I am writing in response to the article titled “First National Suffragist Memorial Breaks Ground” (Connection, November 20-26, 2019). Reading it made me realize that I, too, was not aware of the horrific maltreatment that occurred during women’s suffrage only a century ago.
In public education, students are not taught about the extent to which suffragists were ridiculed and tortured throughout the movement. No teacher ever muttered the words “Night of Terror” or mentioned the sheer misery that these women faced. This ultimately causes students to overlook parts of history they did not know existed, thus reinforcing women’s suffrage as the “best-kept secret in American history.” However, they also fail to mention how this first-wave feminism was mainly focused on obtaining rights for white women. Although I am truly enthused to see a memorial finally being built for these brave ladies, I do wonder how the Suffragist Memorial Association plans to honor the minority activists who were (and still are) rarely ever recognized for their contributions to women’s suffrage.
Despite not being a main focus of the article, I appreciated the inclusion of Ms. Bingham’s quote about being both Black and a woman. In it, she called attention to the binary nature of African American women’s suffrage that is often overlooked. This served as an important reminder that women’s suffrage has been widely taught using a single story—one about White feminism that continuously marginalized minority women and intentionally disregarded the fact that racism and sexism were part of the same fight. Nonetheless, I anticipate that the National Suffragist Memorial will exceed expectations. Upon its completion, I hope that the memorial will adequately illustrate the complex evolution of feminism, serving as a guide for future feminists to engage in activism with a more mindful, intersectional approach.