This Black Activist Fought For Temperance, Women’s Vote And Racial Equality But Didn’t See Them Succeed
A young black woman holds an I Voted sticker The connection between the temperance and women’s suffrage movements in America has been well documented. As the story goes, mid-to-late 19 th century women seeking relief from the ideological scourge of drunk, abusive husbands banded together to ban the production and sale of alcohol. Empowered by their newfound political acumen, they then turned their sights to politicking for the right to vote. Their success can be seen in the ratification of the 18 th and 19 th amendments, in 1919 and 1920, respectively.
While not entirely inaccurate, this narrative overlooks the many, many cooperating and competing forces that wrangled over decades to bring about Prohibition and women’s right to vote. Perhaps most notable is the simultaneous and quite intertwined emergence of both campaigns, as well what some might view as the third pillar of the era’s push for reform: equal rights for Black people.
And while white names like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frances Willard endure among history’s leading pro-temperance suffragists, one efficacious but ultimately frustrated Black woman, born free in Maryland, notably took on all three crusades at once. Her name was Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (AKA F.E.W. […]
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