These individuals fought for women's suffrage. They lived across the United States, and came from around the world. Some were active in the battle for women's right to vote in the early 1800s; others worked to educate and enroll voters and for voting rights into the late 1900s and beyond. Men and women, young and old, you may know some of them for other parts of their histories. Some you may never have heard of before.
Women gained the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19 Amendment. On Election Day in 1920, millions of American women exercised this right for the first time. For almost 100 years, women (and men) had been fighting for women’s suffrage: They had made speeches, signed petitions, marched in parades and argued over and over again that women, like men, deserved all of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The leaders of this campaign—women like Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Ida B. Wells—did not always agree with one another, but each was committed to the enfranchisement of all American women.
“Black suffragists came to the suffrage movement from a different perspective,” said Earnestine Jenkins, who teaches Black history and culture at the University of Memphis. Their movement, she says, grew out of the broader struggle for basic human and civil rights during the oppressive Jim Crow era.
In their fight for women’s right to vote, suffragists faced decades of derision, imprisonment, and abuse. Their resilience and determination changed the course of history and inspired later generations of activists. Here we present just some of the women who persisted and have endured.
This listing of African American Women Leaders in the American Woman Suffrage Movement is taken from the works of Dr. Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, former Professor of History and Coordinator of Graduate Programs in History at Morgan State University in Baltimore. She is the foremost authority on African-American women in the suffrage movement.
During the early 20th century, women suffragists all throughout the country lobbied, marched and fought for woman suffrage, both at the state level and federally. Latina women played key and sometimes overlooked roles in this fight, particularly in the Southwestern United States. They stood up not just for all women to gain the right to vote, but for Hispanic women to be included in the process.
Native-born Asian Americans already had U.S. citizenship in 1920, but first generation Asian Americans did not. Asian American immigrant women were therefore excluded from voting until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 allowed them to gain citizenship more than three decades after the 19th Amendment. Despite being barred from citizenship and from voting, Asian American suffragists such as Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee worked alongside white Native-born women in the years leading up to 1920; Ping-Hua Lee and others advocated within their communities and even marched in suffrage parades.
Iroquois women of the Six Nations Confederacy and the matrilineal culture of the Haudenosaunee exerted a profound influence on early feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Lucretia Mott — and helped to shape their vision of women as equals.