JOSEPHINE SILONE-YATES WAS BORN on Nov. 15, 1859, in New York. Her early education was attained in New York schools and the Institute of Colored Youth in Philadelphia. She graduated valedictorian of the Rogers High School class of 1877 in Newport, R.I. Yates attended the Rhode Island State Normal School in Providence and graduated in 1879. She later received a master’s degree from the National University of Illinois.
From 1879-1889, Yates was head of the department of natural science at Lincoln Institute (now Lincoln University). She was the first woman to be named a full professor at the institution.
She left Lincoln Institute to marry William Ward Yates in 1889. She served as president and treasurer of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Yates also served as president of the Missouri Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and was instrumental in establishing women’s clubs for African American women.
In 1902, she was recalled by the president of Lincoln Institute to serve as the head of the department of English and history. Although she requested to resign due to illness in 1908, the Board of Regents did not accept her resignation. Yates chose to stay and became the advisor to women at Lincoln. She remained there until 1910, when she returned to Kansas City following the death of her husband. Yates died in September 1912.