Extraordinary tasks were accomplished by an extraordinary woman, Elise F. Allen, known for the fiery editorials she wrote in her newspaper, The Traveler Weekly and her passion for helping others in need. The widow of James O. Allen and mother of eleven children, Mrs. Allen was the daughter of seamstress Florence Harrison and Dr. Cecil Bruce Ford. Dr. Ford had the first Black-owned dental practice in Peoria.
Peorians showered the humble, beautiful, and activist, Elise Ford Allen with love on July 29, 2021, for her 100th birthday celebration. She received dozens of cards, flowers, and gifts from those who wanted to wish her well, including proclamations from Peoria’s Mayor Rita Ali, Illinois State Senator Dave Koehler, Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, and the African American Hall of Fame Museum.
Her touching birthday tribute party included a selected gathering of family, friends, dignitaries, which included Mayor Rita Ali and 1st District Council Member, Denise Jackson, local broadcast media, and a flurry of telephone calls from around the country. As the Covid pandemic remains a health concern, Mrs. Allen masked up for her house guests, continuing her example of accountability and healthy choices for her long-standing lifestyle.
During the height of the civil rights era, Mrs. Allen established the Traveler Weekly Newspaper in 1966. She made history as the first woman to publish and edit a newspaper in Central Illinois, creating a dialogue between mainstream readers and African Americans to address news, politics, economics, and business. Today, the Traveler Weekly has outlived all of its competitors and is the longest-running Black newspaper in its publishing category.
Mrs. Allen’s influence has spanned more than half a century.She has never shied to speak her mind and has advocated for all people to have respect and equality. People listened to Mrs. Allen’s proactive voice because she took charge of the issues and reviewed stories from many aspects. Mrs. Allen could tap into the sources and influences of people that many people could not reach. When there was a crisis, she never turned away from handling the challenge and rising to the occasion. She continually “pushed the powers” to do the right things by others.
Elise F. Allen has soared as a community leader for the less fortunate. People continue to admire her strength and fortitude to step out on faith and take on the city of Peoria as a serious contender.
Her major accomplishments include fair trial advocacy, chartering a newspaper that would celebrate the beauty of the Black community, paving the way for people of color to run for mayor and public offices with her run for mayor in 1973, and impacting readers with writing that stirs the soul and brings forth change in the State of Illinois. Some of Mrs. Allen’s lifetime honors include being recognized as Citizen of the Year, awards from the Peoria Commission of Human Rights, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service Leadership Award, Outstanding Business Women Award, Outstanding Community Service Award from the Midwest Minority Contractors and Suppliers Association, The NAACP’s award for Outstanding Community Service in the field of Journalism, and many, many others.
Elise F. Allen’s life epitomizes how a woman with drive can turn a city, state, and country around. She is a cultural, political, and business icon. We are better people from standing on her small, petite shoulders.
May God continue to bless our remarkable QUEEN.