A native of Iowa, Grace M. Allen first met Laurence Clifton Jones at a church in Iowa City when both were students. When Jones became the organizer and principal of the Piney Woods Country Life School in Rankin County, he corresponded with Allen, and they married in Iowa City in 1912. They later had two sons, Turner and Laurence Jr.
Grace Allen Jones quickly became crucial to the Piney Woods School not only as a teacher and speaker but also as an organizer of clubs for women. She founded and led Mothers’ Clubs that set standards for and discussed child rearing, cooking, quilting, and sewing. From that start, Jones used women’s clubs to address important issues in Mississippi. She helped start an American Red Cross organization for African Americans. She made connections between the Mothers’ Clubs and the Mississippi State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, and as that group’s president in 1920, she urged more communities to start women’s clubs. Those groups worked to improve child care, to teach African American history, to start libraries for African American children, and to provide resources so that physically handicapped African American children could learn.
Laurence Jones liked to use the story of his family’s housing situation as a lesson in modesty and progress. He and Grace began their marriage living in a one-room log cabin at the Piney Woods School before moving into the corner room of a school building, another room in an academic building, an old mill house, and finally a comfortable cottage in 1922. They named the cottage the Community House because it was the setting for so many meetings. Grace Allen Jones died of pneumonia in 1928.
- Alferdteen B. Harrison, Piney Woods School: An Oral History (1982)
- Grace Morris Allen Jones Papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, University of Iowa Libraries
- Lawrence C. Jones, Piney Woods and Its Story (1922)
- Lawrence C. Jones, The Spirit of the Piney Woods (1931)