Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mary Eliza Church Terrell - Wednesday's Woman of the Week!

Mary Eliza Church Terrell was an African American suffragist who fought not only for women's voting rights but also for United States citizenship for African Americans. Terrell was active all over the country and lectured on the importance of African American women voting. She felt voting was essential for African Americans to gain equality.

Mary Eliza Church Terrell, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-USZ62-54722)
Later Terrell would go on to become president of the National Association of Colored Women. She campaigned tirelessly among black organizations and mainstream white organizations for black women’s suffrage. She even picketed the Wilson White House with members of the National Woman’s Party in her zeal for woman suffrage. 

Following the passage of the nineteenth amendment, Terrell turned her attention to civil rights. In 1948, Terrell became the first black member of the National Association of University Women. In 1950 she worked to desegregate the John R. Thompson Restaurant in Washington, D.C. and her effort came to fruition with a 1953 Supreme Court decision banning discrimination in public places in the District of Columbia. Terrell fought for woman suffrage and civil rights because she realized that she belonged “to the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount…both sex and race.” She lectured, organized, and battled to better the lives of African American women throughout her life.

For more on Mary Eliza Church Terrell visit The National Women's History Museum

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