|Victorine Quille Adams (1912 - 2006) was the first African American woman elected to the Baltimore City Council. She served four terms from 1967 to 1983. Her tenure on the City Council inaugurated the continuous presence of African American women in Baltimore City politics. A native of the city, she sought to improve political representation, civic participation and economic opportunity for all Baltimoreans.
Born on April 28, 1912 to Joseph Quille and Estelle Tate Quille at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Victorine attended Robert Brown Elliot School #104, Frederick Douglass High School, Coppin Normal School and Morgan State College. All of these public institutions were created for "colored" people. In 1943 Victorine, Kate Sheppard, Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Vivian Alleyne, and Emma Dudley chartered the National Council of Negro Women Baltimore Section. These women campaigned for equity within the military during WWII.
In 1946, five years after Maryland ratified the 19th amendment, Ms. Adams founded the Colored Women's Democratic Campaign Committee. The CWDCC's motto was "if democracy is worth fighting for its worth voting for." Its initiative welcomed all, registered all, and enlightened all interested in placing more women in politics. Its first campaign resulted in the election of Harry Cole to Maryland State Senate. Judge Cole was the first African American elected to the State Senate in Maryland. The CWDCC mobilized support for Verda F. Welcome resulting in her election as the first African American woman in the Maryland Senate in 1962.
In 1948 Ms. Adams operated the Charm Center. It was the "only black owned and operated" clothing store for women in Baltimore. She initiated Project Beauty and Charm, a six-week course offered to female residents ages 18 and older. Project Beauty was designed to instill the confidence necessary for success in the public square, providing coaching in poise, presentation and deportment.
On August 19, 1958, she and Mrs. Ethel P. Rich co-founded Woman Power, Incorporated (WP) with the goal of mobilizing Black women for political action/power; community involvement and educational commitment. WP's motto was "each one, reach one; each one, teach one". They believed that every woman could teach something and every woman could learn something. Men were welcome to join the Minute Men, an affiliate of the WP.
In 1966, Ms. Adams successfully ran for the Maryland House of Delegates. She resigned after a year and won a seat on the Baltimore City Council. She created the Baltimore Fuel Fund, a public-private partnership that raised money from charitable contributions to help families needing financial assistance with heating costs. The Fuel Fund humanized government assistance that worked with poorer residents and was replicated by other cities throughout Maryland.
Ms. Adams did not crave attention but solutions to problems. An exemplary public servant, inspirational leader and outstanding role model, she was a woman of great competence and compassion.
I have paid my dues to Baltimore. I feel I should be regarded not only as (a) wife but as a woman who has used her influence and affluence to better the community in which she lives.
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2020.
© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2020