Sisters In Suffrage
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
At one time, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was the most well-known Black woman in the country. She was an educator, pioneering journalist, an early leader in the civil rights movement and a founder of the NAACP. As an ardent suffragist, she worked with both white and African-American suffrage organizations. Wells-Barnett was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize “for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching.”
Vilma Socorro Martinez
Ambassador Vilma Socorro Martinez, a labor lawyer, who as president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, helped secure an extension of the Voting Rights Act to include Mexican Americans among the groups it protected. In 1975, Congress agreed to extend the existing provisions of the Voting Rights Act to include Mexican Americans. Later, Martin served as the first woman U.S. ambassador to Argentina.
One of our most famous women of history, Isabella Baumfree was an African American abolitionist and women’s rights activist who escaped from slavery with her infant daughter in New York in 1826. Adopting the name Sojourner Truth, she became an itinerant preacher and grew to become a nationally known advocate for equality and justice, advocating for a variety of social reforms, including women’s property rights, universal suffrage, and prison reform.
Mabel Ping Hua-Lee
Mabel Ping Hua-Lee was a Chinese advocate for women’s suffrage, a member of the Women’s Political Equality League, and the head of the First Chinese Baptist Church in New York’s Chinatown for more than 40 years. Hua-Lee led on horseback a suffragist parade New York City in 1912, attended by ten thousand people. Mabel, however, could not vote in any elections due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
Margaret Murray Washington
“Margaret Murray Washington was an educator and a reformer. In 1890, she became the lady principal at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, founding the Tuskegee Woman’s Club. By 1915, Washington had become president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), which she had co-founded. When Susan B. Anthony invited national women’s organizations to enter official statements to be published in the fourth volume of the History of Woman Suffrage, Washington responded for the NACW and her statement was the sole representation of Black women in that volume.”
Meri Te Tai Mangakahia
A campaigner for women’s suffrage in New Zealand, Meri Te Tai Mangakahia was a suffragist who inspired future generations of Māori women. In 1893, Mangakahia addressed a Maorip parliament (the first woman to do so), submitting a motion in favor of women being allowed to vote for, and stand as, members of the Kotahitanga Parliament. In 1897, Maori women won the right to vote.
Harriet Forten Purvis
Harriet Forten Purvis was an African American abolitionist and first-generation suffragist. Harriet and her sisters were founding members of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and members of the American Equal Rights Association, where Harriet served on the executive committee. Affluent and educated, the sisters helped lay the groundwork for the first National Woman’s Rights Convention in October 1854 and helped organize the Philadelphia Suffrage Association in 1866.
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, (1842 -1924)
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was the first African-American graduate of Harvard Law School, first African American elected to Boston City Council and the first African-American municipal judge. In 1869, she joined with Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone to form the American Woman Suffrage Association. She founded a number of other organizations for Black women, convened the First National Conference of the Colored Women of America, was one of the founders of the NAACP, and published Woman’s Era, the country’s first national newspaper written by and for African-American women.
Adelina Otero-Warren, (1881 –1965)
“Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren’s enthusiasm for suffrage proved crucial to the movement in New Mexico, where she became a leader in the efforts of the National Woman’s Party to organize the state. Descended from elite Hispanos, or settlers of Spanish-speaking origins, she garnered support for women’s suffrage among Spanish- and English-speaking communities. She later served as New Mexico’s first female government official and made an unsuccessful congressional bid in 1922.”
Wilhelmina Kekelaokalaninui Widemann Dowsett, (1861 –1929)
She was a Native Hawaiian suffragist who helped organize the National Women’s Equal Suffrage Association of Hawaii, the first women’s suffrage club in the Territory of Hawaii in 1912. She actively campaigned for the rights of the women of Hawaii to vote prior to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920.
Susette La Flesche, (1854 -1903)
“She served as an expert witness and worked as an interpreter in court cases that Native peoples brought against the federal government. She also received widespread fame as an orator, speaking out about the lack of rights afforded tribes. As activists, they lobbied strenuously to improve conditions on reservations and for U.S. citizenship, which was granted to them only in 1924.”
“Keri Gray is the senior director of stakeholder engagement and strategic communications with the American Association of People with Disabilities. She started a campaign called “Rev Up” to urge people with disabilities to vote and to educate poll workers on what it means to make a polling place accessible.”
Marcia Johnson Blanco
“Marcia Johnson-Blanco is the Co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project. She manages the Project’s programmatic and advocacy portfolios which include leading Election Protection, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection program, overseeing the work of the National Commission on Voting Rights, promoting election reform, ensuring minority participation in the redistricting process and ensuring that those with felony convictions regain their right to vote.” Marcia Johnson-Blanco
Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Shadd Cary was an American-Canadian anti-slavery activist, journalist, publisher, teacher, and lawyer. She was the first female African-American newspaper editor in North America when she edited The Provincial Freeman from Canada that sought to empower African-Americans. Shadd Cary joined the National Woman Suffrage Association, testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S.House of Representatives, and becoming the first African-American woman to vote in a national election.
Sofia Reyes de Veyra
“While advocating for Philippine independence and living in D.C., Sofia de Veyra and other Filipinas joined local women’s organizations that supported the American suffrage movement. Upon returning to the Philippines, these pioneering women formed women’s clubs and eventually won the right to vote on April 30, 1937.”
