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Helen Appo Cook, born in New York to William Appo and Elizabeth Appo is best known for her contributions as long-term president of the Colored Women’s League and organizer in establishing the National Association of Colored Women. Cook’s work in the Colored Women’ League of Washington, D.C. began with its inception in June 1892 and incorporation in 1894. The Colored Women’s League provided services such as nurseries, kindergartens, night school, and an environment of nurturing and development to the black community. The Colored Women’s League merged with the National Federation of Afro-American Women to form the National Association of Colored Women in 1896.

Born into a family of historical wealth and refinement, Cook was no stranger to culture, sophistication, and financial independence. She worked to negate the notion that “colored women of education and refinement” had no sympathetic interest in their own race. She dedicated her time and finances to addressing the needs of black women and children in the District of Columbia. Cook was noted for being the first Black secretary of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children in 1880 and served until 1910 in various capacities.

Although Cook is not discussed in historical literature as much as her contemporaries Lucy Moten, Anna Cooper, and Mary Terrell, she obviously played a major role in the progress and advancement of nineteenth-century women. Her contributions will be documented in history for her role in establishing the National Association of Colored Women and her contribution to the women and children of the District of Colombia as a diligent leader of the Colored Women’s League.

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