Every election, a pilgrimage to Rochester, New York takes place. People from all over the United States, a large number of them women, place their "I Voted" stickers on suffragette Susan B. Anthony's grave, an homage to her fight for the 19th Amendment. But there are a number of women besides Susan B. Anthony whose graves deserve "I Voted" stickers — and today, let's honor them.
For many people, casting their vote in this presidential election holds particular importance, as it's the first time they've been able to vote for a female Democratic nominee. But in order for Hillary Clinton to have earned her place in history, a number of lesser-known but equally important women fought before her. This is not a new fight; it's a battle that's been in the process of being waged for centuries.
Legally, women gained the right to vote following the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, but the suffragette movement was largely white, and in many instances excluded women of color. It wasn't until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s that African-Americans, both men and women, won the ability to vote in serious numbers. You guys, that was not that long ago. Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were born in eras when they legally didn't have a voice.
These women? They deserve to be honored too. And what better way to honor them than by doing what they made it possible for us to do?
Victoria Woodhull was a suffragette and women's rights advocate who ran for president in 1872 — the first woman to do so, 48 years before women were even legally allowed to vote. First married at 14 years old, with only three years of formal education, Woodhull was also a proponent of "free love," advocating sexual freedom and bodily autonomy for women. In an 1871 speech, she proclaimed, "I have an inalienable, constitutional, and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere." Woodhull is buried in Bredon's Norton, Worcestershire, England.
Born into slavery, Sojourner Truth escaped with her baby daughter in 1826. In 1828, she sued her former owner for custody of her son and won, becoming the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Truth is perhaps most famous for her extemporaneous speech "Ain't I A Woman?" delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. The speech argued for the equal rights of women as well as African-Americans. Truth is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Mary Church Terrell
Mary Church Terrell was one of the first African-American women to earn a college degree, and was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Terrell was the first African-American woman elected to a board of education position, serving the District of Columbia from 1895 to 1905. She also became a member of the National American Women Suffrage Association, concerned with the Association's continued fight for African-American women's right vote. Terrell ultimately lived to see the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, dying two months later at the age of 90. You can visit her home, which is now a national historic landmark, in Washington, D.C.
Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells — journalist, suffragist, civil rights activist — was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Miss. in 1862. She gained notoriety as an investigative journalist, shedding light on lynchings as a form of control and intimidation in the South, was a founding member of the NAACP and the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs,, and fought for the inclusion of African-American women and the address of race-related issues in the suffragette movement. Wells is buried in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago, Ill.
Daisy Lampkin was the first woman elected to the national board of the NAACP, and throughout her lifetime, she was an outspoken intersectional feminist and suffragist. Shortly after graduating from high school, Lampkin became a motivational speaker for housewives, organizing women into protest groups while becoming an active member of the Lucy Stone Women’s Suffrage League and the National Suffrage League. Aware of the specific challenges faced by African-American women, Lampkin also became deeply involved with the National Association for Colored Women (NACW), and ultimately became its national organizer. Later in life, she became vice-chair for both the Colored Voters Division of the Republican Party and the Negro Voters League of Pennsylvania.
To be clear, Hillary Clinton is not the first woman to run for president of the United States, nor is she the first woman to seek the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. That honor belongs to Shirley Chisholm, who was also the first black person, male or female, to pursue the presidential nomination of a major party.
In 1968, Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to Congress, serving New York's 12th Congressional District. She announced her presidential campaign in 1972. A first-generation American, Chisholm was raised partially by her grandmother in Barbados, and she credited her life's success to the education she received in a one-room schoolhouse there.
Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink
Patsy Mink was the first woman not of European ancestry to be elected to Congress, the first female Congressional representative for the state of Hawaii, and the first Asian-American woman to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, launching her campaign in 1972, the same year as Shirley Chisholm. While in congress, Mink co-authored the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, which states, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." She is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
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