Securing a More Abundant Life: The Indianapolis Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, 1910s–1959

An interdisciplinary research team based at IUPUI will highlight the vital activities of the Phyllis Wheatley Young Women’s Christian Association of Indianapolis, which have been overlooked in the historical scholarship and neglected in Indianapolis’s public memory. The researchers hope that by recounting the history of the institution and the women and girls active in it, they can center Black women’s leadership and experiences at the heart of the civil rights movement in Indianapolis. The research team includes Dr. Nancy Marie Robertson (history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies), Dr. Joseph L. Tucker Edmonds (religious studies and Africana studies) and Dr. Kim Williams-Pulfer (Lilly Family School of Philanthropy).

Nancy Marie Robertson is an associate professor of history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Indiana University’s School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI; she also holds affiliate status with Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Robertson earned her Ph.D. in history from New York University. Her research interests include the interracial struggles and activism of black and white women, women and the history of capitalism (especially in banking) and women’s activities in voluntary associations. Robertson’s book, Christian Sisterhood, Race Relations, and the YWCA, 1906-1946 (2007) was the 2008 winner of the Richard L. Wentworth Illinois Award in American History.

Joseph L. Tucker Edmonds is an assistant professor of religious studies and Africana studies at Indiana University’s School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI and the associate director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture. He earned his bachelor’s degree in religious studies and economics from Brown University, his Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and his Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University. Tucker Edmonds’s research interests are black and womanist theologies, alternative Christianities in the black Atlantic and the role of scripture in African and African American religious traditions. He has received grants from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning, the Fund for Theological Education and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Tucker Edmonds’s most recent book, The Other Black Church: Alternative Christian Movements and the Struggle for Black Freedom, was published in December 2020.

Kim Williams-Pulfer serves as the postdoctoral research appointee for the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Taylor University and a master’s degree in English from Butler University. She earned a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI and a Ph.D. in philanthropic studies, with a minor in Caribbean studies, from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Williams-Pulfer was honored to have been able to consult with Wilma Gibbs Moore when she conducted research for a project entitled, “‘Navigating the Streams’: The Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the Indianapolis YWCA, 1923–1933.”