aboutus.gifexhibits.gifprograms.gifmembership.gifvolunteer.gif archives.giflinks.gif  

Influential Women in the Suffrage Movement


Elizabeth Cady Stanton 

Susan B. Anthony

Ida B Wells

Correspondence between
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
& Susan B. Anthony

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the women's rights movement's most important figures, asserted that her experiences in this Seneca Falls house induced her to become an advocate of women's rights. Elizabeth Cady married Henry Brewster Stanton, a lawyer and abolitionist, in 1840. For several years after their marriage, the Stantons resided in Boston, where Elizabeth--surrounded by "enlightened" friends and domestic servants--remained removed from most household duties. In 1847, the Stantons moved to Seneca Falls. Charged with putting their new home in order, Elizabeth found herself engulfed by the requirements of three small children and a large house. She soon became aware of the inequality of expectations that existed between men and women in 19th century America, writing, "I now fully understood the practical difficulties most women had to contend with . . . and the impossibility of woman's best development if in contact, the chief part of her life, with servants and children." Such realizations resulted in Cady Stanton's part in writing the Declaration of Sentiments and in organizing the Women's Rights Convention of 1848. After the convention, Cady Stanton and other key reformers concentrated on abolishing slavery, but when it became clear after the Civil War that the 14th and 15th Amendments would grant African-American males full citizenship, but not white women, Cady Stanton and fellow feminists broke with their abolitionist allies. In 1869, Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the National Women's Suffrage Association, and for the next 20 years, they spoke to and inspired suffrage societies all over America. In 1890, Cady Stanton was elected president of the new National American Woman Suffrage Association. Elizabeth Cady Stanton died in 1902. Now a part of the Women's Rights National Historic Park, her home documents her amazing life.

When Elizabeth Cady married abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton in 1840, she'd already observed enough about the legal relationships between men and women to insist that the word obey be dropped from the ceremony.

An active abolitionist herself, Stanton was outraged when the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London, also in 1840, denied official standing to women delegates, including Lucretia Mott. In 1848, she and Mott called for a women's rights convention to be held in Seneca Falls, New York. That convention, and the Declaration of Sentiments written by Stanton which was approved there, is credited with initiating the long struggle towards women's rights and woman suffrage.

After 1851, Stanton worked in close partnership with Susan B. Anthony. Stanton often served as the writer and Anthony as the strategist in this effective working relationship. After the Civil War, Stanton and Anthony were among those who were determined to focus on female suffrage when only voting rights of freed males were addressed in Reconstruction. They founded the National Woman Suffrage Association and Stanton served as president.

When the NWSA and the rival American Woman Suffrage Association finally merged in 1890, Stanton served as the president of the resulting National American Woman Suffrage Association.

In her later years she added to her speech- and article-writing a history of the suffrage movement, her autobiography Eighty Years and More, and a controversial critique of women's treatment by religion, The Woman's Bible.

While Stanton is best known for her long contribution to the woman suffrage struggle, she was also active and effective in winning property rights for married women, equal guardianship of children, and liberalized divorce laws so that women could leave marriages that were often abusive of the wife, the children, and the economic health of the family.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton died in New York on October 26, 1902, with nearly 20 years to go before the United States granted women the right to vote.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton(1815-1902) is believed to be the driving force behind the 1848 Convention, and for the next fifty years played a leadership role in the women's rights movement. Somewhat overshadowed in popular memory by her long time colleague Susan B. Anthony, Stanton was for many years the architect and author of the movement's most important strategies and documents. Though she became increasingly estranged from the mainstream of the movement, particularly near the end of her career, she maintained to the end her long time friendship with Anthony.

Stanton had an early introduction to the reform movements, including encounters as a young woman with fugitive slaves at the home of her cousin Gerrit Smith. It was at Smith's home that she also met her husband Henry Stanton. Soon after their marriage in 1840 they traveled to London, where Henry Stanton was a delegate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention. There she met Lucretia Mott, the Quaker teacher who served in many of the associated Temperance, Anti-Slavery, and Women's Rights organizations with which Stanton is associated. Denied her seat at the convention, as were all the women delegates, Mott discussed with Stanton the need for a convention on women's rights. The plan came to fruition when Mott again encountered Stanton in the summer of 1848 in the home of fellow Quaker Jane Hunt. After a month of missionary work on the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation, James and Lucretia Mott were attending the annual meeting of the Religious Society of Friends at Junius, near Seneca Falls, and staying at nearby Auburn with Lucretia Mott's sister, Martha Coffin Wright.