Alice Wong is a disability activist, media maker, and consultant. She is a co-partner of the #CripTheVote movement. #CripTheVote is a nonpartisan campaign to engage both voters and politicians in a productive discussion about disability issues in the United States, with the hope that disability takes on greater prominence within the American political landscape.
In her work as a co-founder of the National Council of American Indians in 1924, Zitkála-Šá (Yankton Dakota Sioux) was an author, musician, composer, lecturer, translator and suffrage activist who ran a voter-registration drive among Native Americans. She lobbied for the Indian Citizenship Act that granted Native Americans U.S. citizenship, but it did not grant those living on reservations the right to vote in local and state elections. Zitkala-Ša continued to work for civil rights, and better access to health care and education for Native Americans until her death in 1938.
Yara is the co-founder of Eighteen x 18. Eighteen x 18 was launched in January, just one month before Shahidi’s 18th birthday. She describes it as a nonpartisan platform to help young people understand just what exactly is going on in politics and to inform them about their power at the polls.
Milagros Benet de Mewton
After the United States acquired Puerto Rico from Spain, inhabitants of the island gained U. S. citizenship. Benet de Mewton, an educator and women’s rights advocate, joined the first suffragist organization in Puerto Rico, Liga Femínea Puertorriqueña in 1917. When U.S. women gained the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment, Benet de Mewton led the push to extend its coverage to Puerto Rico by suing and losing in Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court, and later by successfully pressing the U.S. Congress to recognize their voting rights, in 1929.
“Jessica has served as the Vice President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) since incorporation in 2011 and is the current Research and Policy Director. She was involved with the drafting and ultimate passing of Amendment 4 in Florida, which eliminated the lifetime ban on voting for people with felony conviction and then re-enfranchised over 1.45 million people with past felony convictions in the state of Florida.”
Harper was an abolitionist, suffragist, poet, teacher, public speaker, and writer, one of the first African American women to be published in the United States. “She was a founding member of the American Woman Suffrage Association, and in 1873, after returning from a tour of freedman’s communities in the reconstructed states of the South, she delivered the closing speech at the AWSA convention in New York. Harper told the convention, “As much as white women need the ballot, colored women need it more. She called for equal rights and equal access to education for Black women, clearly defining race as a factor in the denial of women’s rights.”
Maria de Lopez
She was a California suffragist and an educator from Los Angeles. In the 1910s, Evangelina de Lopez campaigned and translated at rallies in Southern California, where suffragists distributed tens of thousands of pamphlets in Spanish. She was also the president of the College of Equal Suffrage League of Southern California when suffrage was won in 1911. In 1902, she became the youngest instructor at the University of California, making her possibly the first Latina to teach at UCLA. During WW I Evangelina de Lopez learned to fly a plane and served in the ambulance corps in France. She was later cited for bravery by the French government.
Semans, an enrolled member Rosebud Sioux Tribe, ran Four Directions’ get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operation in South Dakota’s Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for the 2014 election. Semans hired drivers and set up a command center to help tribal members get to the polls. Her team transported voters from around the 2.1 million-acre reservation to a single polling place in Pine Ridge Village. In August 2016, Semans helped conduct a comprehensive survey of over 800 voting age Native Americans in Nevada, and nearly 600 in South Dakota, that focused on highlighting discrimination and disparities in voting access for Native Americans.
Tye Leung Schulze
Tye Leung became the first Chinese American woman to vote when she cast a ballot in San Francisco on May 19, 1912. Leung who was in her early twenties may have been the first Chinese woman worldwide to cast a vote. She also became the first Chinese American woman to pass the civil service exams and to occupy a government job. She had a successful career as a translator in helping many immigrants. In 1911, the year before Leung cast her first vote, California became the sixth state to pass laws that granted equal suffrage, after Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Washington.
Rosa May Billinghurst
Rosa May Billinghurst was a suffragette and women’s rights activist in England. She belonged to the Women’s Liberal Association, the Women’s Social and Political Union, and later the Suffragette Fellowship. Though unable to walk due to childhood polio, Billinghurst was a heroic activist who did not let her disability get in the way of taking part in marches and demonstrations through the use of a modified tricycle. She participated in the British suffragettes’ window-smashing actions and was sentenced to several terms in prison, where she went on a hunger strike and was force-fed. She stopped her activities after Parliament gave some women the right to vote in 1918.
“Her advocacy work began when she sought to regain her own voting rights after release from a Maryland prison. As a result of Kimberly’s direction, hard work and with the support of organizations and affected individuals, the Maryland House and Senate in March 2007 approved the Voting Rights Protection Act, which re-enfranchised conservatively 50,000 residents who had completed their sentences. Since that time, Kimberly Haven has served as the executive director of Justice Maryland and the Maryland Justice Project. She was the project director for the Maryland Public Defender’s Pre-Trial and Bail Reform Campaign organizing one of the first court watch projects for bail reform efforts.”
Gertrude Bustill Mossell
Mossell was from a prominent free African American family of reformers and married to a physician.
“A professional journalist (Mrs. N. F. Mossell), she wrote a women’s column in T. Thomas Fortune’s newspaper, The New York Freeman. Her first article, entitled “Woman Suffrage,” published in 1885, encouraged women to read suffrage history and articles on women’s rights. Her pro-suffrage arguments were similar to other African American suffragists of that era in calling for a Federal Amendment to enfranchise women, and she directed her arguments to the Black community through the Black press.
