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Courtesy of the trustees of the New Bedford Free Public Library

Community activist, club woman, church leader and educator, Eloise Solomon Pina (1928-2013) became the epitome of what her mentor Elizabeth Carter Brooks described as “a service to God and humanity.” The first woman of color to be president of the Episcopal Church Women of Grace Church, Eloise led numerous church and community organizations and was a founder of the New Bedford Social Justice Coalition.

Community activist, club woman, church leader and educator, Eloise Solomon Pina (15 May 1928 – 5 September 2013) wrote, “I was one of four sisters who was saved in a fire in which I lost three sisters who were fatally burned. I was saved for a reason and I always felt God left me here to do his work.” In the 1930s the Solomon family lived in the home of Elizabeth Carter Brooks, the first African American public school teacher in New Bedford.  

The description of Eloise Solomon Pina written in the centennial book of the Young Women’s Christian Association 100 Women for 100 Years is: “an example of God’s love.” Her daughter, Marci Pina-Christian used the following words to describe her mother: 

“What inspires me most about my mother is her unwavering faith in God. She is truly a woman of faith and strength. She has suffered through much adversity in her life, but she always praises God in all things … 

She always has a kind word to say about someone and always is able to uplift others … She gave tirelessly of herself in committing to many causes.

The values that are important to her are love of God first, and that you must put him in all things, love of family, and love of community. The principles that she lives by are to be a good citizen and a woman of character. My mother never saw color. Her love has no boundaries. In leaving a legacy, her portrait is in the New Bedford Public Library, as a religious leader and humanitarian.

I believe she is an example of God’s love and she lives her life the way he would want us to live. These two qualities are what she will be remembered for.”

For three years after the fire Eloise required hospital care. She entered the New Bedford Public Schools and by 1937,  Elizabeth Carter Brooks had Eloise reading her poetry at the Martha Briggs Educational Club. Elizabeth mentored Eloise, and with the uplifting words “a service to God and humanity” Eloise grew into a role of leadership. 

To care for her parents, James Solomon and Mildred Ross Solomon, Eloise dropped out of public school. Over the years she was also employed by the Home for the Aged, several nursing homes, as a domestic, and then as a solderer at Cornell Dubilier. Eloise returned to high school at age 37 to simultaneously complete her high school diploma and graduate from Diman Vocational School as a licensed practical nurse in 1965. A month after graduation she was hired by St. Luke’s Hospital and worked there for 25 years. 

She married Antone Ferreira Pina in 1946 and together they parented their six children, four daughters and two sons. Their lives were full of their faith, their love of music and for helping those in the community. 

Eloise focused her attention on helping others through her church, agencies and organizations and often carried a leadership role. She was the first woman of color to be president of the Episcopal Church Women of Grace Church. She served as president of the board of directors for Child and Family Services. Eloise was president of the Martha Briggs Educational Club, the Council of Women’s Organizations of Greater New Bedford, and the Massachusetts State Union of Colored Women’s Clubs. Eloise was leader of seven Annual Martin Luther King Programs at Grace Episcopal Church, four-time president of Church Women United, chaplain of Northeast National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, member of board of directors of the Inter Church Council, and member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She volunteered at the American Red Cross and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). At St. Luke’s Hospital, she was mentor to girls in Women in Community Service (WICS). Eloise was also recording secretary of the St. Luke’s Retirement Board and ONBOARD, Vestry and Altar Guild member at Grace Church, honorary member of New Bedford Historical Society and founder of the New Bedford Social Justice Coalition with Rev. Richard Kellaway and Vera Hunt in the 1960s. Eloise campaigned for those seeking positions in government and communities, and was a frequent letter writer to the Standard-Times for over 30 years, with her inspiring letters published in the “Letters from our readers section.” She received 16 awards and honors including: first recipient of the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce Community Image Award in 1978; awardee, when for the first time the New Bedford City Council officially honored African American Month in 1993; Black Professionals Award; the Union Baptist Church Award; the Valiant Woman Award from Church Women United, and more.

She was also grandmother, great-grandmother and mentor to children and young adults in the community. Despite a stroke in her later years, she was a solace to many as she arrived faithfully to Sunday services at Grace Church, in her wheelchair. She died at St. Luke’s Hospital, being the epitome of what Elizabeth Brooks described, “a service to God and humanity.”

Ivy S. MacMahon

Information from

  • “Biography:  Pina, Eloise V.” Archives and Special Collections, Claire T. Carney Library, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Accessed 23 Feb. 2021.

  • “Eloise Pina, 1928-2013.” Council of Women’s Organizations of Greater New Bedford. Series III, MC-200. Archives and Special Collections, Claire T. Carney Library, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Accessed 23 Feb. 2021.

  • Mota, Athena M. G., and Katrina E. Semich, editors. 100 Women for 100 Years. YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts, 2011.

  • Pina-Christian, Marceline. Text to Ivy MacMahon, 8 Mar. 2021.

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