Stanton, Mott, Wright, Hunt, and Mary Ann McClintock made the plan to call the first women's rights convention, initiating the women's rights movement in the United States, and Stanton's role as a leader in that movement. In 1851, Susan B. Anthony was staying at the home of fellow Temperance worker Amelia Bloomer, while attending an anti-slavery meeting in Seneca Falls. Stanton encountered Bloomer and Anthony on the street. She recorded the meeting in her diary as follows:

"How well I remember the day! George Thompson and William Lloyd Garrison having announced an anti-slavery meeting in Seneca Falls, Miss Anthony came to attend it. These gentleman were my guests. Walking home after the adjournment, we met Mrs. Bloomer and Miss Anthony, on the corner of the street, waiting to greet us. There she stood, with her good earnest face and genial smile, dressed in gray delaine, hat and all the same color, relieved with pale blue ribbons, the perfection of neatness and sobriety. I liked her thoroughly, and why I did not at once invite her home with me to dinner I do not know... "

History records the lasting relationship between these two women as well as the strains that resulted from their different roles and priorities. Unwilling to commit to a vigorous travel schedule until her children were grown, Stanton wrote many of her speeches for delivery by Anthony. As the years wore on the two held closely together, splitting with many other women as well as Gerrit Smith and Frederick Douglass, over the idea that suffrage for black men, after emancipation should take precedence over suffrage for women. Along with Matilda Joslyn Gage, the two led the National Woman Suffrage Association, opposing the concept of "precedence" accepted by the less radical American Woman Suffrage Association.

Almost thirty years after the Seneca Falls Convention, Stanton and Gage authored the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States, which Anthony presented, uninvited, at the Centennial celebration in Washington in 1876. The Declaration was signed in the Centennial Books of the NWSA by Stanton, Anthony and Gage, as well as many later arrivals to the movement such as Virginia Minor and Lillie Devereux Blake. Also signing the original Declaration were Lucretia Mott, Mary Ann McClintock, and Amy Post, all of whom were present at the 1848 Convention.

Later in her career Stanton, like Gage, focused increasingly on social reforms related to women's concerns other than suffrage. The two worked together on Stanton's Woman's Bible a work rejected by many of the more conservative elements in the movement. The two also collaborated with Anthony in the first three volumes of A History of Woman Suffrage, covering the period 1848 to 1877. Though Gage split completely with Anthony over Anthony's successful effort to merge the NWSA with its more conservative counterpart into the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Stanton agreed to serve as President of the combined organization for a brief period. At the end she took to having her resolutions introduced by others, so fully was her leadership rejected by the newer forces, many of whom saw suffrage as a step toward introduction of a conservative religious social agenda that Stanton strongly and openly opposed. The resiliency of the friendship between Stanton and Anthony is illustrated in the photograph (#5) below of the two at Anthony's home in Rochester late in their lives. (Photograph #10 shows Stanton at the home of Gerrit Smith, suggesting reconciliation of at least their family relationship after the bitter split over precedence.)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton died in 1902, and like Anthony and Gage, did not live to see women's suffrage in the United States. She is nonetheless regarded as one of the true major forces in the drive toward equal rights for women in the United States and throughout the world. The statue of Stanton, Mott and Anthony housed in the US Capitol was used as the symbol of the American Delegation to the 1995 Peking Conference.

The Obituary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton
from the New York Times, October 27, 1902

Rochester, NY, October 26, 1902 - The news of the death of Elizabeth Cady Stanton fell with almost crushing weight upon Miss Susan B. Anthony, who had planned to go to New York on November 12 to assist the venerable advocate of women's suffrage in the celebration of her eighty-seventh birthday. Miss Anthony said to-night:

"Through the early days, when the world was against us, we stood together. Mrs. Stanton was always a courageous woman, a leader of thought and new movements. She was a most finished writer, and every State paper presented to Congress or the State Legislatures in the early days was written by Mrs. Stanton.

