Your Fave Is Problematic: White suffragettes were very fucking racist

Now that the apocalypse has arrived, I want white feminists to lean in. We need to have a chat.

See, yesterday I peeped you all celebrating your white suffragette faves. Stanning for Susan B. Anthony and whatnot. Leaving flowers on her grave, being all cute trying to bow down to your sisters who paved the way for you. Meanwhile, about 66% percent of you were secretly in the booth trying to Make America Great Again. While a handful of you were enthusiastically wearing white to the polls in honor of the white suffragists who fought for (white) women’s right to vote in the 1900s, Trump was being elected president. But I’ll let bygones be bygones for now.

The Clinton campaign has been ripe with peculiar social media attempts to prove her win would be a win for all women. There was the cringeworthy Rosa Parks tweet that was an early predictor of where this campaign was going with its #YesAllWomen narrative. The #WearWhiteToVote thing — a social media push for women to wear white while voting as a nod to early white suffragettes — was the final attempt at defining this election as being progress for all women. The reality is that’s not the case. That proverbial glass ceiling being shattered will never be beneficial for women of color. Black women specifically would’ve benefitted the least from a Clinton win (just like they’ll suffer most from a Trump presidency; it’s super fun however you slice it).

That’s the truth here: Had Clinton won the election, her progress would’ve been tailored for white women and white women alone (sure, there might’ve been some incidental, tertiary benefit for women of color, but our interests would not have been the mark), just like the white suffragettes who fought for the right to vote in 1920 didn’t include women of color or black women. Black women mostly had to wait until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a whopping 45 years later. Let that sink in. Not only were white suffragettes uninterested in bringing along their “sisters of color” to share in this newfound right to exercise democracy, many of your faves were racists who relied heavily on anti-black rhetoric to suppress black men’s right to vote.

I know, toots. It’s a hard pill to swallow that your faves are problematic. Have a nice glass of lemonade so we can commune — sister to sister.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1899
CREDIT: Getty Images

Your girl Susan B. Anthony would’ve rather cut off her arm than ask for the right to vote for blacks.

“I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ask for the ballot for the Negro and not for the woman.”

Cute! She also thought it was harder to be a white woman than a black man. Delusions be damned. “Mr. Douglass talks about the wrongs of the Negro; but with all the outrages that he today suffers, he would not exchange his sex and take the place of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”

Speaking of your girl Elizabeth Cady Stanton, at least she didn’t bother mincing words. She made her racism plain.

“What will we and our daughters suffer if these degraded black men are allowed to have the rights that would make them even worse than our Saxon fathers?”

Giving black men the right to vote would not only be a mistake, but make them worse than the white men of the 1900s. But you know, stan on.

Carrie Chapman Catt, the Founder of the League of Women Voters, was quite the charmer. Hooray for advocates of white supremacy!

“White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.”

Laura Clay was all about upholding white supremacy too. I wonder if she said this in the first meeting after she founded Kentucky’s first suffrage group.

“The white men, reinforced by the educated white women, could ‘snow under’ the Negro vote in every State, and the white race would maintain its supremacy without corrupting or intimidating the Negroes.”

Anna Howard Shaw was so revered as the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association that an episode of 30 Rock was based on her. She was outraged about the idea of black men voting and receiving her imagined state of superiority over white women.

“You have put the ballot in the hands of your black men, thus making them political superiors of white women. Never before in the history of the world have men made former slaves the political masters of their former mistresses!”

Amazing. Forget her racism! She deserves to be honored on one of America’s beloved sitcoms.

And how about your lady Rebecca Ann Latimer Felton, the first woman to serve in the Senate? Miss Felton outright called for lynching the “beasts” if it meant protecting her precious white womanhood.

“I do not want to see a negro man walk to the polls and vote on who should handle my tax money, while I myself cannot vote at all…When there is not enough religion in the pulpit to organize a crusade against sin; nor justice in the courthouse to promptly punish crime; nor manhood enough in the nation to put a sheltering arm about innocence and virtue—-if it needs lynching to protect woman’s dearest possession from the ravening human beasts—-then I say lynch, a thousand times a week if necessary.”

Seriously, fuck your white feminists suffragette faves. Miss me with all the #WearWhiteToVote to honor racist white women who’ve been upheld as some type of champions of feminism and progress.


Now, let’s talk about women who truly deserve homage: black women suffragists like Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Mary Church Terrell and Ella Baker. Even Shirley Chisholm, who wasn’t a suffragette, but benefitted from her black warrior predecessors to become the first black woman on a major party ticket to run for president in 1972 and the first woman to run on the Democratic Party’s nomination. That glass ceiling Clinton would’ve shattered had to be cracked first by a black woman.

Journalist And Suffragist Ida Wells Barnett

Sojourner Truth was born enslaved before escaping with her infant daughter. Imagine the strength of escaping slavery then to devote your life to abolition and women’s rights. Long before your faves, Truth was writing and delivering speeches on behalf of women and blacks while facing vile racism. Her 1851 speech “Ain’t I A Woman?” is only a glimpse at the brilliance of this mighty woman.

Ida B. Wells did it all — journalist, newspaper editor, sociologist, co-founder of the NAACP, activist and feminist. Like Truth, she knew that equality had to be fought for both her gender and race. Take a gander at the revolutionary work she put in. Then tell me why Susan B. Anthony should even be mentioned in the same breath.

The Idas and Sojourners and Marys and Ellas are names that should forever be on our tongues, studied with the greats of American history. We are all forever indebted to their fortitude.

Portrait Of Mary Church Terrell
CREDIT: Getty Images

I didn’t #WearWhiteToVote because…for what? I opted for a black ensemble instead. Chin up, head tilted toward the sky, shoulders back, I wrote in Shirley Chisholm for president. I voted in the spirit of Sojourner who never got to walk in to a voting booth and for Mary who died 11 years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And for Chisholm who cracked the glass ceiling in ’72 when Clinton was still getting her law degree at Yale. It’s their spirits I carry with me because they understand any progression for black women has always been because of the fight of other black women.

Maybe one day I’ll witness the progress so many women felt by Clinton’s run when a black woman is elected the leader of this nation. But seeing as how white people wouldn’t even elect a white woman for president, I won’t hold my breath. In the meantime I’m here to remind you of your racist faves and learn you something about black suffragettes that fought for all women’s rights. You’re welcome.