Mary Church Terrell
Mary was born in Memphis, Tenn. to a family of former enslaved persons who became quite wealthy. After earning several college degrees, Terrell became a teacher, moving to Washington, D.C. to continue her teaching and begin her activism. In 1892 when a friend was lynched, she joined Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s campaign to end lynching. Terrell’s work focused on uplifting black people through education, work, and activism to end racial discrimination. She embraced women’s suffrage as a way to elevate the status of black women. She was president of the National Association of Colored Women and is recognized as one of the founders of the NAACP as well as the National Association of University Women.
Idár bravely fought injustice as a Mexican American journalist, activist, and suffragist in Texas. After organizing the First Mexican Congress with her family, she worked for her father’s newspaper, La Crónica, where she wrote an article supporting women’s suffrage, encouraging women to vote. She founded and led the League of Mexican Women, which began by educating Mexican American students and became a large feminist organization. She served as a nurse in the Mexican Revolution, opposed the U.S. entry into WW I as a writer for El Progreso – which the military tried to shut down – and she later took over her father’s newspaper. Idar was active in the Texas Democratic Party, advocating for women’s issues, particularly suffrage.
Sophia Alice Callahan
Born in Sulphur Springs, Tex., Callahan (Muscogee Creek Nation) is thought to have written the first novel by a Native American woman. Shocked by the massacre at Wounded Knee and Pine Ridge Reservation events, she began writing. “Wynema, a Child of the Forest” which explored important themes of social justice and reform for Native Americans, including voting rights. One of the male characters describes the cause of suffrage as “unwomanly” and “out of a woman’s sphere.” The main character, Genevieve, points out that his way of thinking is “absurd” and going out of style, and that “sensible men are beginning to open their eyes and see things in a different light from what their ancestors taught them.” Tragically, she died of illness at age 26
Born in Tokyo, Kimura was a Japanese suffragist, actress, dancer, theater manager, and magazine editor before World War II. Her work, both literary and theatrical, shaped the women’s rights and suffrage movements in Japan. With partners, she created The New True Woman Association, published a magazine and conducted lectures — both suppressed by the Japanese government. She continued to lecture, was arrested, defended herself at trial and with wide publicity drew broad support. Kimura came to New York City in 1917 to participate in the suffrage march of twenty-thousand campaigners on Fifth Avenue. While in the U.S., she studied English and the strategies of American suffragists and raised funds for continuing Japanese suffrage efforts.
Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson
Known as a hard-nosed administrator and legendary activist, Smith-Robinson worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from its earliest days in 1960 until her untimely death in October 1967. She participated in the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, community-organizing and voter registration drives. She was badly beaten on a Freedom Ride, arrested and spent 45 days in prison. Smith-Robinson pushed back on the sexism she found in the civil rights movement, eventually succeeding James Forman as SNCC’s executive secretary and was the only woman ever to serve in this capacity. She was in charge of the summer voter registration project in Mississippi and was responsible for the Sojourner Truth motor fleet, which provided civil rights workers transportation.
Adella Hunt Logan
Hunt-Logan, a Georgia native, attended Atlanta University and was a schoolteacher before joining Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute, where she also served as treasurer. She married fellow teacher Warren Logan, and gave birth to nine children, only six survived to childhood. She led discussions and amassed a large library of resources about suffrage for the Tuskegee Women’s Club. She attended the 1908 Atlanta conference of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, even though African Americans were excluded. Georgia had recently passed a new constitution to disenfranchise Blacks. She also wrote about women’s rights in Crisis, a journal produced by W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP. Her life ended with a tragic suicide, following troubles in her marriage and setbacks in the suffrage movement.
Maggie Lena Walker
Born in 1864, Maggie Lena Walker was a successful businesswoman and the first African American woman to charter a bank and serve as its president. Walker organized pre-registration meetings in in 1920 in Richmond, Virginia after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Those meetings led to a huge voter registration drive for African American women and resulted in the highest rate of African American women registered to vote in Richmond that year. In 1921, Maggie became the first and only African American woman to run on a gubernatorial ticket. She was also an early model for persons with disabilities after a fall appearing in a wheelchair in news photos. Walker is honored by a statue in Richmond and her former home is the Maggie L. Walker Historic Site, with a visitor center, is operated by the National Park Service.
Augusta T. Chissell (1880-1973)
Augusta was an important leader in the women’s suffrage movement in Baltimore City. She had a long history of involvement in empowering women’s groups in the city which helped her in her leadership throughout the suffrage movement. After the 19th Amendment was passed, she authored a news column, “A Primer for Women Voters,” which offered guidance for African American women who wanted to vote. She also organized many weekly training sessions for women voters at the CYWCA. She served as the Chair of the Women’s Cooperative Civic League and the Baltimore branch of the NAACP. She left behind a legacy of decades of activism for all women.
Aurora Lucero-White (1894-1963)
Aurora was born in New Mexico in 1894 into a wealthy, political family. Her father was the first Secretary of State in New Mexico in 1912. She remained involved in family politics and moved to Washington, D.C. with her father where she was named a delegate to the Ladies Delegation Aides. She helped her cousin lobby to secure the state voting franchise for American women in the 1910s. She eventually moved back to New Mexico with her husband and daughter and began a career in education, earned a PhD, and became a distinguished writer, creating several fiction and educational works.