"I cannot express myself at all as I feel. I am too crushed to say much, but, if she had outlived me, she would have found fine words with which to express our friendship."

"What period of your lives gave you the greatest pleasure?" was asked.

"When we were digging together. When she forged the thunderbolts and I fired them. The greatest campaign we ever had together was in 1869, at the constitutional convention held in Kansas for suffrage and the same year in New York State

"In spite of her big family, to whom she was devoted, and the great amount of work she did outside her home, she was one of the finest housekeepers I ever saw."

©2000, The New York Times Company



Susan B. Anthony


Susan Brownell Anthony(February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was a prominent American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women's rights movement to introduce women's suffrage into the United States. She traveled the United States and Europe, and gave 75 to 100 speeches per year on women's rights for 45 years.

Susan B. Anthony was born and raised in West Grove, near Adams, Massachusetts. She was the second oldest of seven children, Guelma Penn (1818), Susan Brownell (1820), Hannah E. (1821), Daniel Read (1824), Mary Stafford (1827), Eliza Tefft (1832), and Jacob Merritt (1834), born to Daniel Anthony and Lucy Read. One brother, publisher Daniel Read Anthony, would become active in the anti-slavery movement in Kansas, while a sister, Mary Stafford Anthony, became a teacher and a woman's rights activist. Anthony remained close to her sisters throughout her life.


Susan B. Anthony was born in this house in 1820.

Susan was a precocious child, having learned to read and write at age five. In 1826, when she was six years old, the Anthony family moved from Massachusetts to Battenville, New York. Susan was sent to attend a local district school, where a teacher refused to teach her long division because of her gender. Upon learning of the weak education she was receiving, her father promptly had her placed in a group home school, where he taught Susan himself. Mary Perkins, another teacher there, conveyed a progressive image of womanhood to Anthony, further fostering her growing belief in women's equality.

In 1837, Anthony was sent to Deborah Moulson's Female Seminary, a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia. She was not happy at Moulson's, but she did not have to stay there long. She was forced to end her formal studies because her family, like many others, was financially ruined during the Panic of 1837. Their losses were so great that they attempted to sell everything in an auction, even their most personal belongings, which were saved at the last minute when Susan's uncle, Joshua Read, stepped up and bid for them in order to restore them to the family.

In 1839, the family moved to Hardscrabble, New York, in the wake of the panic and economic depression that followed. That same year, Anthony left home to teach and to help pay off her father's debts. She taught first at Eunice Kenyon's Friends' Seminary, and then at the Canajoharie Academy in 1846, where she rose to become headmistress of the Female Department. Anthony's first occupation inspired her to fight for wages equivalent to those of male teachers, since men earned roughly four times more than women for the same duties.

In 1849, at age 29, Anthony quit teaching and moved to the family farm in Rochester, New York. She began to take part in conventions and gatherings related to the temperance movement. In Rochester, she attended the local Unitarian Church and began to distance herself from the Quakers, in part because she had frequently witnessed instances of hypocritical behavior such as the use of alcohol amongst Quaker preachers. As she got older, Anthony continued to move further away from organized religion in general, and she was later chastised by various Christian religious groups for displaying irreligious tendencies.

In her youth, Anthony was very self-conscious of her looks and speaking abilities. She long resisted public speaking for fear she would not be sufficiently eloquent. Despite these insecurities, she became a renowned public presence, eventually helping to lead the women's movement.

Early social activism

Susan B. Anthony at age 28

In the era before the American Civil War, Anthony took a prominent role in the New York anti-slavery and temperance movements. In 1836, at age 16, Susan collected two boxes of petitions opposing slavery, in response to the gag rule prohibiting such petitions in the House of Representatives. In 1849, at age 29, she became secretary for the Daughters of Temperance, which gave her a forum to speak out against alcohol abuse, and served as the beginning of Anthony's movement towards the public limelight.

