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Almira Dewing Steele

She quickly realized that not only was a school needed, but a home for scores of orphaned children roaming the streets of the city...
Lisa T.


Almira Dewing Steele

Ancestor: Almira Dewing Steele

Descendant: Lisa T.

Almira Dewing Steele was born in North Chelsea (now Revere), Massachusetts in 1842. She died in 1925.  The daughter of parents who believed in education, Almira became an educator, a wife and a mother. Her husband Walter Steele died in 1873. Although a successful businessman, he had suffered wounds in battle during the Civil War from which he never fully recovered. With the support of the American Missionary Society, Almira moved to South Carolina with her young daughter to open a school for African American children, which was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan.

Undaunted, Almira took her mission to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1882 where she quickly realized that it wasn't just a school, but a home that was needed for scores of orphaned children roaming the streets of the city, most of them African American. By 1889, Almira had The Steele Home for Needy Children up and running. The Boston-based magazine Education,  had published an article called "The Steele Orphanage – Tribute to a Worthy Woman and a Noble Cause – Origin and Success of the Colored Orphans' Home of Chattanooga" that was reprinted in the Chattanooga Daily Times on January 13, 1889, page 12. Her school and orphanage kept going through adversities of all kinds until her death in 1925.

An opinion piece published on November 11, 1948 in the Chattanooga Daily Times praises Almira Steele as a candidate for a place on the Honor Roll of the city's great citizens. It includes a republished letter by Almira describing her life's work. When I discovered this cousin, I was overwhelmed by her dedication, determination, bravery, strength of character, sacrifice and love of children. Almira faced death (her first school and orphanage in Chattanooga was also burned to the ground), public ridicule, lack of funds and lack of help, but throughout the years, she creatively found solutions to all these difficulties and was able to prepare hundreds of children for a chance at a successful life. has scores of articles about Almira S. Steele, her work, her school and her orphanage, including descriptions of how she sent many of the children to trade schools, colleges and other opportunities as they grew too old to be under her care. Almira's mother, Almira Sylvester, and my 3x great-grandmother, Susanna Sylvester (who married Philip C. Googins) were sisters, born in Halifax, Massachusetts. The photograph I've submitted is from my Googins' family photo album

Hers was a life-long struggle that she dealt with magnificently. What a woman!

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