Virginia Howard Billedeaux (1870-1950)
Virginia was born on a reservation near Helena, Montana and was a member of the Amskapi Pikuni tribe. At age ten, she worked as a live-in servant in a middle-class home as a way for her parents to ensure she had adequate food and shelter. Once she married, she moved to the Blackfeet Reservation where she and her husband raised cattle and horses. When they found it hard to make ends meet, she insisted that the Blackfeet people needed political capital. She encouraged her people to vote on legislation that affected them. She also played a role in Native American suffrage in Montana, which came ten years after women’s suffrage in the state.
Terry Ao Minnis
Terry is the senior director of the census and voting programs for Asian Americans Advancing Justice. She has published several articles on voting rights and been counsel on numerous amicus briefs filed before the Supreme Court. She was one of the key leaders in campaigns on reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act in 2006 and Census 2010. She holds a law degree from American University’s Washington College of Law and a bachelor’s degree in economics form the University of Chicago.
Angelina Weld Grimke (1880-1958)
Daughter of a diplomat and Civil Rights activist, Angelina was a well-known feminist in D.C. She was an African American journalist, playwright, poet, lesbian, suffragist, teacher, and author. She received her education at Wellesley, and expressed a strong, radical intersectional feminism, especially for her time. Her written works and plays exposed her ideas about the double standards that women in society faced and the painful and violent experiences of Black women. She believed women deserved justice and believed the only way to achieve justice was for women to get the ballot. She used her elite status in D.C. as a means to help achieve women’s suffrage. https://suffragistmemorial.org/african-american-women-leaders-in-the-suffrage-movement/
Alice Gertrude Baldwin (1859-1943)
A Baltimore native, Alice was an educator and activist in Wilmington, DE. She landed at The Howard School, where she was key in offering adequate education to children of the black community. She and a group of like-minded African American women formed the Wilmington Equal Suffrage Club. She lobbied the governor to convene a special session to consider ratification of the 19th Amendment, and while not ratified immediately, her speech “The Colored Teacher’s Tale” was considered remarkable. She was a champion of racial equality as well, being involved in the local NAACP chapter and improving the conditions for Black Americans in the pre-Civil Rights era.
Vera Pigee (1924 – 2007)
Vera Pigee owned a beauty salon in the heart of the black business district in Clarksdale, MS. She organized an NAACP chapter with Civil Rights leader Aaron Henry, was a branch secretary, adviser to an NAACP state Youth Council, and supervisor to Citizenship Schools which offered classes on literacy and voter registration. Pigee held classes in the backroom of her salon. She was fierce advocate for integration, playing a major role in desegregating the Clarksdale Bus Terminal in 1961. She later earned a doctorate in journalism and chronicled her work in her first book, Struggle of Struggles: Part 1.
Margaret Gregory Hawkins (1877-1969)
Chissell and her next door neighbor, Margaret Hawkins, were leaders of the black women’s suffrage moment and used their West Baltimore homes as meeting places for the Progressive Women’s Suffrage Club and the DuBois Circle. They worked with members to organize suffrage campaigns and address other social issues of the time, mainly racial justice. Hawkins was the first African American woman to serve on the board of the Central Branch YWCA and was key in the 1909 effort to retain the 15th Amendment for Black men in Baltimore City. Recently, Maryland activists erected an historic marker near their homes and the site is now part of the National Votes for Women Trail.
Camarilla serves as the current president of Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), the largest and oldest national non-profit, nonpartisan organization of its kind. She plays a key role in developing and executing strategies for SVREP’s nonpartisan mobilization efforts. Under her leadership and the past president’s leadership, the Latino participation in the democratic process has almost tripled. Previously, she was the CEO of the DNC in 1999 and was a vital member of the Gore campaign. She serves on numerous boards and commissions dedicated to civil, voting, and immigrants’ rights.
Mary Louise Bottineau Baldwin (1863-1952)
Born in North Dakota, Baldwin (Metis/Turtle Mountain Chippewa) moved with her father to Washington, DC where she worked to defend the treaty rights of their Nation. She was appointed by Teddy Roosevelt as the clerk in the Office of Indian Affairs in 1904 and became highly involved in the women’s suffrage movement and the Society for American Indians. She remained active in the suffrage movement until her retirement, marching in the 1913 Alice Paul Suffrage Parade and working closely with other female lawyers. She was dedicated to educating people about the political roles of women in Native society.
Dr. S.K. Chan
Dr. Chan was a doctor (mainly an herbalist) who practiced in Portland, OR. In 1912, Chinese American women in Portland established an equal suffrage society, with Dr. Chan as its president. She led the group as it mobilized Portland’s Chinese neighborhoods during the suffrage movement; at the time, immigrants were not allowed to become naturalized citizens and were denied the right of suffrage under the Oregon Constitution. With the help of her efforts, Article II, Section 6 of the OR Constitution was repealed in 1927, granting suffrage to Chinese women.
Charlotte Rollin and her Sisters (mid-to-late 1800s)
The Rollin sisters were some of the most influential Black women to have lived during the Reconstruction Era. Frances Ann (Frank), Katherine (Kate), Charlotte (Lottie), Marie Louise (Loyise) and Florence Rollin were born in Charleston, but eventually settled in Columbia, South Carolina. These five women influenced the political sphere in spite of their inability to vote or hold political office. Born to a free, wealthy black couple, they were very influential in the political landscape.
