Johnson City TN Suffrage Centennial Celebration

Frankie Pierce (1864–1954)

An African American woman, Frankie was active in the Tennessee Suffrage movement. She spoke at the charter meeting of the Tennessee League of Women Voters held during the 1920 legislative session in which the 19th Amendment was ratified. She had accepted the invitation from Catherine Kenny, an Irish Catholic who also experienced exclusion from upper-middle class white Suffragists in Tennessee.

Mable Ping-Hua Lee (1896 – 1966)

In 1912, just 16 years old, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee took part in a parade with 10,000 other suffragists  advocating for the right to vote. Lee, riding a horse, helped lead the parade. And as early as 1913, she insisted that true feminism “is nothing more than the extension of democracy or social justice and equality of opportunities to women.” The 1892 Exclusion Act which limited Chinese immigration and denied citizenship to all Chinese immigrants was invalidated with the passage of the McCarran-Walter Act in 1952, which allowed people of Asian descent to immigrate and become citizens. (See the Mural page to view the inclusion of the McCarran-Walter Act in the passing of the torch section of the Suffrage Mural.)

(Excerpted from Monthly Review online:

February 8, 2020)

Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883)

Named Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth is best known for her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech given at the 1851 Woman’s Rights Convention Akron, Ohio. She also spoke at other meetings—a bold move at the time to tell the story of oppression and injustice toward African American women. An excerpt from her speeches includes the following: “… I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (1862 -1931) was an African-American journalist, abolitionist and feminist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s. May 4, 1884, she bit the hand of a conductor who attempted to throw her off a train because she was seated in the ladies section rather than the “Colored seats.” She participated in the National American Women’s Suffrage Association white section during the first (1913) suffrage procession organized by Alice Paul. When told to return to the back and walk with the other African Americans her response was, “Either I go with you or not at all. I am not taking this stand because I personally wish for recognition. I am doing it for the future benefit of my whole race.” She initially left the scene, therefore convincing the crowd that she was complying with the request. However, she quickly returned and marched alongside her own Illinois delegation, supported by her white co-suffragists Belle Squires and Virginia Brooks. This event received massive newspaper coverage and shed light on the reality for African-American participation in politics.


Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird)(1876–1938)

A First Nations Yankton Dakota Sioux born in 1876, Zitkala-Ša was a political activist, writer and musician. She joined the Society of American Indians, a group founded in 1911 with the purpose of preserving traditional Native American culture while also lobbying for full American citizenship. She was firm in her conviction that Indigenous people in America should have the rights of American citizens; and that as citizens, they should have the vote: In her words, “In the land that was once his own – America… there was never a time more opportune than now for American to enfranchise the Red man! As original occupants of the land,” she argued, “Native Americans needed to be represented in the current system of government….” The federal Indian Citizenship Act passed in 1924 granted US citizenship rights to all Native Americans. (See the Mural page to view the inclusion of the Indian Citizenship Act in the passing of the torch section of the Suffrage Mural.) Zitkala-Ša created the Indian Welfare Committee of the Federation in 1924. That year, she ran a voter registration drive among Native Americans, encouraging those who could to engage in the democratic process and support legislation that would be good for Native Americans.

(Excerpts retrieved from March 14, 2020)

While the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, it did not include all women. Women of color, indigenous people and Asians did not actually receive the unencumbered right to vote at the same time. These are a few of the suffragists who fought alongside their white sisters in the movement, but were not able to vote until much later.

Frances Watkins Harper (1825-1911)

Ms. Harper is best remembered for her poetry and novels which focused on injustice faced by Black American—Bury Me in a Free Land (poem) and Iola Leroy (book). She was a co-founder of the National Association of Colored Women with Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell. She worked alongside of her White sisters in the Suffrage Movement.*



Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)

Active in the Suffrage Movement, Mary Church Terrell was In 1884 as one of the first Black women to earn a college degree in 1884. She was the first president of the National Association of Colored Women and she was involved in the NAACP. She worked closely with her White sisters in the Suffrage Movement and after the 19th Amendment was passed, Terrell continued for another three decades protesting racial discrimination.*

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893)

The first Black woman to be a publisher in North America, Ms. Cary published The Provincial Freeman. She called for Black Americans to immigrate to Canada. She earned a law degree from Howard University in 1883 and organized her own suffrage organization for Black women, the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise Association.*

Daisy Adams Lampkin (1888-1965)

Named Woman of the Year in 1947 by the NAACP, Lampkin had started suffrage meetings in her home in 1912 and continued to work for several Black women’s suffrage organizations. She dedicated her life to supporting women’s and civil rights. “You cannot be neutral,” Lampkin once said. “You must either join with us who believe in the bright future or be destroyed by those who would return us to the dark past.” Lampkin was the first woman to be elected to the national board of the NAACP and served as field secretary for the organization for several years.*


Naomi Anderson (1843-1899)

At age 12, Naomi Anderson was considered such a talented poet that she was admitted to a previously all-white public school. She is known for her work with the Temperance Union and spoke in public in support of women’s suffrage—a rare occurrence in those times, Anderson’s poems were often published in major newspapers. Her best known work is the 1876 Centennial Poem in which she called for equal rights for Black Americans. She was praised for her suffrage work in California by Susan B. Anthony.*


Nellie Griswold Francis (1874-1969)

The only Black student in her class, Francis gave a speech at her high school graduation in 1891 about the need for equal rights for African Americans. She was a suffragist, civil rights activist, and community organizer. She wrote an anti-lynching bill that became a Minnesota law in 1921. She is one of 25 women honored for their roles in achieving the women's right to vote in the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul.*

Jovita Idàr (1885-1946)

As a Mexican American teacher, Idàr  saw horrible conditions of her Mexican American students and left teaching to become a reporter. In 1911, Idar and her family organized a conference in Laredo in support of unions, criminal justice, women's rights and bilingual education. Also in that year she became the first president of La Liga Femenil Mexicanista and fought for Mexican American civil rights and education—including enfranchisement rights.*


*Source: eeBoo Puzzle by Monica Garwood

Hallie Quinn Brown (1850-1949) knew the power of black women and urged anyone who heard her to let it flourish.

Read her remarks from 1889 and you might believe she saw the future or at least had the capacity to call it into being: “I believe there are as great possibilities in women as there are in men. . . . We are marching onward grandly. . . . We love to think of the great women of our race—the mothers who have struggled through poverty to educate their children. . . continue reading @National Endowment for the Humanities