In late 1850, Anthony read a detailed account in the New York Tribune of the first National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. In the article, Horace Greeley wrote an especially admiring description of the final speech, one given by Lucy Stone. Stone's words catalyzed Anthony to devote her life to women's rights In the summer of 1852, Anthony met both Greeley and Stone in Seneca Falls.

In 1851, on a street in Seneca Falls, Anthony was introduced to Elizabeth Cady Stanton by a mutual acquaintance, as well as fellow feminist Amelia Bloomer. Anthony joined with Stanton in organizing the first women's state temperance society in America after being refused admission to a previous convention on account of her sex, in 1851. Stanton remained a close friend and colleague of Anthony's for the remainder of their lives, but Stanton longed for a broader, more radical women's rights platform. Together, the two women traversed the United States giving speeches and attempting to persuade the government that society should treat men and women equally.

Anthony was invited to speak at the third annual National Women's Rights Convention held in Syracuse, New York in September 1852. She and Matilda Joslyn Gage both made their first public speeches for women's rights at the convention. Anthony began to gain notice as a powerful public advocate of women's rights and as a new and stirring voice for change. Anthony participated in every subsequent annual National Women's Rights Convention, and served as convention president in 1858.

In 1856, Anthony further attempted to unify the African-American and women's rights movements when, recruited by abolitionist Abby Kelley Foster, she became an agent for William Lloyd Garrison's American Anti-Slavery Society of New York. Speaking at the Ninth National Women’s Rights Convention on May 12, 1859, Anthony asked "Where, under our Declaration of Independence, does the Saxon man get his power to deprive all women and Negroes of their inalienable rights?"The Revolution

On January 1, 1868, Anthony first published a weekly journal entitled The Revolution. Printed in New York City, its motto was: "The true republic — men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less." Anthony worked as the publisher and business manager, while Elizabeth Cady Stanton acted as editor. The main thrust of The Revolution was to promote women’s and African-Americans’ right to suffrage, but it also discussed issues of equal pay for equal work, more liberal divorce laws and the church’s position on women’s issues. The journal was backed by independently wealthy George Francis Train, who provided $600 in starting funds.

Though she never married, Anthony published her views about sexuality in marriage, holding that a woman should be allowed to refuse sex with her husband; the American woman had no legal recourse at that time against rape by her husband. Anthony spoke very little on the subject of "child murder", or abortion. Of primary importance to Anthony was the granting to woman the right to her own body which she saw as an essential element for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, using abstinence as the method. In The Revolution, she wrote about the subject, arguing that, instead of attempting to pass a law against abortion, the root cause should be addressed. An anti-abortion law would be, she wrote, like "mowing off the top of the noxious weed, while the root remains." Anthony continued: "Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime."]

American Equal Rights Association

In 1869, long-time friends Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony found themselves, for the first time, on opposing sides of a debate. The American Equal Rights Association (AERA), which had originally fought for both blacks’ and women’s right to suffrage, voted to support the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, granting suffrage to black men, but not women. Anthony questioned why women should support this amendment when black men were not continuing to show support for women’s voting rights. Partially as a result of the decision by the AERA, Anthony soon thereafter devoted herself almost exclusively to the agitation for women's rights.

Susan B. Anthony, ca 1900

On November 18, 1872, Anthony was arrested by a U.S. Deputy Marshal for voting illegally in the 1872 Presidential Election two weeks earlier. She had written to Stanton on the night of the election that she had "positively voted the Republican ticket – straight...". She was tried and convicted seven months later, despite the stirring and eloquent presentation of her arguments that the recently adopted Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" the privileges of citizenship, and which contained no sex qualification, gave women the constitutional right to vote in federal elections. The sentence was a fine, but not imprisonment; and true to her word in court, she never paid the penalty for the rest of her life. The trial gave Anthony the opportunity to spread her arguments to a wider audience than ever before.

In 1893, she joined with Helen Barrett Montgomery in forming a chapter of the Woman’s Educational and Industrial Union (WEIU) in Rochester. In 1898, she also worked with Montgomery to raise funds to open opportunities for women students to study at University of Rochester.

National suffrage organizations

In 1869, Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Women's Suffrage Association (NWSA), an organization dedicated to gaining women's suffrage. Anthony was vice-president-at-large of the NWSA from the date of its organization until 1892, when she became president.

