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#19SuffrageStories Countdown: Stories 3 to 1

Text: 1 Century. Image of red, white, and blue poster that says "a woman living here has registered to vote, thereby assuming the responsibility of citizenship"

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Reproduction from The Underground Rail Road by William Still. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates,1872. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

This month the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, and National Archives have shared 19 lesser-known stories of suffragists who worked long before and after the 19th Amendment was passed. We have also released a new set of women's history-inspired Instagram stickers.

See the full countdown by beginning with stories 19 to 15, or read any stories you may have missed with stories 14 to 10 and 9 to 4.


3: Three Colors of Suffrage

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Gold, white, and purple striped ribbon that says "delegate" across the middle white stripe in gold. Text on image: 3 colors
Cora A. Week’s name badge with tricolor ribbon, Congressional Union Convention, December 1915. National Woman’s Party Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
 

The National Woman's Party (NWP) chose the colors purple, white, and gold to represent woman's suffrage, based on the British suffrage movement's use of purple, white, and green. In 1867, American suffragists used the sunflower to campaign for a statewide suffrage referendum. Although the Kansas campaign failed, sunflower yellow became associated with American suffrage, making gold a meaningful replacement for green. The tricolor badge signaled the bearer's allegiance to the NWP, building a recognizable brand for the movement.

Cora A. Week, a New York City artist, wore this name badge at the Congressional Union Convention of 1915. The Congressional Union was a women's suffrage organization that often campaigned aggressively through parades, speaking tours, and lobbying legislators. Week was later arrested as part of a massive protest in response to NWP leader Alice Paul's arrest for "obstructing traffic."

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2: The Double Burden

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Etching of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Text added to image: 2 burdens.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Reproduction from The Underground Rail Road by William Still. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
 

As activist and writer Frances Ellen Watkins Harper identified, African American women faced a "double burden" in their fight for the vote: sexism and racism. Harper exposed racial inequalities of the movement at an 1866 suffrage convention. She said, "You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs."

Harper was born free in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1825. She taught at a school run by abolitionist John Brown and became an active figure in the Underground Railroad. After the abolition of slavery, Harper continued to fight for the rights of African Americans and women. A leader of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, she became disillusioned with the group's lack of commitment to anti-lynching laws.

She and other African American suffragists were often excluded from the suffrage conversation by their white counterparts. In 1894, she helped form the National Association of Colored Women.

Harper's literary legacy is extensive. Her poetry and novels broke barriers and reflected her social and political beliefs. She was one of the first published African American women writers.

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1: One Century

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Text: 1 Century. Image of red, white, and blue poster that says "a woman living here has registered to vote, thereby assuming the responsibility of citizenship"
"A Woman Living Here Has Registered to Vote" sign from our National Museum of American History.
 

One hundred years ago today, the 19th Amendment became law.

The 19th Amendment said women could not be excluded from the polls because of their sex, but it did not guarantee the ballot. Citizenship laws, poll taxes, threats, and violence barred African American, Latina, Native American, Asian American, immigrant, and poor white women from voting.

This sign was designed to be placed in your window, so anyone who walked by would know the woman who lived there had exercised her right under the 19th Amendment and registered to vote. It also served as a reminder to other women to do the same.

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Thank you for joining us as we counted from 19 to 1 in honor of the 19th Amendment! If you would like to learn about future projects and news from Because Of Her Story, sign up for our newsletter.

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