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

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Colored Women’s Liberty Loan Committee, October 21, 1917, RG012, State Archives, Connecticut State Library  |  From left to right, Elizabeth R. Morris, Mary A. Johnson, and Rosa J. Fisher

Inspired by the words of notable African American reformer and political activist, Mary Townsend Seymour, “The work must be done,” the Connecticut Historical Society presents exciting new research about the women of color who worked for women’s suffrage. As the nation, and Connecticut, celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment which legalized women’s right to vote, attention is growing about the critical need to identify and raise up the stories of the women of color who participated in the fight for suffrage and those who, like their white counterparts, were against the enfranchisement of women.  Historically, research about the fight to win the right to vote has focused on the white women who were both for and against this act. Due to the internalized racism of many of the national and state-wide suffrage organizations, women of color, and particularly African American women, were denied agency within these activist organizations. This does not mean that women of color were not involved in the fight for and against suffrage. They absolutely were. Women of color were active leaders who developed their own associations, both nationwide and state-based, to achieve social and political reforms, including working for woman suffrage.

Listen to this podcast episode of “Grating the Nutmeg,” in which our own Natalie Belanger talks to historians Brittney Yancy and Karen Li Miller about their ongoing research on women of color and their role in the suffrage movement.


Minnie L. Bradley
(1882 – ?)

Rhoda L. Brooks
(abt 1888 – 1960)

Callie Mathes Coleman
(abt 1877 – 1960)

Daisy Trotter Daniels
(abt 1885 – 1958)

Martha Minerva Franklin
(1870 – 1968)

Rosa J. Richardson Fisher
(1875 – 1951?)

Minnie L. Glover
(abt 1887 – 1963)

Sarah Lee Brown Fleming
(1876 – 1963)

Lula M. Green Graham
(abt 1900 – 1945)

Margaret Moore Green
(abt 1881 – 1965)

Mary A. Johnson
(abt 1881 – 1959)

Florence Montgomery Lee
(abt 1894 – abt 1967)

Rose Payton
(abt 1855 – 1917)

Beatrice Johnson Saxon
(1878 – 1961)

Ida Sully Troy
(1878 – 1961)

Josephine Leverett Haywood
(1887 – 1963)

Lena E. Knighton
(1868 – 1968)

Pearl Woods Lee
(1882 – 1947)

Anna B. Reese
(abt 1890 – ?)

Mary Townsend Seymour
(1873 – 1957)

Anna Louise James
(1886 – 1977)

Ida Napier Lawson
(1877 – 1965)

Martha Rufner Maddox
(abt 1864 – 1943)

Linna Saunders
(1865 – 1944)

Pearl Reese Shaw
(abt 1886 – 1951)

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Funding for this project is made possible by the State of Connecticut and the National Endowment for the Humanities, both of which provide significant support to Connecticut Humanities.

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