Ena V. L. Swain, author and community historian
Ena Veronica Lindner Swain, 88, of Germantown, an author, activist and community historian, died March 27 at Chestnut Hill Hospital.
Mrs. Swain’s book, “The Evolution of Abolitionism in Germantown and Its Environs,” was published in 2018 and described the birth of the abolition movement in Germantown from the Colonial period through the Civil War.
Mrs. Swain said her book, the product of 50 year’s research, “tells a unique and compelling story.”
“I have never seen any document equating William Penn’s ‘Holy Experiment‘ with abolitionism,” she said. “This manuscript tells how multicultural societies, in one small geographically discrete, richly-diverse settlement, banded together to foment the spark that was the catalyst for the entire anti-slavery movement.”
As a community historian, Mrs. Swain researched the history of Germantown and its environs with particular emphasis on the African-American presence in the Colonial period, the Revolutionary War, the nascent antislavery movement and formal abolitionist activity in the region. She also conducted walking tours, lectured and published papers on the topic.
Mrs. Swain was the third of four children born to Stanley Barrett Lindner and his wife, Adeline, who had emigrated from Jamaica with Marcus Garvey as part of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Raised in South Philadelphia, she attended Landreth Elementary School, Barrett Junior High School, and graduated from South Philadelphia High School for Girls.
She was the first African-American bookkeeper and accountant for the W.C. Schmidt & Sons Inc. brewery and also operated her own public accounting firm. She left the brewery when her children were born and became active in the greater Germantown community. She served on the Mallery Recreation Center Advisory Council, where she protested the limited recreational opportunities available to children in Germantown. In a meeting with the late Mayor Frank Rizzo she demanded a new gym be built at Mallery that could be used year-round, and the gym was built in the 1970s.
She also was a board member, historian, and chair of the education committee of the Johnson House Historical Society.
Mrs. Swain is survived by sons Dr. William A. Swain Jr. and Brian Anthony Swain; daughters Dr. Valarie Ena Swain-Cade McCoullum and Gail Swain Harrison; a sister, Gloria Jordan; 12 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. She was preceded in death by her husband of 66 years, William Arch Swain Sr.; and brothers James Lindner and Stanley B. Lindner.
A celebration of Mrs. Swain’s life will be held later this year. – WF