All of the sisters were involved in civil rights activism. Katherine and Charlotte, both known as fierce lobbyists and political brokers, opened a school for freedmen in Charleston. Charlotte was a proponent of full suffrage and rights of women. She spoke before the state house, pleading for suffrage and organized a “Women’s Rights Convention” that was attended by prominent leaders, black and white, men and women. She facilitated the charter of the South Carolina branch of the American Women’s Suffrage Association.
Juno Frankie Seay Pierce (1864-1954)
Frankie Pierce was born to a slave during the Civil War in Tennessee where she grew up and received her education. She founded the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls and the Nashville Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and served as president of the Negro Women’s Reconstruction League. She was a fierce advocate for women’s suffrage, believing that it would open doors for Black women to receive government recognition. She continued to lobby and run the successful school until 1939. Frankie Pierce and Black suffragists worked closely with White suffragists to secure votes in the Tennessee legislature for ratification, the 36th and final state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment.
Osceola Macarthy Adams (1890 – 1983)
While at Howard University, Adams helped found the important sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. Adams’s noticed that there was a woman’s suffrage march scheduled in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 1913. As a skilled politician, Adams began encouraging her sorority sisters to agree to march in the parade. Adams was also partially responsible for the administration’s decision to allow the young women to participate in the march, despite the fact that Dean Kelly Miller was less than supportive of the fight for woman’s suffrage. Although march organizers tried to force black women to march at the back of the parade, the Deltas opted to march with their state’s delegations, despite abusive language both from the crowd and white suffragists.
Coralie Franklin Cook (1861-1942)
The first descendant of a Monticello slave to graduate from college, Coralie was a powerful public speaker, educator at Howard University, and the second African American woman appoint to the School Board of D.C. She was a founder of the National Association of Colored Women and an ardent suffragist who worked with the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She often reminded white women that they could not ignore the political rights of the less fortunate and shed light on the similarities between gender and racial discrimination.
Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005)
The first African American woman elected to Congress, Shirley was an outspoken representative who was an avid community activist and fierce defender of civil and human rights. She defended the voting rights of African Americans across the country, making sure the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was upheld for all. She was the first African American woman to run for President, where she faced substantial gender and racial discrimination. While she did not have a very successful campaign on paper, her legacy is that she shifted the paradigm that only white men could qualify for positions of power. Chisholm was an early member of NOW
Former President of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Antonia is dedicated to protecting the civil rights of the country’s nearly 40 million Latinx residents. Under her leadership, MALDEF has vigorously defended the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1982, she helped to create a new section of the Act that explicitly outlaws discriminatory election practices. She also championed a bilingual provision to protect limited-English proficient voters. In order to ensure a strong political voice for Latinos throughout the country, MALDEF led nationwide census outreach campaigns in 1990 and 2000.
Barbara Arnwine is the Founder and President of Transformative Justice Coalition, an organization that advocates for racial, gender, economic, environmental, and other forms of social justice. Arnwine was instrumental in gaining passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. She has also been an advocate for women’s rights, immigrant rights, judicial diversity, criminal justice reform and other movements. Barbara is the President Emeritus of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In 2011, she created the legendary Voting Rights “Map of Shame”. In 2017, NOW honored Arwine for her tireless voting rights work.
Dr. Mary E. Britton (1855-1925)
Born the daughter of a former slave, Dr. Britton used her voice throughout her lifespan to speak out against the injustices she saw and faced every day as an African American and as a woman. In adulthood, she was a teacher and an early member of the State Association of Colored Teachers. She gave a famous speech about women’s suffrage, comparing withholding women’s right to vote to “taxation without representation.” Retiring from teaching in 1897, Dr. Britton decided to pursue a medical degree and attended American Missionary College of Medicine in Chicago. After completion of her degree, Dr. Britton returned to Kentucky and established her practice in Lexington, when she continued to work and fight for equality.
Stacey is a New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO and political leader. She served for 11 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Democratic Leader, then became the Democratic nominee for governor, but lost to Republican Brian Kemp, then Georgia’s Secretary of State. After witnessing the gross mismanagement of 2018 gubernatorial election by the Secretary of State’s office (!), Abrams launched her nonprofit, Fair Fight 2020, an initiative to fund and train voter protection teams in 20 battleground states. Over the course of her career, Abrams has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels.
Lugenia Burns Hope (1871-1947)
Lugenia was one of the most effective social reformers in the South. In Atlanta, she founded the Neighborhood Union, recruiting Morehouse College students to learn about communities’ most pressing issues and to enact social change. The Neighborhood Union became a model for community building and race/gender activism, offering social and educational services. Lugenia worked to end discrimination and to prevent lynching by passing a national bill to prohibit lynching and prosecute perpetrators. As first vice president of Atlanta NAACP, she created citizenship schools, six-week classes in democracy and voting. She was an avid supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, acknowledging that one of the best ways to enact community change is to vote for proper leaders.
Verina Morton Jones (1865-1943)
Verina was the first woman to pass the medical board exam and the first woman licensed to practice medicine in the state of Mississippi. Eventually, she and her husband, also a doctor, moved to Brooklyn and founded their own practice. She not only broke barriers by being a Black female physician, but also by being an avid suffragist and social justice advocate. Verina was president of the Equal Suffrage League, director of mothers’ clubs through the National Association of Colored Women, and leader of the Association for Protection of Colored Women. She also went on to found the Lincoln Settlement House and the Harriet Tubman Center, both service organizations for young black women and was active in her chapter of the NAACP.
