The Spirit of Nannie

The Spirit of Nannie
by LaTonya Branham

Women, beautifully dressed in unison with a common theme, mission, and scripture verse, gather annually at their church – many unknowingly, in the spirit of Nannie. This spirit was actually a vision brought to life in the early 1900s by author, educator, businesswoman, lecturer, and religious leader – Nannie Helen Burroughs from Virginia. Totally committed to the development of women – both young and old – Ms. Burroughs took a bold step in 1901 by requesting that the role of women in foreign mission and job training be addressed by the church. She wanted a more significant role for women and was not afraid to present her vision at the National Baptist Convention in Richmond, Virginia.

One of her accomplishments as the founder of Women’s Day - 100 years later - still exit today throughout many churches across the United States and abroad. We can only imagine the faith and fortitude it took for Burroughs to assert her dreams before a convention of leaders who perhaps looked down upon such a request from a woman.

Even though she is credited for advancing the role of women in the church, Ms. Burroughs acknowledged her own mentors, which included Mary Church Terrell and Anna Julia Cooper. Both of these dynamic women committed their lives to education and social change. Cooper, Terrell, and Burroughs are founders of major organizations. The National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls founded in 1909 by Burroughs was later re-named in her honor. She also helped to establish the National Association of Colored Women. Ms. Burroughs’ message was very clear. She set out to establish a school and train young women to become contributors to mission projects, earn their own wages, keep their homes in order, and maintain moral values – while committing themselves to a life of service and development of character for all Christian women.

It is easy to become inspired by Nannie Helen Burroughs because she personifies the kind of woman who rejects excuses for not becoming the best that you can be – then takes a stance by articulating and creating an environment where dreams become reality. Of course, life is filled with challenges that often block our way toward achieving our goals – or even ‘just making it’ day by day. After witnessing how we are increasingly so quick to tear each other down rather than building up one another, it becomes apparent that in this day and age, we could use a dose of Nannie’s spirit - not only for women, but for men and children as well. Our children are learning and displaying adult behavior at an earlier age - oftentimes in a negative way. I believe that we owe our children the opportunity to see and experience a better way of life.

Exercising our faith has become more critical because the challenges are mounting – health issues, financial crises, prison rates, family members at war, a lack of education, and morally bankrupt. It is possible to stop pretending that all is well, or acceptable. In my assessment, the era of “anything goes” should cease. We make it harder on ourselves and society when “anything goes.” Ignoring our own needs and the needs of others is damaging – and in many cases becomes irreparable if the result is death. Life was not meant to be that way. Our conduct, our words, and our actions must flow from love. Love for ourselves, our families, our community, and our environment. A commitment to improving ourselves and the lives of others is truly the essence of Nannie Helen Burroughs' life.


LaTonya Branham is an author, college administrator, and adjunct professor at Central State University in Ohio. Her latest book released December 2007 is entitled Spirit Seek: Words from Scriptures That Transform Your Life. Visit her web site at E-mail can be sent to Her books can be purchased online and wherever books are sold.

LaTonya Branham, Author
CultureSeek - ISBN 13: 978-0-9787296-0-8
Spirit Seek - ISBN 13: 978-0-9787296-1-5


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