Friday, July 19, 2024

Meet two extraordinary women born and raised in Cambridge who broke barriers and extended the boundaries of their respective careers.


Takako Salvi

Takako Salvi. (Photo: Cambridge Black History Project)

Takako “Taka” Sato (1919-2020) was born in Cambridge to Takayuki Sato, born in Japan, and Grace (Woods) Sato. She grew up at 194 Franklin St., Cambridgeport, the home of her maternal grandparents, Peter Woods from St. Croix and Virginia (Welford) from Virginia, who had come to the city in the early 1880s. She attended the Webster School and Cambridge High and Latin, then applied to Cambridge City Hospital’s School of Nursing. When she was denied entrance because of her race, her mother marched into the administrator’s office and insisted that, as she was a taxpayer in the city, her daughter had a right to be admitted.

Takako Sato became the school’s first Black student.

She graduated in 1941 and worked at numerous hospitals, including Cambridge City, Boston City, Massachusetts General and Mount Auburn; early in her career, she was a head nurse at Boston Floating Hospital. Her career was long and varied: She was a nurse, a nursery schoolteacher and a family counselor. She continued her education, earning a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate and pursuing postdoctoral training with MIT’s Community Fellows Program.

In 1944, she married Diwakar Salvi, who had come to this country from India as a student, and together they raised Chandra, Shantu and Saru. 

She was active in the National Black Nurses Association, on the board of Boston’s Museum of African American History and as a founder of the Cambridge African American Heritage Trail. Takako Salvi is buried with her husband at Cambridge Cemetery.


Dorothy Richardson

Dorothy Richardson. (Photo: Cambridge Black History Project)

Dorothy Juanita (Fowler) Richardson (1887-1968) was born in Cambridge to John Fowler from South Carolina and Julia (Payne) from Virginia. After Julia’s death in 1890, John and the 3-year-old Dorothy lived with Julia’s family on Pleasant Street.

She graduated from Cambridge English High School in 1905 and attended the New England Conservatory of Music..

Dorothy was a gifted and popular soloist with a rich repertoire. She was classically trained by the tenor Isidore Braggiotti and sang in Italian, French and German; in 1945 she performed in Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah.” She also loved the songs she learned at home and in church and was invited to sing Negro spirituals, anthems and folk songs at funerals, benefit concerts and celebrations such as North Cambridge Community Church’s mortgage-burning ceremony.

Dorothy expanded her musical career in the 1930s and ’40s. She founded the 60-member Greater Boston Negro Male Chorus and in 1939 directed them in the first of several recitals at Jordan Hall. She later led them to three first prizes at three International Music Festivals at Symphony Hall. The Guardian called the group “the most outstanding chorus in New England.” She also founded the Greater Boston Mixed Chorus, and the two choirs often appeared together.

Richardson lived in Roxbury with her husband, Clarence Henry Richardson, and their children, Arthur and Julia. She retired professionally but continued to sing at churches in her community, including St. Cyprian’s Episcopal, Union Methodist and Twelfth Baptist, and to tutor voice students at her Silver Box Studio in Boston. Dorothy Richardson is buried at Knollwood Cemetery in Canton.


About the Cambridge Black History Project

The Cambridge Black History Project is an all-volunteer organization of individuals having deep roots in Cambridge. We are committed to researching, accurately documenting, preserving and illuminating the journeys, accomplishments and challenges of Black Cantabrigians, and to raising awareness of their stories through educational outreach to the Cambridge community and beyond.