Fannie Barrier Williams (1855-1944)
Born to a well-regarded Black family in Brockport, New York, Fannie grew up to be an important educator, activist, and advocate for Black women, and especially for Black women in the South. She helped found both the National League of Colored Women and the National Association of Colored Women. She was dedicated to Black women’s suffrage in order to achieve better political representation. Fannie was recognized as the only African American woman selected to eulogize Susan B. Anthony at the National American Women Suffrage Association convention. She published several articles on civil and women’s rights and helped found the NAACP with W.E.B. DuBois.
Nannie Helen Burroughs (1880-1961)
Burroughs was an accomplished academic who was turned down for a teaching position in Washington, D.C., presumptively due to her race. So, Nannie opened her own school to educate and train poor working African American women, called the National Training School for Women and Girls. She was also an active suffragist, writing and speaking on the need for Black and white women to work together to achieve the vote. She believed suffrage for African American women was crucial to combat societal discrimination, much like the discrimination she had faced.
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)
The daughter of former enslaved persons, Mary was one of the most important Black leaders and educators of the twentieth century, opening a boarding school that eventually became Bethune-Cookman College in 1929. She was a champion of racial and gender equality, and a strong advocate for suffrage, and led voter registration drives after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Mary served as president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and the National Council of Negro Women and vice president of the NAACP. She was director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, advising President Roosevelt. There is a memorial statue of Mary in Washington D.C. A postage stamp was issued in her honor in 1985. Her final residence is a National Historic Site in Washington, open to visitors.
Harriet “Hattie” Redmond (1862-1952)
Born to formerly enslaved parents in Missouri who later settled in Portland, Ore., Hattie was a leader in the long struggle for Oregon woman suffrage. This was made difficult by Black exclusion laws that Oregon had codified in its constitution. Hattie’s activities centered on the Oregon Colored Women’s Council and the YWCA. She was president of the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage Association. She organized meetings and lectures on women’s suffrage and was influential in gaining women’s suffrage in Oregon in 1912. Due to racism, her work was largely unknown until Oregon celebrated its centennial observance in 2012. In 2018, the Benton Annex at Oregon State University was renamed to the Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center.
Martha “Mary” A. Harris Mason McCurdy (1852-1934)
Mary was born to a free family in Pennsylvania and became interested the need for political solutions to poor living conditions in Black neighborhoods. She outlived two husbands and made homes in Richmond. Ind., then Atlanta and Rome, Ga. In each place she continued her work for the African American community and women’s suffrage. Mary was very active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union; she represented Indiana in the Women’s Division of the National Republican Committee. She was a published writer and became editor for The Woman’s World, a newspaper dedicated to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual progress of Black people. She believed Black progress could be made with women’s suffrage and worked with others to bring more Black women into the movement.
Janie Porter Barrett (1865-1948)
Janie was born in Athens, Ga. Attended the Hampton vocational training school in Virginia, taught night school elsewhere, returning to Hampton to marry a fellow graduate, Harris Barrett. For 20 years, Janie ran a program of sewing, gardening, quilting, poultry raising, cooking and mothering in the style of settlement houses. Her work spread throughout Hampton. Janie raised money for a school for African American girls who had been incarcerated. She worked to make sure they achieved a proper education, were sent to adequate foster care families and set up for future success. Janie was an avid supporter of women’s suffrage, became the president of the Virginia State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and chair of the executive board, National Association of Colored Women. He work as an educator has had a lasting influence.
Irene Moorman Blackstone (1872-1944)
Irene was an African-American businesswoman and activist who is remembered for her work with bringing racial cooperation to the New York suffrage campaign. Along with many other African American activist clubs, she was a leader within the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage League of Brooklyn and the Political Equality League, which campaigned for politicians who supported suffrage. She regularly spoke on support of women’s suffrage at suffrage events. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, she focused mainly on preventing discrimination against African Americans in attaining socioeconomic and political equality.
Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)
Born the poor daughter of sharecroppers and victim of forced sterilization in the deeply racist Mississippi Delta, Hamer became an essential organizer in fighting for the Black right to vote. In 1962, she co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the local Democratic Party’s efforts to block black participation. In 1964, she helped organize Freedom Summer, which brought hundreds of college students, black and white, to help with African American voter registration in the Jim Crow South. Hamer, along with two others, became the first black women to stand before U.S. Congress, protested the unfair Mississippi House election of 1964. She believed denying Blacks the right to vote would only further the racial discrimination in the South.
Lucy Wilmot Smith (1861-1890)
Most likely born into an enslaved slave family, Lucy was able to achieve a proper education and began a teaching career to support herself and her mother. At age twenty-five, Lucy gave an empowering speech titled, “The Future Colored Girl,” that exposed the limited career options for black women and encouraged women to pursue careers in medicine, for she believed women were best suited to care for other women. She was also a distinguished journalist, contributing works to several prominent newspapers advocating for women’s suffrage and equality. She wrote, “women should have the ballot, not as a matter of expediency, but as a matter of pure justice.”
Victoria Clay Haley Roland (1877-1926)
Dedicated to public service, Victoria was a public school teacher, vice president of her local YWCA, board member for the State Industrial School for Incorrigible Negro Girls, and an illustrious writer. As president of the Federated Colored Women’s Club, she attended a suffrage conference, where she was asked to leave due to the color of her skin. Her refusal to leave demonstrated the courage and leadership that many Black women had and proved that Black women deserved the same rights and respect as white women. She was a key supporter of women’s suffrage, and after the 19th Amendment was passed, she continued working in politics, fighting for better lives for African Americans.
Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (1851-1964)
A freed slave and educator, Anna was quick to realize that women were not granted the same level of education as men and spent her entire life advocating for the education of Black women. Her written work, A Voice From the South by a Black Woman of the South, became a classic African American feminist text. She worked to reform the public education system in D.C., dramatically transforming it to a high-caliber system that was producing ivy league students. She was actively involved in several women’s groups as well, demonstrating her support for women’s suffrage. The vote, she insisted, would allow for better politicians who would support the education of African American women.
Christia Daniels Adair (1893-1989)
Adair was one of the first and few Black suffragists in the state of Texas and an early active member of the Texas NAACP. She was key in the desegregation of the Houston Public Library, airport, veteran’s hospital and city buses. Many credit the ability for Black citizens to serve on juries and in county government jobs to her activism. She was a member of the Houston chapter of National Organization for Women and was honored for her suffrage activism. She worked as a county clerk of absentee voting until well into her eighties, making sure everyone, but especially Black women, was able to exercise their right to vote.
Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet (1831-1911)
Sarah was the first African American woman to found a suffrage organization and the first black woman principal in the New York public school system. She followed in her father’s footsteps, advocating against racism and for the right to vote. In her role as an educator, Garnet fought to abolish race discrimination against Black teachers, equal pay for equal work for women, and women’s rights. She helped found the Equal Suffrage League, a group that fought for the Black women’s right to vote. She assisted with the merger of the National Association of Colored Women and the Equal Suffrage League, where she then became the outstanding president of the joint organization. She fought for the rights of all people until her death.
Addie Waites Hunton (1875-1943)
Addie was an African American suffragist, race and women’s rights activist, writer, political organizer, and educator. In 1889. Born in Norfolk, Va., Hunton was raised by a maternal aunt in Boston. Hunton became the first Black woman to graduate from Spencerian College of Commerce and taught in Alabama. She was president of the International Council of the Women of Darker Races and of the Empire State Federation of Women’s Clubs, as well as vice president and field secretary for the NAACP. She was a national organizer for the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) from 1906 to 1910 and served in the U.S. Army during World War I in France. Addie was fearlessly outspoken and passionate about suffrage and was a regular participant in the work of the Equal Suffrage League and was a pillar of early civil rights activism in New York.
Daisy Adams Lampkin (1883-1965)
Motivated by the suffragist movement of the early 20th century, Lampkin began hosting local suffragist meetings at her home in 1912. After relocating to Pittsburgh, Lampkin became increasingly involved in the local leadership of the suffragist movement. She joined the New Negro Women’s Equal Franchise Federation, which would later be renamed the Lucy Stone League. Lampkin’s early career as a suffragist included a talent for drawing street-corner crowds to hear suffragists’ speeches and organizing Black housewives to actively engage in consumer groups. In 1915, her leadership and oratorical ability earned her the position of president of the Lucy Stone League, a post she maintained until 1955.
Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926)
Mahoney was one of the first African Americans to graduate from a nursing school in 1879. She actively participated in the advancement of civil rights and women’s suffrage in the United States. She was a dedicated nurse, striving to provide adequate healthcare to African American patients. Her work in the suffrage movement was based in a desire to elect officials who would support racially equitable healthcare. In 1920, after women’s suffrage was achieved in the U.S., Mahoney was among the first women in Boston to register to vote. In retirement, Mahoney was still concerned with women’s equality and a strong supporter of women’s suffrage
Sarah Parker Remond (1826-1894)
In 1832 she helped found the first female antislavery group in Salem, Mass. In 1859, while on an antislavery speaking tour in England, Remond reported, “I have been received here as a sister by white women for the first time in my life. . . I have received a sympathy I never was offered before.” For Remond, transnational connections became a concrete way to escape racism in the United States. She settled permanently in Italy, where she became a physician. In 1866, Remond affixed her name to John Stuart Mill’s petition to the British Parliament for woman suffrage. Remond’s work abroad relates to extensive communications American suffragists carried on with their sisters abroad, which paid off in a number of countries adopting woman suffrage before the U.S. Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
Maria W. Stewart (1803-1879)
She was a free-born African American who was a teacher, journalist, lecturer, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist. Born in Hartford, Conn., she became orphaned at age five and was forced to become a servant in the household of a clergyman. Not formally educated, Maria schooled herself by reading books from the family library. She moved to Boston, married an older man who died in 1829 and was cheated out of her inheritance. She embraced Christianity and used religious principles in her suffrage work. Maria was the first known American woman to speak to a mixed audience of men and women, white and Black. She was also the first African American woman to make public lectures in the early 1800s, as well as to lecture about women’s rights and make a public anti-slavery speech. Later in life, she used her lecturing skills to speak about women’s suffrage and the importance of the African American vote.
Alice Dunbar Nelson (1875-1935)
Alice Dunbar Nelson was an American poet, journalist, and political activist. Born in the South among the first free generation after the Civil War, she was among the prominent African Americans involved in the artistic flourishing of the Harlem Renaissance. Her first husband was the famed poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, an alcoholic who nearly beat her to death. Though she later married several men, she maintained intimate relationships with women. Moving to Wilmington, Del. Alice became an activist for African Americans’ and women’s rights, during the 1920s and 1930s. While she continued to write stories and poetry, she became more politically active and put more effort into numerous articles and journalism on leading topics, such as women’s suffrage In 1924, Dunbar Nelson campaigned for the passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, but the Southern Democratic block in Congress defeated it. She moved to Philadelphia and continued to write on the importance of the African American vote.
