African-American Women and Suffrage


African-American Women and Suffrage


Information about Black women's involvement in the suffrage movement and the formation of women's clubs.


Many Black American women struggled to make it to the forefront of politics so women's clubs were intended to form communities in Evanston to support and uplift one another.

The radical importance in the formation of women's clubs was a reaction to the social injustices Black Americans continued to face after the Civil War. It was crucial to the suffrage movement because they were able to form communities in Evanston, alongside other groups in Chicago.

As the Black population in Evanston grew in the late 19th and early 20th century, Black women formed clubs and organizations to work on various causes together. The Black auxiliary of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the Julia Gaston Club (members shown below), and the Iroquois League, among many others, all were organizations engaged in philanthropic and political activities in Evanston.

Although work for women’s voting rights was not often mentioned by any of these women's organizations - the Ladies Colored Republican Club of Evanston was actively working in this time period. Black women’s Republican clubs were one of the primary venues for activism on voting rights issues in Illinois and it is likely that the Evanston group was very much engaged on this issue as well.


Evanston History Center


Evanston History Center Archives


Evanston History Center


Evanston Women's History Project


Evanston History Center

Collection Items

Lola Y. Downs
Lola Y. Downs was a woman dedicated to the service of her community. Downs valued the importance of organizing among women serving as the president of The Julia Gaston Club, a women's club in Evanston. She also served as an officer of the Illinois…

Celia Webb Hill
Celia Webb Hill was the president of the Julia Gaston Club of Evanston in the early 20s. She was a crucial part of the Julia Gaston Clubs' involvement and partnership with the Illinois Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, hosting the Federation…

Emma Howland
Emma Howland was dedicated to the organization of Black Evanston women in the early 20th century. Howland was an active agent of change in her homeward, the fifth ward.

Suffrage Debate, March 1913
A debate on suffrage at Ebenezer AME Church in Evanston, March 1913. Mrs. Robert Hadly, Mrs. Florence Jones, Mrs. William Stewart, and Miss Lydia Davis participated.

Correspondence between Ida B. Wells and Catharine McCulloch
The letter from Wells is in response to a letter (dated March 10, not saved) from McCulloch inviting Wells to Evanston to speak and also to McCulloch's home for dinner with their husbands included. Wells is commenting on the recent events in…

The Story of the Illinois Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, 1900-1922.
An early history of the IL Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. Includes a section on the Julia Gaston Club of Evanston and its members.
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