Ada S. McKinley, Ada Sophia Dennison McKinley

Ada S. McKinley (Photo credit: Ada S. McKinley Community Services)

In 1919, during the time of the 1918 influenza pandemic and the Chicago race riot, Ada S. McKinley (1868–1952), a retired schoolteacher and pioneer social worker, established the first settlement house (the South Side Settlement House) for Black Americans with a Black staff in Chicago. The house met the needs of returning World War I soldiers and their families, as well as Black families migrating from the South, helping them integrate into the city of Chicago and become productive citizens. More than 100 years later, Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Inc., was continuing its founder's work by committing to "empower, educate, and employ people to change lives and strength communities."

Born Ada Sophia Dennison in Galveston, Texas, during Reconstruction, she grew up in Corpus Christi, graduated from Prairie View College (later Prairie View A&M University, a public historically black university in Prairie View, Texas) and Tillotson Missionary College (later Huston-Tillotson University in San Antonio), and taught school in Austin. In 1887, she married William McKinley, a dentist, with whom she had two children. After both children died in the 1890s as a result of a diphtheria epidemic in Texas, Ada and her husband moved to Chicago, where she became involved in community-building organizations such as the Phyllis Wheatley Club, the League of Women Voters, Citizens Community Center, and the Urban League.

Ada died from a heart attack on August 25, 1952, just a few hours after she helped celebrate the laying the cornerstone for the new Ada S. McKinley Community Services building. She is buried in Chicago's Oak Woods Cemetery. 

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