1925 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY 10026
Wilhelmina Ferris Adams (January 31, 1901 – May, 1987) , a native Floridian, came to New York City around 1901 when she was three months old. She was educated in the public schools and attended Hunter College.
"Willy" as her friends liked to call her, was considered to be a very beautiful woman. In 1924, she was crowned Queen of the Hotel Tattler's Ball and Beauty Pageant.
Her fund raising talents surfaced around the early 1920s when she served as Vice-President of the Utopia Neighborhood Club for several years and helped to raise the down payment on the Utopia House for underprivileged children. Concerned with Harlem's "forgotten aged", Miss Adams organized the Aeolian Ladies of Charity, Inc. in 1930. Around the same time, she succeeded in bringing Guy Lombardo, world renowned orchestra leader, to Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. She was also chairman of the Finance Committee of the Gibson Committee Relief Fund, which functioned before the advent of public welfare. In that capacity, she became the first black woman permitted the use of a booth in the main arcade of Grand Central Station, a privilege usually reserved solely for the use of Red Cross and American Legion representatives.
During her lifetime, Wilhelmina Adams pursued a number of careers. In 1927 she worked as a fashion expert and interior decorator for D. I. Hess and Company. She was also a florist and over the years operated several shops in various sections of Harlem including West 110th St., West 135th St., and 1925 Seventh Avenue.
For eight years, she worked as a supervisor in the Department of Welfare, resigning in February 1939. A few weeks later she became a Democratic candidate for the Co-Leadership of the 17th Assembly District because she felt that she could best help the black community through political speaking and organizing. In 1939 she was elected Co-Leader of the 14th Assembly District (formerly the 17th A.D., West Side), a post she held for five years. Her political achievements included chairmanship of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Convention and Co-Leadership of the 14th A.D. She also became the first woman to be appointed to the Law Committee of Tammany Hall, although she was not a lawyer. In July 1944, she was the first black woman to be appointed as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Wilhelmina Adams was also one of the organizers of the New York Urban League and worked closely with its first Executive Director, James Hubert.
Several organizations such as the Negro Actors Guild, Inc.; Prince Hall, Chapter #27, Order of the Eastern Star; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and The National Council of Negro Women claimed her as a member. She attended Abyssinian Baptist Church and was an avid supporter of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and the politics of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Wilhelmina Adams never married. She passed away in 1987.
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