Cecelia Wright

National officer in the Sisters of the Mysterious Ten

In 1894, Cecelia Wright was elected national vice president of the Sisters of the Mysterious Ten, a women’s organization allied with the all-male United Brotherhood of Freedom.

The combined membership was around 250,000, making it the second largest Black fraternal organization in the United States – behind only the Masons with their women’s auxiliary, the Order of the Eastern Star.

Cecelia “Celia” Campbell was born in Louisiana in 1845. She was in Cincinnati by 1878, and by that time she was married to a Civil War veteran named Charles A. Wright. In Cincinnati, Charles Wright worked as a station house keeper for the Cincinnati Police Department, and Cecelia was a seamstress.

In 1882, Cecelia Wright was a delegate to a national convention of the Sisters of the Mysterious Ten (SMT), held that year in Cincinnati. The order was a social club, but it also functioned as a sort of insurance company, collecting dues and providing assistance to members in cases of illness or death.

The actual “mysterious ten,” by the way, are principles, not persons. The ten mysteries are: peace, honor, patience, temperance, fidelity, charity, justice, mercy, purity, and truth.

Cecelia Wright rose through the ranks. By 1884, she was Grand Princess of Ohio. In 1887, she organized a chapter (called a temple) of the SMT in Columbus. In 1894, she was elected national vice president.

In February 1893, Charles A. Wright was forced into retirement on account of continuing ill health. On September 19, 1895, a brief news item headlined “Charles Wright Dying” appeared in the Cincinnati Tribune. The following day, he swore out a will, leaving everything to Cecelia and making her his executor.

Charles A. Wright died in February 1896. He was buried in United American Cemetery. Records of the cemetery show that Cecelia Wright owned family lot 138, where Charles was buried. Just a few weeks after her husband died, Cecelia applied for a federal pension based on her husband’s military service. She was granted the pension several months later.

Cecelia Wright remained active in the SMT. She attended their convention in Nashville, Tennessee, in August 1897. A photo of her appears in W. H. Gibson’s 1897 History of the United Brothers of Friendship and Sisters of the Mysterious Ten. She died in January 1916 and was buried in United American Cemetery, presumably with her husband in the family lot that she owned, though no gravestone for her has been found.

Images

Cecelia Campbell Wright Source: William H. Gibson, History of the United Brothers of Friendship and Sisters of the Mysterious Ten. Louisville: Bradley & Gilbert, 1897 Creator: Photogeapher unknown
Gravestone of Charles A. Wright, husband of Cecelia Creator: Chris Hanlin Date: 2021

Location

Metadata

Chris Hanlin, “Cecelia Wright,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed November 30, 2022, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/153.