Virginia Allen was born on August 15, 1931, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the oldest of three children born to Lawrence Allen and Ruth Sutton Allen. The family relocated to Detroit, Michigan when Virginia was an infant. She was enrolled and attended public elementary and high school in the city of Detroit. Inspired by her Aunt Edna Sutton-Ballard, a registered nurse living in New York City, at the age of 16, Virginia encouraged her parents to allow her to move to Staten Island, New York to pursue a career in nursing.
Thus it was in 1947 that Virginia started working as a nurse’s aide at Sea View Hospital, Staten Island, which at that time was designated as a tuberculosis sanitarium. She went on to receive an LPN from Central School for Practical Nurses. In 1960 Virginia took a position as a surgical nurse and subsequently became personnel training director at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital. While she was still employed at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital Leon Davis the president of Local 1199 AFL-CIO recruited Virginia. She took a hiatus from nursing to pursue a career in labor relations, attending Cornell University to further her knowledge and inform herself professionally as it relates to the nuances of labor relations. Joining the labor relations’ team offered a renewed opportunity to expand her horizon, so she became an administrative organizer and worked with 1199 AFL-CIO for about a year. During this time Virginia met many important people, including Dr. Martin Luther King, A. Philip Randolph, Ossie Davis, and Coretta Scott King. After completing her tenure as a labor activist, Virginia eventually went back to nursing, focusing on patient care and still holds a current state license. Over the years, Virginia would continue to sharpened her academic prowess by attending several institutions of higher learning, including New York University and the College of Staten Island, at which she earned an Associate Degree.
In the 1960s Virginia also began volunteering in the Women’s Crisis Center in Port Richmond, Staten Island—a keynote in what was to become her ever-evolving commitment to community service. Her many commitments to civic engagement within her local and neighboring communities include service as past president of the North Shore Staten Island Section of the National Council of Negro Women and volunteering with Bread and Roses (the cultural arm of Local 1199). Additionally, she has served tirelessly as a board member of Cultural Crossroads in Fort Green, Brooklyn and the Art Lab at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island. Virginia is a charter member of the National Council of Negro Women, Staten Island Section; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the New York Urban League; the Sandy Grounds Historical Society; Lambda Kappa Mu Sorority, Inc. Lambda Chapter; the Weeksville Society; the North Star Lions Club; the Staten Island Women’s Club (formerly the Business and Professional Women), and the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture. Currently, Virginia serves as a board member of Staten Island Out Loud and the College of Staten Island Auxiliary Board for Grants for Education and Vocation.
Virginia is the recipient of numerous awards, citations, and certificates including a Proclamation from the City of New York for Outstanding Community Service; the William A. Morris Humanitarian Award; the Staten Island Hope Community Service Award; the Staten Island Advance Woman of Achievement Award; the Distinguished Service Key Award for Lambda Kappa Mu Sorority, Inc.; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Woman of Distinction Award” awarded by the Stapleton UAME Church, and the Senior Usher Board Community Service Award bestowed by St. Philips Baptist Church.
Virginia is a lifelong community activist. In addition, and in pursuit of spiritual sustenance she has been a member of the Unitarian Church of Staten Island for over 30 years. There she has served on many committees, including Social Concerns, Flowers, and Memorial Garden. Also, for three terms she served within the institution on their Board of Trustees. She is presently a member of the Religious Exploration Committee at Unitarian and provides guidance and support to encourage and uplift the spiritual development of the church’s youth.
Virginia Allen’s longtime commitment as an activist on labor issues; healthcare; women’s and senior citizen’s issues; education reform, and youth involvement has evolved into a rich base of personal interests and selfless community outreach. Today, Ms. Allen continues to enjoy traveling, remains an avid reader, and relishes arts and crafts in their varying forms. One of her main beliefs is that this world is all we have and it is our duty to care for one another.