Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was born and raised in Boston. A publisher, journalist, and women's rights advocate, Ruffin was an active community member for her whole life. At the age of sixteen, she married George Lewis Ruffin, the first African American to graduate from Harvard Law School, and they purchased a home on Beacon Hill. They were ardent supporters of the anti-slavery movement and helped to recruit African American soldiers for the Union Army during the Civil War.
Ruffin wrote for The Courant, a bi-weekly African American paper, and served as a member of the New England Woman’s Press Association. She joined forces with Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone in 1869 to form the American Woman Suffrage Association in Boston, and in the mid-1890's became the first African American member of the New England Woman’s Club.
After her husband’s death in 1884, Ruffin started Woman’s Era, the first newspaper published both for and by African American women in the nation. The paper promoted interracial activities, highlighting the achievements of African American women and championing women’s rights. Ruffin was also an active member of the National Association of Colored Women, the Woman’s Era Club, the League of Women for Community Service, and the NAACP (of which she was a charter member). Ruffin resided in Boston until her death in 1924. Today her former residence at 103 Charles Street is private and commercial property.