Figures in the Suffragette Movement You May Not Know

The truth is, many mentions of historic events in this country leave out key players in movement and moments that define us.

Vital voices are often overlooked or forgotten. While this may happen unintentionally by educators, political leaders, and storytellers it is our duty as activists to bring light and representation to the leaders who paved the path for us to be where we are today. 

On the centennial of the 19th Amendment, we are reminded of the countless women and people who made this possible. We often remember people like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Sanger, and other (mostly white) women mentioned in our history classes. But it’s likely that you haven’t heard of folks like Ida B. Wells, Anna Julia Cooper, or Crystal Eastman. 

Scroll down and get to know them. Then share this article with a friend on Aug. 18. 

Women like Ida B. Wells led one of the initial crusades against the lynching of Black people. Her work also laid the foundation for the NAACP and she even helped form the National Association of Colored Women. Wells’ work is the pinnacle of intersectionality within a movement, working for the advancement of all people within disenfranchised groups.

Anna Julia Cooper was an educator and distinguished scholar. Anna Julia Cooper was among the educators who emphasized the power of communal care as a method of addressing larger structural ills. Her political activism began at age 9 when she protested the preferential treatment of men and boys at her school. Cooper dedicated her life to the advancement of Black women, describing her own work as “the education of neglected people.” Cooper was a gifted orator, speaking about her activism at events like the 1893 Chicago World Fair. Here are Cooper’s words on having an insatiable desire for truth and knowledge: “I constantly felt (as I suppose many an ambitious girl has felt) a thumping from within unanswered by any beckoning from without.”

Crystal Eastman, the ACLU’s most under-appreciated founding mother, was a preeminent organizer of her day. She fiercely championed major movements for social change in the early 20th century. The year 1920, in particular, was a watershed year for Eastman for many reasons. An active organizer for women’s suffrage, Eastman was unusual in not wanting to declare victory when the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. In a celebrated 1920 speech, “Now We Can Begin,” she set out to persuade resistant suffragist groups that their true goal should be not only equal suffrage but equal rights for all women. 

It is thanks to women like Crystal, Anna, and Ida that we are able to cast our ballots today.

I hope you join me in honoring these women by voting on Nov. 3 or casting an absentee ballot. It is on us to ensure the ability to participate in this process that impacts our lives, our communities, and our futures remains possible for everyone.