The Iroguois League served as a boarding house and community center. It was founded as a boarding house for African American female domectics on their days off and holidays, and later expanded services by providing classes for children and adults, as well as religious services and bible study.
After the First Great Migration, Evanston’s African American population increased by more than 100% between 1910 and 1920, and African American women in the community saw the need for “safe, wholesome, and economical housing” for domestics. They started the Iroquois League in 1917 to ensure that African American women working in Evanston had a safe place to live in the area. In 1921, the organization purchased a home at 1125 Garnett Place, which opened its doors by 1924 and could house 15 girls. African American female community leaders later partnered with white female community leaders to run the house, which was renamed the North Shore Community House in 1930, and run under the North Shore Community Association. The Executive Board of this organization was comprised of members of the Iroquois League and the Inter-Racial Cooperative Council of Evanston. In 1973, Anna Watson, Cora Watson’s daughter, purchased the house on a private basis.
The Iroquois League was formed in 1917 by a group of women, including Eva Rouse, to make sure that African American women working in Evanston had a safe place to live in the area. The organization bought a house at 1125 Garnett Place in 1921 and paid off the mortgage by 1929. In 1924 the League opened its house at 1125 Garnett Place with beds for 15 women. Functioning as a boarding house and social center, the Iroquois League also offered worship services and Bible classes. In 1926, Cora Watson was elected president and the League began to grow, eventually changing its name to the North Shore Community House in 1930. It provided Bible study classes, instructional classes, and religious services. In 1973 the house was purchased by Anna Watson, daughter of longtime supporter Cora L. Watson, and operated the house on a private basis. Its motto, “Lifting as We Climb,” was also the motto of the National Association of Colored Women and is our exhibit title. The Iroquois League reflected the growth of the black population and the emergence of black female leadership in Evanston after the First Great Migration. The participation of white women from the Inter-Racial Cooperative Council on the executive baord of the North Shore Community Association, can be viewed as an early attempt to bridge the racial divide.