J. Ida Roberts Jiggetts

J. Ida Roberts Jiggetts
Mental Health Social Worker and Scholar of Judaism

J[ohn] Isa [Dura] (Roberts) Jiggetts was born in Washington, N.C. on April 4, 1901, the daughter of the Rev. John Wesley and Ida (Roberts) Roberts. The family moved back to Shelby, N.C. during her infancy when her father became presiding elder of that district of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. He later was first principal of Cleveland County High School, while her mother taught at Love Joy Academy. Ida, known as ―Bobbiell in the family, finished Shelby Graded School in 1915, and continued her studies at Allen High School in Asheville, graduating from a three-year course in 1918. She then studied for her R.N. at Mercy Hospital and School for Nurses, and continued with college courses in Medical Social Work and Public Health Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, ultimately earning a M.S.W.

In her twenties she married J(ohn) Philip Jiggetts, an attorney, born in Newport News, Va., June 13, 1898. He died at Flushing, N.Y., February 16, 1966. They resided in Harlem.

She continued her education, earning a B.A. from Teachers College Columbia, an M.A. from New York University and, in 1957, a Ph.D. from the same school. Apparently when they settled in Harlem, she took a position with the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association. Later she was Director of Social Services at St. Mark‘s Community House.

In 1942 she joined the Department of Welfare, New York City, as a supervisor and medical social worker, moving in 1946 to be a counselor at Furness Junior High School, Philadelphia. In 1948 she became a psychiatric social worker with the Veterans‘ Administration in New York City, taking a similar position in 1951 with the Department of Mental Hygiene at Manhattan State Hospital. With the same agency, she moved to the Bronx After-Care Clinic as a social worker in 1954.

From 1958 to 1963 she was director of social services at Riverside Hospital in New York City. From 1963 to 1969 she was a consultant for the New York City Department of Health in public health social work.

She turned her attention to Mount Vernon, where she and her husband had owned a second home since 1951, when she became director and psychotherapist for Project Concerned. This led to the founding of the Mount Vernon Narcotics Guidance Council in December 1968. She served as chairman and executive director for many years. In childhood, there were only two Jews in Shelby, one of them a peddler with beautiful goods. This, and her family‘s deep faith and awareness of the Old Testament, led to a lifelong fascination with Judaism. After World War II she made several study trips to Israel and published two books: Religion, Diet and Health of Jews (Bloch, 1949) and Israel to Me: A Negro Social Worker Inside Israel (Bloch, 1957). There were plans to publish her doctoral dissertation, Integration and Absorption of Yemenite Jews in Israel, but this does not appear to have happened.

Dr. Jiggetts remained active into her nineties, and was still living at 293 Westchester Avenue, Mount Vernon, at the beginning of 1992. Her health declined and a relative arranged her to move to a nursing home in Shelby, N.C. where she died on October 13, 1992. 


Compiled by: 
Phoebe Pollitt