Beyond the Right to Vote: African American Women of the Maryland Suffrage Movement

By Kacy Rohn, Graduate Assistant Intern

Augusta Chissell. Portrait

Augusta Chissell. Photo courtesy of Mark Young.

Stories of the Maryland women’s suffrage movement have been forgotten at many historic sites, but it’s possible to reconnect some of this history through sources like The Baltimore Sun and organizational chronicles of suffrage groups. Though these contain valuable information, they often omit the efforts of African American suffragists and the places where they worked. This erasure is a symptom of a larger divide in the suffrage movement: as racial tensions rose during Reconstruction, many white suffrage groups excluded women of color. Even though Maryland’s first suffrage organization, the Equal Rights Society, was founded by a racially diverse group in 1867, the dominant groups of the 20th century suffrage movement were led by white women who typically distanced themselves from women of color. Continue reading

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Remembering Maryland Women’s Fight for the Vote

by Kacy Rohn, Graduate Assistant Intern

From February 7 to 13, 1906, thousands of activists from across the country gathered at the Lyric Theater in Baltimore to galvanize the movement for women’s suffrage. Leaders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) arranged a busy program of speeches, musical performances, and prayer services that filled the theater. Despite this momentous gathering, our understanding of the Lyric’s historic significance lacks any reference to the women’s suffrage movement (as seen in our documentation of the site). This forgotten milestone is a prominent example of the hidden history of women’s suffrage that exists at many historic sites across Maryland.

Lyric Theater. 1906 Appearance

The Lyric Theater as shown in the 1906 NAWSA Convention booklet. Image: Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911 (Library of Congress)

NAWSA members assembled at the Lyric at a critical time. The founding women were aging out of active work and needed new recruits. Continue reading

Harriet Elizabeth Brown: “The Quiet Heroine of 1937”

By Michael Gayhart Kent, Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture

Harriet Elizabeth Brown

Harriet Elizabeth Brown

1937 was an explosive year in history.  On May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg airship ignited over New Jersey and crashed to the ground in flames.  The June 3, 1937 wedding of Wallis Simpson to the former King of England also shook the world, dominating the news until the shock of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance over the Pacific on July 2, 1937.  The most earth-shaking event for the black community in Maryland came on November 11, 1937, when Harriet Elizabeth Brown, a Black teacher at Mt. Hope Elementary School, filed a lawsuit against the Calvert County Board of Education.

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