Naomi Bowman Anderson (1843-1899)
Naomi Anderson was an African American suffragist, temperance leader, civil rights activist, and writer who advocated for equal rights in the 1870s. Born in Michigan City, Ind., Naomi showed promise as a writer and was admitted to an all-white high school. She moved her family to Chicago and then to Portsmouth, Ohio, where she gained a teaching certificate. She founded a Black children’s home, but later in Columbus established a hair-dressing business to support her family. She spoke at an 1869 Women’s Rights Convention, took a lecture tour through the mid-west and wrote a poem for the United States Centennial of 1879. Naomi later lived in San Francisco and worked alongside white suffragists for the nation’s first woman suffrage referendum; she was praised by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for her work. The ballot measure passed, recognizing the right of women to vote in California in 1911.
Ella Baker (1903-1986)
Sometimes referred to as the mother of the Civil Rights movement, Ella played a key role in founding some of the most influential organizations of her time like the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She grew up in North Carolina, the granddaughter of former enslaved persons, and earned her degree at Shaw University, where her firm dedication to activism began. Among many other issues she fought for, the African American’s and woman’s vote were very important to her. She believed it was the key to open the door to freedom. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, CA is dedicated to carrying on her work for decarceration and community investment to promote a living wage, childcare, healthcare, and housing.
Hallie Quinn Brown (1850-1945)
Born to former enslaved persons, Brown earned her degree in 1870 and began a teaching career in plantation and public schools across the South. She even served as the principal of the Tuskegee Institute under Booker T. Washington. She was well known for her activism in both the Civil Rights, Women’s movements and was a pioneer in the movement for African American women’s clubs. In 1893 she moved to Washington, D.C. to be the principal promoter of the Colored Woman’s League and was a key founder of the National Association of Colored Women. Like many others, Hallie stressed the importance of women’s suffrage in order to advance equality for Black Americans.
Clara Ueland (1860-1927)
Clara’s life was dedicated to women’s equality and feminist activism, most notably, the suffrage movement. In 1913, Clara founded the Equal Suffrage Organization of Minneapolis, assembling a suffrage parade with nearly 2,000 marchers. Her successful leadership led to president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association. Clara sent newsletters around the state and gave lectures in various cities to build support. By the way, she did this work while parenting eight children. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, Clara celebrated with 50 other suffragists at a 1920 victory convention in Chicago. Clara attended the first national congress of the League of Women Voters, taking leadership of the League’s Minnesota branch. She later campaigned for a child labor amendment and helped elect women to public office.
Helen Appo Cook (1837-1913)
Helen Appo Cook was a prominent and wealthy African American and community activist in Washington, D.C. In 1892, Helen joined with other prominent African American women leaders to form the Colored Women’s League, later known as the National Association of Colored Women, which is still active today. Helen was elected president. Their goals were to promote unity, social progress and the best interests of the African American community. She was also a leader in the National Association for the Relief for Destitute Colored Women and Children, created by an act of Congress. In 1898, Helen was invited by W.E.B. DuBois to submit a paper to the Atlanta Conference of Negro Problems. Cook related the work of the Colored Women’s League, stressing that women’s suffrage would further advance rights and equality for African Americans.
Estelle Hall Young (1884-1938)
Estelle was a leader of civic and suffrage organizations that supported racial equality in Baltimore, MD. She founded the Progressive Women’s Suffrage Club in 1915 to activate Black women to support the suffrage movement because at the time, it was a racially divided topic. Estelle was also active in politics and was one of four women on the executive committee of the Independent Republican League that helped elect W. Ashbie Hawkins to the U.S. Senate. After the ratification of the 19th amendment, she stayed engaged in civil rights and suffrage activism because Black women were still facing barriers at the polls, and would continue to do so, until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Helen Keller (1880-1968)
Helen Keller, in her time, was the most famous person with disabilities in the world.The story of the deaf and blind Helen’s education with the help of Anne Sullivan, her life-long companion, is told through several books Helen wrote as well as a film and stage play, The Miracle Worker. But most people are not awarethat Helen Keller was also a self-described “militant” suffragist. In 1913, she participated in the historic Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington, D.C. Keller was interested in working persons’ issues, focusing on industrial safety standards, child labor and the needs of persons with disabilities. She was a Socialist, was anti-war and anti-imperialist. Helen was an early and firm supporter of birth control, a taboo subject then. She knew that to advance the rights of working women, women needed the ability to vote. Her ashes, along with those of Anne Sullivan, are interred at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Maud Nathan (1862-1946)
Maud Nathan was an advocate for women’s rights, better conditions for working women, and as a Jewish woman, sought to combat anti-Semitism. She was born into an affluent and distinguished family in New York, where she married and had one child, Annette, who died at age eight. To deal with her grief, Maud began charitable work, teaching English to Jewish immigrants. She was a founding member and president of the New York Consumers League for 30 years. From her experience in lobbying on consumer issues, Maud realized that legislators did not care about the opinions of non-voters and that women did not have a voice without the vote. She became a lecturer on an international stage for women’s suffrage and later headed the women’s suffrage committee for the National Progressive Party. Her husband, Frederick, was also an avid supporter, serving as president of the Men’s League for Equal Suffrage.