African American Women and the Vote, 1837-1965

By Ann D. Gordon; Bettye Collier-Thomas | Go to book overview

Frances Ellen Watkins
Harper Abolitionist and
Feminist Reformer 1825-1911

Bettye Collier-Thomas

Of the Negro race in the United States since 1620, there have appeared but four women whose careers stand out so far, so high and so clearly above all others of their sex, that they can with strict propriety and upon well established grounds be denominated great. These are Phillis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Amanda Smith. 1

Few women, black or white, have sustained public careers that earned the level of respect and fame enjoyed by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. She was a person of great presence, considerable charisma, and an outstanding speaker. During her lifetime, she won national recognition as a lecturer, writer, and activist through her participation in all the prominent reform movements of the nineteenth century. Harper was the single most important black woman leader to figure in both the abolitionist and feminist reform movements. Her feminist leadership included work in the suffrage and temperance movements. As a participant in the abolitionist, suffrage, temperance, peace, civil and woman's rights movements, between 1854 and 1890 she was one of the few African American women present at conferences and meetings dominated by the black male leadership and, prior to 1890, with few exceptions, was the only

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