The National Suffrage Movement
Updated August 29, 2020
If you’re intrigued with our MN stories, perhaps you’ll also enjoy some from the National scene.
In many ways, the history of the women’s suffrage movement is inseparable from the history of race in the United States, as it is from so many issues. Indeed, the women’s rights movement was rooted in the anti-slavery movement, and African Americans were involved from the start.
When the American Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1831 by William Lloyd Garrison, barred women from joining, Lucretia Mott, a white radical abolitionist and Quaker preacher, and other women formed the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Among them were Black women such as Charlotte Forten and her daughters, Margaretta Forten, Sarah Purvis and Harriet Purvis; Grace Bustill Douglass; and Sarah McCrummell.
Mott recalled the first national Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, held May 9, 1837, in New York City. When a second convention was held in 1838 in Philadelphia, a mob opposed to “race mixing” broke up a meeting and later burned down the building, Pennsylvania Hall, about three days after it opened. Mott considered those conventions the start of the women’s movement. Source: Why Womens Suffrage Matters for Black People.
Sisters in Suffrage has an array of fascinating suffragist stories. Especially noteworthy is the story of Ida B. Wells-Barnett. When Wells-Barnett and other Black suffragists tried to join a national march in Washington, D.C. in 1913, movement leader, Alice Paul, instructed them to walk at the back end of the crowd. Wells refused. “Either I go with you or not at all,” she told organizers. “I am not taking this stand because I personally wish for recognition. I am doing it for future benefit of my whole race.” Source: Black Suffragists 19th Amendment.
Also among the Black women who showed up to the parade were 22 college women from Howard University.
The women were excited. It would be their first public demonstration, and this particular group had recent practice advocating for themselves and their values. In the months leading up to the march, they rebelled from the nation’s first sorority for Black women, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., finding it to be more of an extension of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., even if just in name only, and not designed to respond to the societal issues of their time — the Great Migration, the aftermath of World War I, a thriving suffrage movement. These women needed something more than a social club. Read more of their story.
In 1912, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee was just a teenager but she led a contingent of Chinese and Chinese-American women in one of the biggest suffrage parades in U. S. history. She didn’t just march. She rode a white horse at the start of the parade, and she wore a three-cornered hat in the colors of the British Suffrage movement: purple to symbolize that the cause of suffrage is noble; white for purity; and green, the color of spring, as a symbol of hope. Source: The NY Times Coverage called Finish the Fight.