In the early years of the NWSA, Anthony made many attempts to unite women in the labor movement with the suffragist cause, but with little success. She and Stanton were delegates at the 1868 convention of the National Labor Union. However, Anthony inadvertently alienated the labor movement not only because suffrage was seen as a concern for middle-class rather than working-class women, but because she openly encouraged women to achieve economic independence by entering the printing trades, where male workers were on strike at the time. Anthony was later expelled from the National Labor Union over this controversy.

In 1890, Anthony orchestrated the merger of the NWSA with the more moderate American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), creating the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Prior to the controversial merge, Anthony had created a special NWSA executive committee to vote on whether they should merge with the AWSA, despite the fact that using a committee instead of an all-member vote went against the NWSA constitution. Motions to make it possible for members to vote by mail were strenuously opposed by Anthony and her adherents, and the committee was stacked with members who favored the merger. (Two members who voted against the merger were asked to resign).

Anthony's pursuit of alliances with moderate suffragists created long-lasting tension between herself and more radical suffragists like Stanton. Stanton openly criticized Anthony's stance, writing that Anthony and AWSA leader Lucy Stone, "see suffrage only. They do not see woman's religious and social bondage." Anthony responded to Stanton: "We number over 10,000 women and each one has opinions...we can only hold them together to work for the ballot by letting alone their whims and prejudices on other subjects."

The creation of the NAWSA effectively marginalized the more radical elements within the women's movement, including Stanton. Anthony pushed for Stanton to be voted in as the first NAWSA president, and stood by her as Stanton was belittled by the large factions of less-radical members within the new organization.

In collaboration with Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, Anthony published The History of Woman Suffrage (4 vols., New York, 1884–1887). Anthony also befriended Josephine Brawley Hughes, an advocate of women's rights and Prohibition in Arizona, and Carrie Chapman Catt, who Anthony endorsed for the presidency of the NAWSA when Anthony formally retired in 1900.

Susan B. Anthony died in Rochester, New York in her house at 17 Madison Street on March 13, 1906. She was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.

Susan B. Anthony, who died 14 years, 5 months and five days before passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, was honored as the first real (non-allegorical) American woman on circulating U.S. coinage with her appearance on the Susan B. Anthony dollar. The coin, approximately the size of a U.S. quarter, was minted for only four years, 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1999. Anthony dollars were produced at the Philadelphia and Denver mints for all four years, and at the San Francisco mint for the first three production years.

Anthony's birthplace in Adams was purchased in August 2006 by Carol Crossed, founder of the New York chapter of Democrats for Life of America, affiliated with Feminists for Life.

Anthony's childhood home in Battenville, New York was placed on the New York State Historic Register in 2006, and the National Historic Register in 2007.

 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Their Words

Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony

Seneca Falls, December 1, 1853

Dear Friend,

Can you get any acute lawyer - perhaps Judge Hay is the man - sufficiently interested on our movement to look up just eight laws concerning us - the very worst in all the code? I can generalize and philosophize easily enough of myself; but the details of the particular laws I need, I have not time to look up.

You see, while I am about the house, surrounded by my children, washing dishes, baking, sewing, etc., I can think up many points, but I cannot search books, for my hands as well as my brains would be necessary for that work.

If I can, I shall go to Rochester as soon as I have finished my Address and submit it - and the Appeal too for that matter - to Channing's criticism. But prepare yourself to be disappointed in its merits, for I seldom have one hour undisturbed in which to sit down and write. Men who can, when they wish to write a document, shut themselves up for days with their thoughts and their books, know little of what difficulties a woman must surmount to get off a tolerable production."

Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony

Peterboro, September 10, 1855

Dear Susan,

I wish that I were as free as you and I would stump the state in a twinkling. But I am not, and what is more, I passed through a terrible scourging when last at my father's. I cannot tell you how deep the iron entered my soul. I never felt more keenly the degradation of my sex. To think that all in me which my father would have felt a proper pride had I been a man, is deeply mortifying to him because I am a woman.

