Masks required in Abakanowicz Research Center; optional for rest of Museum MORE

With Deliberate Persistence

As part of our blog’s Women’s History Series, this month we’re featuring Irene McCoy Gaines, who devoted her career in politics and advocacy to working against segregation and helping create opportunities for Black women. Despite having a college degree, Gaines found that job opportunities in the city were severely limited by the discrimination she faced as a Black woman. And for the rest of her life she organized and worked for ending such discriminatory practices.

Gaines joined the Women’s Trade Union League to help improve working conditions for women. She campaigned for women politicians and ran for office herself. Though unsuccessful, she was the first Black woman to run for a state legislative seat and for county commissioner’s office. In 1931, Gaines was appointed to President Hoover’s National Committee on Negro Housing, which led to construction of the Ida B. Wells Homes public housing project in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Then in 1941, she joined the protest against racial discrimination in employment, which led to President Roosevelt signing Executive Order 8802 and the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Committee. Read more.

Seated portrait of Irene McCoy Gaines. CHM, ICHi-062416

The Museum’s blog is a space where we give you a look behind-the-scenes, highlight items in our collection, and share Chicago stories you won’t see elsewhere. This post is part of a series in which we share the stories of local women who made history in anticipation of an exhibition about Chicago women and the vote. Explore the Women’s History Series.

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories