Women's Suffrage: Votes for All

previous   1  |  2  |    3     next arrow

African-American women especially had an especially difficult time securing their right to vote. African-American women had segregated organizations, like the Colored Women Voters of Georgia, that fought for equal voting rights during the Jim Crow era. Furthermore, county registrars had the power to enforce strict literacy or constitutional knowledge requirements, if they so chose. At this time, African-American women registered separately, in places where registration rules were more difficult than for white women, and intimidation often reigned. Adele Clark notes that "City Hall here in Richmond registered the colored women separately from the white, down in the basement. And they worked out all sorts of things of having their hours shorter than the white women."

"That's how you got registered"
- Viola Turner

listen button read button

Viola Turner, the first woman to be appointed to the Board of Directors of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1960, as the Vice-President Treasurer, recalls the first time she registered to vote, around 1924. Accompanied by influential community leader C.C. "Poppa" Spaulding and several other women who also were registering, Turner was given a literacy test of some difficulty by the registrar. Turner, who learned to read at an early age, had no trouble with the literacy test, but one of her co-workers was disenfranchised because, according to the registrar, she mispronounced one word in the passage. This was decided by a registrar who, according to Turner, couldn't read nearly as well as any of the women registering. Ultimately, Turner says, "That's how you got registered here in Durham at that time. Somebody that they knew they couldn't say no to, that had some pull somewhere, took you down personally."

"There wasn't any rioting"
- Adele Clark

listen button read button

In Virginia in 1920, Adele Clark and Lenora Houston, two white artists, organized an interracial suffrage meeting to ensure African-American women could safely vote. During the meeting at Houston and Clark's studio, the women decided that white women would drive to the polls to stand in solidarity with African-American women while they voted. Clark goes on to say that she regrets she never could convince the other "middle of the road" members of the League of Women Voters in Virginia to allow African-American women to join the League during that time.