February is Black History Month and this year at andieanderin we want to highlight trailblazing African American women (while there are MANY more) who fought for the right for women to vote. As this year marks the centennial of the 19th amendment, and while black women had to fight long after the 19th amendment; we want to recognize the important role they played in not only the suffragettes, but the 15th amendment and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which transformed the voting rights for black women in the South.
An abolitionist and women’s rights activist, Sojourner Truth made history for equality in the United States. Born a slave, she fought for her freedom. She is perhaps most famous for her speech given at the women’s rights convention in Ohio in 1851, entitled “Ain’t I a Woman.”
One our favorites Sojourner quotes and a sign of the current times “If women want any rights more than they's got, why don't they just take them, and not be talking about it.”
Mary Church Terrell
One of the first African-American women to earn a college degree, she was a writer, educator, and a national civil rights activist and suffragette. In the 19th and 20th century Terrell was a key individual in the rising of the black middle class.
“And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving, and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition 'ere long. With courage, born of success achieved in the past, with a keen sense of the responsibility which we shall continue to assume, we look forward to a future large with promise and hope. Seeking no favors because of our color, nor patronage because of our needs, we knock at the bar of justice, asking an equal chance.”
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
One of the first African-American women to be published in the United States, she was a poet and writer. She was also an activist in the abolitionist and women’s rights movement. Harper lectured across America at a time when women rarely spoke in public.
“The true aim of female education should be, not a development of one or two, but all the faculties of the human soul, because no perfect womanhood is developed by imperfect culture.”
Nannie Helen Burroughs
Urging all women to come together, Burroughs wrote and spoke about the need for all women to cooperate in the right to vote. She supported women’s suffrage through her leadership within the Woman’s Convention of the National Baptist Convention.
“To struggle and battle and overcome and absolutely defeat every force designed against us is the only way to achieve.”
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin
“…we are women, American women, as intensely interested in all that pertains to us as such as all other American women; we are not alienating or withdrawing, we are only coming to the front, willing to join any others in the same work and welcoming any others to join us.”
Ruffin was an African-American publisher, journalist, civil rights leader, suffragist, and editor of the Woman's Era, the first national newspaper published by and for African-American women. She also, along with her daughter, formed The Woman’s Era Club; the first African American women’s club in Boston.
Ida B. Wells
A founder of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, Wells was a prominent investigative journalist, and considered outspoken in the women's suffrage movement. She gained international fame for her anti-lynching crusade, publishing detailed reports of the unjust murders, as she strived for justice for all African-Americans.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and it does seem to me that notwithstanding all these social agencies and activities there is not that vigilance which should be exercised in the preservation of our rights.”
The Wing hosted an excellent ‘No Man’s Land’ podcast on Ida B. Wells. Take a listen here.