Emma Gertrude Lawrence

Matriarch of the Lawrence Family, Emma Gertrude Lawrence descended from African and Native American parents, arriving in Erie in 1881.  After her husband’s passing, Emma was left to rear four young children.  Taking in the laundry (much of it from the adjacent “Millionaires’ Row” on West Sixth Street) to support her family, by 1906 Emma had founded Lawrence Cleaning and Dyeing—the first business operated by an African American woman in the city of Erie.  Emma’s involvement in civic organizations like the Red Cross and the YMCA began a legacy of vigorous work in and for the community by two generations of her descendants. 

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