Eartha White was adopted as a baby in Florida. Her adoptive father died when she was five and she was then raised by her widowed mother. After high school White attended beauty school and then the National Conservatory of Music in New York.
She became an opera singer with the Oriental American Opera Company (the first African-American opera company), but returned to Florida in 1896, where she graduated from the Florida Baptist Academy and became a teacher in Bayard and Jacksonville.
She was also a business woman and property speculator. She ran and owned a dry goods store, employment and cleaning bureaus, a taxi company and a steam laundry; she was a real estate broker and insurance agent, and her own property deals made her a millionaire.
She never married, lived frugally, and spent all her money on a wide range of philanthropic activities, including social work with prison inmates, an orphanage, a mother and baby home, a working women's childcare facility, homes for the aged, a boys' club and a mission for the poor, all of which, due to segregation, were directed primarily towards African-Americans.
She was also an active Republican Party member, campaigned against job discrimination, was a charter member of the National Negro Business League and the Jacksonville Business League, and founded the Colored Citizens' Protective League in Jacksonville. In 1970 she was awarded the Lane Bryant Award for Volunteer Service and was appointed to the President's National Center for Voluntary Action in 1971.
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