Black Women’s Suffrage in Wisconsin
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Researching African Americans in the suffrage movement in Wisconsin can be a challenge. Whether due to records not being kept, not being uncovered, or being destroyed, the history of African American women can be harder to come by. Below you will find some resources about African American women in the suffrage movement and tips for finding more. You may find some more general resources regarding Black men’s suffrage in Wisconsin or Black women’s suffrage outside Wisconsin as well, which are included to provide helpful context and because of the lack of resources about Black women’s suffrage in Wisconsin more specifically.
For more on researching this topic outside of Wisconsin, see:
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General Search Tips
- In this time period, the common term used for African Americans was “colored.” While this term is no longer used, searching it in historical newspaper databases may yield more relevant primary resources.
- When searching for a particular organization or individual, you may need to put quotation marks around the name, depending on the database you are searching. For example, searching “Political Equality League” will often search for this exact term as opposed to Political Equality League, which will expand your search to include items with any or all of the words.
- When searching for particular women, remember that during this time period, most women went by Miss if they were not married or Mrs. In the latter case, they may have used Mrs. with their own name or Mrs. with their husband’s name. This means that you can search for “Carrie Horton” or “Mrs. Carrie Horton” but that you should also search for “Oscar Horton” or “Mrs. Oscar Horton” if you know the husband’s name. This may yield results you didn’t get from only searching the woman’s name.
BadgerLink, Wisconsin’s free online library, gives Wisconsin citizens with a library card access to the Archive of Wisconsin Newspapers database which provides some access to newspapers back to the 1800s. Users can also access Newspapers.com Library Edition here for papers from around the country.
Chronicling America provides free access to selected digitized historic newspaper pages from 1789-1963. The database is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Library of Congress (LC) and state projects. The site is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Several million pages are added each year and it is updated continuously.
- Searching historical newspapers can often yield the best materials about African American women’s suffrage. If you can’t find your local paper’s archives online, check with your local library or historical society.
- The Chicago Defender is a paper to try when searching Wisconsin movements. This African American paper had a regular column dedicated to happenings in Wisconsin. UW-Madison has access to this paper (and other Black newspapers) via ProQuest Historical Newspapers databases (you must be affiliated with UW-Madison or visit a UW-Madison library with valid ID to access).
- Copies of the Wisconsin Citizen, the paper of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association, can be accessed at the Wisconsin Historical Society Library in Madison.
- Also available via UW-Madison:
- Gordon, S. (2018, July 11). Wisconsin’s Halting Path Towards Black Suffrage. WisContext. Retrieved from https://www.wiscontext.org/wisconsins-halting-path-towards-black-suffrage
- Gregory, J.G. (1896-1897). Negro suffrage in Wisconsin. In Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, volume XI. 94-101. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. Retrieved from http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WI.WT1896
- Janik, E. (2017, October 2). Rights For Women, African-Americans, Immigrants: Wisconsin’s Radical 1846 Constitution. Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved from https://www.wpr.org/rights-women-african-americans-immigrants-wisconsins-radical-1846-constitution
- Lorenzsonn, E. (2018, February 16). Hidden history of black suffrage in Wisconsin is focus of Historical Society lecture. The Cap Times. Retrieved from https://madison.com/ct/news/local/hidden-history-of-black-suffrage-in-wisconsin-is-focus-of/article_1ec28834-6737-5d3b-96f3-1dd304c2c935.html
- Shade, B.J. (1981). Afro-Americans in early Wisconsin. In Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume 69, edited by Whitford, P. & Whitford, K. 113-120. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. Retrieved from http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WI.WT1981
- The State Constitutions of 1846 and 1848. (n.d.). Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved from https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/tp-015/?action=more_essay
- The Ada Lois James Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society include a couple of letters written in 1911 to James from Mabel Judd about the creation of a Milwaukee branch of the Political Equality League for African American Women. The Historical Society also holds the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association records but I haven’t found anything regarding Black women in these papers thus far.
- “First Colored Voter.” (1897, June 12). The Evening Wisconsin. Online facsimile retrieved from https://www.wisconsinhistory.org//turningpoints/search.asp?id=1385
- Horwitz, I.S. (1922, February 12). “Early Milwaukeeans active in negro’s enfranchisement.” Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Newspaper/BA10277
- “Negro Suffrage in Wisconsin.” (1865, November 12). Daily Milwaukee News. Online facsimile retrieved from https://www.wisconsinhistory.org//turningpoints/search.asp?id=1384
- “Selections from the Waukesha American Freeman: The New Constitution Denounced.” (1928). Wisconsin Historical Collections, 29. 91-99. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Online facsimile retrieved from https://www.wisconsinhistory.org//turningpoints/search.asp?id=58
- Strong, M.M. (1920). “Speech of Marshall M. Strong, February 5, 1847.” Wisconsin Historical Collections, 28. 235-262. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Online facsimile retrieved from https://www.wisconsinhistory.org//turningpoints/search.asp?id=59
- Supreme Court of Wisconsin. (1867). “Gillespie vs. Palmer and others.” Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin. vol XX. Madison, Wis.: Atwood & Rublee. Online facsimile retrieved from http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/tp/id/47278
- Wisconsin. Constitutional Convention (1846). Rejected Constitution of the State of Wisconsin, 1846. Original manuscript in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives (Series 182). Online facsimile retrieved from https://www.wisconsinhistory.org//turningpoints/search.asp?id=54