The life and accomplishments
Tanner Mossell Alexander
native Philadelphian and life-long champion of civil rights
and equal opportunity for all, regardless of race or gender,
Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was a leader in the legal, political
and civic arenas of her day. Among her many "firsts"
was her place as the first African-American woman to enroll
in the School of Law at the University of Pennsylvania and earn
the juris doctor degree.She
was also a wife and mother and an unlikely comic book hero.
Tanner Mossell Alexander
-- Born Jan. 2 in
Philadelphia to Aaron Albert and Mary Louise Tanner Mossell.
from M Street High School in Washington, D.C., and entered the
University of Pennsylvania.
-- Completed her undergraduate program at Penn and was awarded
a bachelor of science degree in education with senior honors.
Earned a master of arts degree in economics at Penn and was awarded
the Francis Sergeant Pepper Fellowship in economics, which enabled
her to study for her doctorate.
-- Became the first African-American woman in the nation to earn
a Ph.D. in economics. Her dissertation was "The Standard
of Living Among One Hundred Negro Migrant Families in Philadelphia."
Was elected the first president of the Grand Chapter, the national
organization of the African-American sorority, Delta Sigma Theta.
-- Worked as assistant actuary at the North Carolina Mutual Life
Insurance Company in Durham, N.C.
-- Returned to Philadelphia where she married Raymond Pace Alexander,
the brother of her good friend and sorority sister from undergraduate
school, Virginia Alexander.
Became the first African-American woman to enroll in Penn's School
of Law, where her father Aaron Albert Mossell had been the first
African-American to graduate. She was also the first African-American
woman to serve as associate editor of the Law Review.
-- Became the first African-American woman to earn a law degree
at Penn, pass the bar and practice law in Pennsylvania. Joined
her husband's Center City Philadelphia law firm, specializing
in estate and family law.
-- Became the first African-American woman to serve as assistant
city solicitor of Philadelphia.
-- Served her second term as assistant city solicitor of Philadelphia.
-- Became the first woman to serve as secretary of the National
-- Served as a member of the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission.
-- Appointed to the President's Committee on Civil Rights by President
Harry S. Truman. The committee's report, "To Secure These
Rights," served as the foundation of the civil-rights movement
in America and was the basis for future civil-rights policy decisions
-- Named Woman of the Year in "Negro Heroes," a comic
book published by the National Urban League in conjunction with
the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Chaired a special committee of the Fellowship Commission set up
to ensure that a new city charter would include provisions guaranteeing
equal treatment and equal opportunity in the city's administration.
As chair of the Fellowship Commission committee, drafted a section
of the Home Rule Charter of 1952, calling for the formation of
a Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.
Opened her own private law practice after her husband was appointed
judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the first African-American
to serve in this position. A quarter of her practice was dedicated
to civil and probate work, while the rest of the time she focused
on domestic relations, divorce, adoption and juvenile care.
Was awarded her fifth degree at the University of Pennsylvania,
an honorary doctor of laws degree. This was the first of seven
such honors by colleges and universities around the country.
Retired from the active practice of law but joined the firm of
Atkinson, Myers and Archie of counsel.
-- Was appointed chairperson of the White House Conference on
Aging by President Jimmy Carter and charged with addressing a
range of social and economic needs of the elderly.
Died Nov. 1 at age 91 after having been recognized, in her last
decade, as one of Philadelphia's leading citizens.