.
For more information on Gertrude Bustill Mossell, visit the following site.