My Contribution: In the year that American women earned the right to vote, I was one of only 34 women appointed to a group of 200 census enumerators to carry out the federal census in Pennsylvania’s Eighteenth Congressional District. I worked to collect information from residents in the first precinct of Harrisburg’s Seventh Ward, a well-established African American neighborhood. I later became a teacher in Harrisburg before serving the community of Cleveland, Ohio, in the metro housing authority. In my retirement on Oberlin, Ohio, I served First Church and played a role as the first African American in integrating Kendal, a retirement community.
My Legacy: I broke ground in enumerating Harrisburg’s population and worked to ensure that my community was fully counted. In my teaching career, I had a positive influence on a generation of middle school children. I lived a full life of 99 years, serving the community of Cleveland, Ohio, through a career in the metropolitan housing authority, and later involving myself in my church in Oberlin.
About Me: “More than 200 persons will assist in taking the next decennial census in Dauphin, Cumberland, and Lebanon Counties….The enumerators as announced have all been approved by the Census Bureau at Washington….The appointments in most cases include one person, either a man or a woman, in each voting precinct of the city and county….Following are those already named….Edith A. Fields.” The Evening News, December 15, 1919.
“I have never known a more gracious person than Edythe – just a perfect delight to be with.” As remembered by Reverent John Elder, former pastor of First Church in Oberlin, 2020.
Full Name: Edith Adalene Fields; Edith Fields Murphy; Edythe Murphy.
Birth Date: 1901
Death Date: July 15, 1999
Place of Birth: Pennsylvania
Race: Black (1920 Federal Census)
Places of Residence: 1194 Christian Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Cleveland, Ohio; Oberlin, Ohio.
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resided two blocks east of the Eight Ward near Derry and Market Streets; attended Bethel A.M.E Church; enumerated former residents of the Eighth Ward in the first precinct of Seventh Ward, which ran from Forster Street to Herr Street.
Family Members: Father: Oscar Fields. Mother: Anne Lucinda (Jackson) Fields. Sister: Mattie Louise Fields. Husband: Luke Alexander Murphy. Cousin: Conrad Ellis.
Education: Harrisburg Central High School, 1919. Cheyney Training School for Teachers in Cheyney, Pennsylvania, with certification to teach middle school, 1924.
Occupations: Census enumerator and teacher in Harrisburg. Cashier and bookkeeper at Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority, Cleveland, Ohio.
Church Membership: Bethel A.M.E. Church, Harrisburg; First Church in Oberlin (United Church of Christ), Oberlin, Ohio.
Activism: Mother was president of the Ladies’ User Board of Bethel A.M.E. Church and Gluck Auf Club in Harrisburg; participated in First Church Sewing Group, Oberlin, Ohio.
Connections: C. Sylvester Jackson, Walter J. Hooper, H. Edwin Parson, Ephraim Slaughter, and Sylvester Burris.