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The Lawrence Women and the Lincoln Colored Home

The Lawrence Family had a long history of public service. In 1898 a unique home was established to serve a part of the community that had been previously excluded by other organizations. The Mary A. Lawrence Industrial Home later became incorporated as the Lincoln Colored Home with Mary A. Lawrence, Eva Monroe and Susan Lawrence Dana serving as the first officers. The home, as described by John A. Kumler in a fundraising appeal letter dated July 11, 1902, was “the only one of its kind in the State of Illinois.”

Local Artist Creating Documentary on Eva Monroe

I am creating a documentary film called Eva Carroll Monroe and the Lincoln Colored Home which will cover Eva’s entire life from 1868 to 1950. Although she was professionally engaged with the home from 1898 to 1933, she also had an interesting life outside of that. Her father was an enslaved person, Civil War veteran, and racial activist. Her mother died when she was 12, leaving Eva the oldest of eight children. She migrated to Springfield, Illinois when she was in her 20s and stayed here the rest of her life. During that time she became a probation officer, was actively involved in her church, led civic organizations, and traveled. After the home closed in 1933, Eva continued to live there until she was hit by a car and incapacitated.

Although Eva was a public figure, her personal life is an enigma. Thankfully, the Dana-Thomas House Foundation made available primary documents that offer a rare glimpse into Eva’s life. For instance, there is a 1912 handwritten letter from Eva to Susan Lawrence Joergen Dahl. This one-page primary document is so rich and relevant to my research. It is on Lincoln Colored Home stationery, so I can see the letterhead they used. Eva has beautiful penmanship and uses effusive language. Her literacy level is high with only a few spelling errors. Her passionate Christian faith and feelings about marriage are evident. Although she is writing to a wealthy white woman with some authority over her, her tone is affectionate and even humorous — as though she is writing to a comrade. (Another, handwritten letter from Susan to cousin Flora paints a far different picture of their professional and personal relationship.) Other important documents include deed, incorporation, constitution, bylaws, and expenses for the home. This information is invaluable and I want to thank Regina Albanese and Roberta Volkmann for making it available.

Eva’s life was directly and indirectly influenced by monumental historic events and people such as slavery, the Civil War, Frank Lloyd Wright, the Lawrence family, the 1908 Springfield race riots, the 1918 flu pandemic, women’s suffrage and the evolution of social service. There is still much I need to learn, so if you would like to contribute content to my research, please contact me via the website http://maryfrancesartist7.wixsite.com/lincolncoloredhome.

I am creating the film using PowerPoint and will be including a soundtrack of pioneering African-American female artists such as Elizabeth Cotten, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Mahalia Jackson, Dorothy Ashby, and Marian Anderson. The film will be available electronically via the internet and on DVD.

Susan Dana's Neighborhood Program, October 28, 7 PM. See events page. -- Updated tour hours on "Visit" information page.