Filed Under Community

Lifting as She Climbed

Jennie Horne

Jennie Horne’s (1920-1998) influential career in social services was fueled by her idealism, her love of people, and a desire to contribute to her community in New Bedford. During a time in which information on how people of color could access social programs was not always available, Jennie worked to make sure it was. She advised families on new initiatives that offered educational and job opportunities for everyone, particularly encouraging women of color to join the workforce. Wherever she went people shared their goals and dreams, and Jennie always responded positively with a smile and an offer of help. She is remembered as an “encourager, a connector, and a helper” who always lent a hand to raise others up.

Jennie started as a secretary in the main office of New Bedford’s ONBOARD (Organized New Bedford Opportunity And Resource Development), an anti-poverty community action project agency. Through ONBOARD, she helped acquire grants for city programs that provided education, employment, and recreation opportunities for minorities and poor people. Jennie then went to the West Central Community Center, eventually serving as its director. There she initiated several programs to aid the disadvantaged.

One of Jennie’s greatest gifts was her knowledge of the people who lived in the West End. She kept mental notes on the talents and needs of the people in her neighborhood. Robert Horne remembers his mother as seeming “to know instinctively who to call on in the West End to ask for assistance and also who in the West End might need the assistance that the [West Central Community Center] could provide.” She knew who had the sewing skills to lead a sewing class or the bookkeeping skills to organize and operate a neighborhood credit union.

Jennie also worked for Model Cities, a federal urban assistance program that—along with ONBOARD—was part of the War on Poverty, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s legislative agenda that sought to attack the root causes of poverty and provide opportunity for all. In 1968, New Bedford was one of 151 cities chosen in the Model Cities project, whose mission was to address the effects of prejudice and neglect on urban communities. While at Model Cities, Jennie was involved in improving public school reorganization, public housing development, and relations between police and the community. Model Cities eventually became the Community Development Block Grant Program. Later, as a member of the Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee, Jennie helped to channel federal Community Block Grants during several different mayoral administrations.

With boundless energy, Jennie served on several PTAs, nonprofit boards, and women’s organizations, including as president of the Martha Briggs Educational Club. Founded in 1920 by women of color, today the Martha Briggs Educational Club provides scholarships to local minority high school students. In 1939, the Club purchased the Sgt. William H. Carney House at 128 Mill Street where it has been headquartered ever since. For a century, the Club has been led by women of color like Jennie Horne and exists as a forum to self-organize from and advocate for their community. Its members have always been dedicated to education and the role that community service plays in making lives and community richer.

Jennie is remembered as personifying the motto of the Martha Briggs Educational Club: “Lifting as we climb.” Throughout her life, Jennie Horne was a tireless advocate for the disadvantaged. Through her government positions, involvement with community organizations, and everyday encouragement, Jennie worked to bring aid and assistance to those who needed it most. In 2020, residents and friends of New Bedford honored Jennie by selecting her as one of two women represented by large murals at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Jennie exemplified how one woman can light the way for others, who in turn can light the way for those who follow.

Thank you to the family of Jennie Horne for their contributions to Jennie’s biography and providing photographs. Their stories showcased Jennie’s special qualities and tireless efforts on behalf of her family and community.


Lighting the Way for All: Remembering Jennie Horne Jennie Horne's daughter Carol Horne Heath shared memories of her mother as part of New Bedford Whaling Museum's public art project Lighting the Way for All. Jennie Horne was one of four civically engaged women from Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast to be selected as subjects of a public artwork. To watch the full program and learn more about the women selected please visit Source: New Bedford Whaling Museum Creator: New Bedford Whaling Museum Date: 2020
1964: LBJ's War on Poverty This video from American Experience gives a brief introduction to President Johnson’s “war on poverty.” The film is connected to PBS Learning Media and has additional curriculum resources for educators. Source: Adapted from American Experience: "1964." Third party materials courtesy of Getty Images; LBJ Presidential Library; and National Archives. Creator: American Experience Date: 2014


Jennie Horne Photo of Jennie Horne (1928-2016) courtesy Robert Horne. Source: Personal collection of Robert Horne
The Sgt. Carney Memorial Homestead, 128 Mill St., New Bedford—home of the Martha Briggs Educational Club Jennie was involved with the Martha Briggs Educational Club for many decades. The Club bought the Sgt. Carney Memorial Homestead in 1939, and it has served as its headquarters ever since. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. Source: Martha Briggs Educational Club
Public Art Honoring Jennie Horne and Marial Harper Jennie Horne was one of four women selected to be part of New Bedford Whaling Museum's public art project Lighting the Way for All. Thousands voted to select these civically engaged women from the main Lighting the Way project. Jennie is pictured here with educator Marial Harper. Illustration by Alyn Carlson. Source: New Bedford Whaling Museum Creator: Illustration by Alyn Carlson Date: 2020
Jennie Horne pictured in front of West Central Center ONBOARD Jennie Horne (far left) pictured in front of West Central Center ONBOARD, where she worked, at Mill and Chestnut Streets. The Center hosted many services including a well-baby clinic, a credit union, dance and sewing classes, youth activities, legal rights assistance, and fuel assistance signup. Source: Personal collection of Carol H. Heath


The Sergeant William H. Carney Memorial Homestead, 128 Mill St. New Bedford, MA 02740


Tom Begley and Ann O’Leary, “Lifting as She Climbed,” Rhode Tour, accessed December 2, 2022,