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Thea Gallo Becker

clubwoman, community organizer, and reformer, was born Lugenia D. Burns in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Ferdinand Burns, a well-to-do carpenter, and Louisa M. Bertha. Burns was raised in a Grace Presbyterian, middle-class family. Her father's sudden death forced her mother to move the family to Chicago to maintain their class standing and provide Lugenia, or “Genie” as she was called, with educational opportunities absent in St. Louis. From 1890 to 1893, while her older siblings worked to support the family, Burns attended high school and classes at the Chicago School of Design, the Chicago Business College, and the Chicago Art Institute.

Burns quit school abruptly to help support the family as a bookkeeper and dressmaker After several years she became the first African American secretary to the board of directors of King s Daughters a charitable organization serving teenage working girls the ...