Ella B. Howard Pearis was born in 1905 in Washington, DC. She graduated from Paul Lawrence Dunbar High in 1923 and then went on to attend Miner Teachers College. For fifteen years she taught 1st and 2nd grade in Maryland and Virginia and later she worked fifteen years at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, from where she retired in 1956.
Mrs. Howard had deep roots in the Anacostia community; her great-grand parents moved to Anacostia in 1863. Macedonia Baptist Church was founded by her great-grandfather in 1866, and her great-grandfather's niece was one of the founders of St. John's Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1867. Mrs. Pearis's house on Elvans Road was built by her grandfather in 1876. As a result of this history, Mrs. Pearis felt that it was her duty to be an advocate for and promoter of the Anacostia community. She volunteered her time to work with community groups and neighborhood civic associations. Her community work brought changes to Anacostia including getting new schools established and getting more public transportation in the area.
In 1974 she and other community activists founded the Anacostia Historical Society. The Society was established in partnership with the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum's Center for Anacostia Studies. Mrs. Pearis said that the idea for the Society started when, "…a group of us started to get together one Saturday and bring any family heirlooms that you had. " From there the group began to work with the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum. Together they developed the exhibit, "Anacostia Story," which opened at the Museum in March 1977.
In addition to her work with the Anacostia Historical Society, Mrs. Pearis served on the advisory board of the Anacostia--ongress Heights Red Cross Service Center. This center was a part of the District of Columbia Chapter of the American Red Cross. Later in her life, Mrs. Pearis remarked that physical limitations limited her ability to make it to all of the community functions. Yet she found others ways to contribute to her community.
Mrs. Ella B. Howard Pearis died on February 23, 1998 and her funeral service was held at St. John's Christian Methodist Episcopal Church --the church founded by her family in 1867.