That thought has stung me to a fierce decision - to speak as soon as I can do myself credit. But the pressure on me just now is too great. Henry sides with my friends, who oppose me in all that is dearest to my heart. They are not willing that I should write even on the woman question. But I will both write and speak. I wish you to consider this letter strictly confidential.

Sometimes, Susan, I struggle in deep waters.

I have rewritten my "Indian," and given it into the hands of Oliver Johnson, who has promised to see it safely in the Tribune. I have sent him another article on the "Widow's Teaspoons," and I have mailed you one of mine which appeared in the Buffalo Democracy. I have sent six articles to the Tribune, and three have already appeared. I have promised to write for the Una...

I read and write a good deal, as you see. But there are grievous interruptions. However, a good time is coming and my future is always bright and beautiful. Good night.

As ever your friend, sincere and steadfast.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony

Seneca Falls, July 4, 1858

Dear Susan,

I went to Junius and read my address on suffrage, which was pronounced very fine. I feel that two or three such meetings would put me on my feet. But, oh, Susan, my hopes of leisure were soon blasted. The cook's brother was taken sick with a fever a few days after you left, and she was obliged to go home. So I have done my work aided by a little girl ever since. But I went to Junius in spite of it all.

I see that Mr. Higginson belongs to the Jeremy Bentham school, that law makes right. I am a disciple of the new philosophy that man's wants make his rights. I consider my right to property, to suffrage, etc., as natural and inalienable as my right to life and to liberty. Man is above all law. The province of law is simply to protect me in what is mine.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony

Seneca Falls, December 23, 1859

Dear Susan,

Where are you? Since a week ago last Monday, I have looked for you every day. I had the washing put off, we cooked a turkey, I made a pie in the morning, sent my first-born to the depot and put clean aprons on the children, but lo! you did not come. Nor did you soften the rough angles of our disappointment by one solitary line of excuse. And it would do me such great good to see some reformers just now.

The death of my father, the worse than death of my dear Cousin Gerrit, the martyrdom of that grand and glorious John Brown - all this conspires to make me regret more than ever my dwarfed womanhood.

In times like these, everyone should do the work of a full-grown man. When I pass the gate of the celestial city and good Peter asks me where I would sit, I shall say, "Anywhere, so that I am neither a negro nor a woman. Confer on me, good angel, the glory of white manhood so that henceforth, sitting or standing, rising up or lying down, I may enjoy the most unlimited freedom." Good night.


Ida B. Wells

suffrage-wells.gifIda B. Wells, also known as Ida B. Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931), was an African American civil rights advocate and an early women's rights advocate active in the Woman Suffrage Movement. Fearless in her opposition to lynchings, Wells documented hundreds of these atrocities.


Ida B. Wells was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi to a carpenter, James Wells, and Elizabeth "Lizzie Bell" Warrenton Wells, both of whom were slaves until freed at the end of the Civil War. When she was fourteen, her parents and her youngest sibling, a brother only nine months old, died of yellow fever during an epidemic that swept through the South. At a meeting following the funeral, friends and relatives decided that the six remaining Wells children should be farmed out to various aunts and uncles. Wells was devastated by the idea and, to keep the family together, dropped out of high school and found employment as a teacher in a black school.

In 1880, Wells moved to Memphis with all of her siblings except for her 15-year-old brother, January. There she got a summer job. When possible, she attended summer sessions at Fisk University in Nashville. Wells held strong political opinions and she upset many people with her views on women's rights. When she was 24, she wrote, "I will not begin at this late day by doing what my soul abhors; sugaring men, weak deceitful creatures, with flattery to retain them as escorts or to gratify a revenge."

Wells became a public figure in Memphis when, in 1884, she led a campaign against segregation on the local railway. A conductor of the Chesapeake, Ohio & South Western Railroad Company told her to give up her seat on the train to a white man and ordered her into the smoking or "Jim Crow" car, which was already crowded with other passengers. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1875—which banned discrimination on the basis of race, creed, or color in theaters, hotels, transport, and other public accommodations—had just been declared unconstitutional in the Civil Rights Cases (1883), and several railroad companies were able to continue racial segregation of their passengers. Wells refused to give up her seat, 71 years before Rosa Parks, and the conductor, who had to get assistance from two other men, dragged her out of the car. When she returned to Memphis, she immediately hired an attorney to sue the railroad. She won her case in the local circuit court, but the railroad company appealed to the Supreme Court of Tennessee, which reversed the lower court's ruling in 1887.

