Pearl Woods Lee (1882 – 1947)

Born in Springvale, Georgia, Pearl Woods Lee moved to Hartford in 1916 with her husband Green A. Lee. She lived in Hartford for 31 years. Lee registered to vote in 1920 and was also a member of Mt. Olive Baptist Church.

Lee helped raise her granddaughter. The Hartford Courant said of her: “And Lee, a tough woman, strong-willed, and fiercely independent, made it her mission to instill in her granddaughter the bedrock of knowledge.”

Decades later, this granddaughter would recall how Lee, or “Big Mama,” would rub her knuckles on the child’s forehead: “She’d say, ‘If you put it up here, no one can ever take it away from you.” Who was this granddaughter? Carrie Saxon Perry, Connecticut’s first African American woman mayor, and indeed the first African American woman mayor of a major American city, from 1987-1993.

As The Hartford Courant noted, “[T]he Lee family did all right–thanks in large part to the vision, the forebearance, and the grit of its women”– and in Connecticut that started with Pearl Woods Lee.

Back to: The Work Must Be Done: Women of Color and the Right to Vote

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