Carrie Crawford Smith was an African American woman born in Tennessee in 1877. After being educated at Fisk University, a historically black university, she decided that her education was best used to ensure that other women of color were treated with respect. After moving to a Chicago suburb in 1918, she went on to found a successful employment agency that catered mainly to African American women.
Crawford Smith opened her business at the height of the African American migration from the southern states to the northern part of the country. As increasing numbers of women searched for work, Crawford Smith grew her business by becoming the area’s best agency for domestic employment. Along with this success, Crawford Smith insisted upon rules of decency and dignity for any person who employed her clients. This helped promote African American advancement and protected the women’s reputations.
She was greatly respected within the African American community for never wavering from her rules, even in the face of white employers who mistreated her clients. Crawford Smith upheld her strong morals and view of equality even during a time when African American women rarely worked outside of the domestic world, became educated, or ran businesses. Her courage and the influence she had on society and the women she assisted is an inspiration to any modern businesswomen.
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