During her participation in women's suffrage parades, her refusal to

Wells, in her mid-thirties, c. 1897.

Wells, in her mid-thirties, c. 1897

stand in the back because she was black resulted in the beginning of her media publicity. In 1889, she became co-owner and editor of Free Speech, an anti-segregationist newspaper based in Memphis on Beale Street. In 1892, however, she was forced to leave the city because her editorials in the paper were seen as too agitating. In one of her articles, written after three of her friends who owned a grocery store were attacked and then lynched because they were taking business away from white competitors, she encouraged blacks to leave Memphis, saying, "there is .... only one thing left to do; save our money and leave a town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor give us a fair trial in the courts, but takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by white persons." Many African-Americans did leave, and others organized boycotts of white-owned businesses. As a result of this and other investigative reporting, Wells's newspaper office was ransacked, and Wells herself had to leave for Chicago.

She also published in 1892 her famous pamphlet Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. This pamphlet, along with her 1895 A Red Record, documented her research on and campaign against lynching. Having examined many accounts of lynching based on alleged "rape of white women", she concluded that Southerners concocted the rape excuse to hide their real reason for lynching black men: black economic progress, which threatened not only white Southerners' pocketbooks but also their ideas about black inferiority.

In 1893, she and other black leaders, among them Frederick Douglass, organized a boycott of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. At the suggestion of white abolitionist and anti-lynching crusader Albion Tourgée, Wells and her coalition produced a pamphlet to be distributed during the exposition. Called Why the Colored American Is Not in the World's Columbian Exposition, it detailed in English and a few other languages the workings of Southern lynchings and a handful of other issues impinging on black Americans.

She later reported to Tourgée that 2,000 copies had been distributed at the fair.

Also in 1893, Wells found herself thinking of filing a libel suit against two black Memphis attorneys. She again turned to Tourgée, who had trained and practiced as a lawyer and judge, for possible free legal help. Deeply in debt, Tourgée could not afford to do the work, but he asked his friend Ferdinand L. Barnett if he could. Barnett accepted the pro bono job. Two years later, he and Wells were married, and she set an early precedent as being one of the first married American women to keep her own last name with her husband's.

In 1892, Wells went to Great Britain at the behest of British Quaker Catherine Impey. An opponent of imperialism and proponent of racial equality, Impey wanted to be sure that the British public was informed about the problem of lynching. Although Wells and her speeches, complete with at least one grisly photograph showing grinning white children posing beneath a suspended corpse, caused a stir among doubtful audiences, Wells was paid so little that she could barely pay her travel expenses.

During her second British lecture tour, again arranged by Impey, Wells wrote about her trip for Chicago's Daily Inter Ocean in a regular column, "Ida B. Wells Abroad". In doing so, she became the first black woman paid to be a correspondent for a mainstream white newspaper. (Tourgée had been writing a column for the same paper, which was the local Republican Party organ and competitor to the Democratic Chicago Tribune.)[

After her retirement, Wells wrote her autobiography, Crusade for Justice (1928). She died of uremia in Chicago on March 25, 1931, at the age of 68.

Throughout her life, Wells was militant in her demands for equality and justice for African-Americans and insisted that the African-American community must win justice through its own efforts. As playwright Tazewell Thompson sums her up,

...a woman born in slavery, she would grow to become one of the great pioneer activists of the Civil Rights movement. A precursor of Rosa Parks, she was a suffragist, newspaper editor and publisher, investigative journalist, co-founder of the NAACP, political candidate, mother, wife, and the single most powerful leader in the anti-lynching campaign in America. A dynamic, controversial, temperamental, uncompromising race woman, she broke bread and crossed swords with some of the movers and shakers of her time: Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, President McKinley. By any fair assessment, she was a seminal figure in Post-Reconstruction America.

 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia




Suffrage & Women's
Rights Exhibits

Women From Then to Now:
The History of Women's Suffrage

Clara Barton Tea with
Kelly Abby Foster


wordpress com stats plugin