[Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances E.W. Harper:] Battling for the Ballot. Extraordinary Scenes at the Woman’s Rights Convention ... Female Suffrage First, Negro Suffrage Last [within:] The World.
“Mrs. [Frances E. W.] Harper then proceeded with her remarks, saying that when it was the question of race she let the lesser question of sex go…”
On the front page of The World, in four lengthy columns, a sensationalized, and important contemporary account of the great feud between Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony over the 15th Amendment.
During the American Equal Rights Association meeting on May 12, 1869, this spirited debate underscored each reformer’s firm positions and their allies’ roles in advancing their respective causes. For Douglass, the African American had waited too long for the vote; Anthony’s prioritized women’s voting rights over that of Blacks. Both reformers held unyielding stances, fostering a frosty relationship.
Among Douglass’ introduced resolutions: one urged swift passage of the 15th Amendment “without delay”, the other aimed for an amendment guaranteeing “the same sacred rights [to vote] without limitation by sex.” Hisses and objections were made, so the convention moved on.
Under the heading “The Negro Again” The World reported:
“Mr, Douglas was received with great applause ... [The audience, Douglass said] had just heard an argument with which he could not agree—that the suffrage to the black man should be postponed to that of the women… Miss Anthony hereupon rose from her seat. and made towards Mr, Douglas, saying something which was drowned in the applause and laughter which continued. Mr. Douglas was heard to say, however, “No, no, Susan,” which again set the audience off in another audible smile, and Miss Anthony took her seat.”
After Douglass spoke, Anthony’s ally, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the convention’s president, further rankled the audience when she “argued that not another man should be enfranchised until enough women are admitted to the polls to outweigh those who have the franchise…” These remarks led AERA committee member Frances E.W. Harper to make an intersectional argument—what about Black women?
In this moment, Harper, Anthony and Douglass joined in with their input:
“Mrs. Harper (colored) asked Mr. Blackwell to read the fifth resolution of the series he submitted, and contended that that covered the whole ground of the resolution of Mr. Douglas. Miss Anthony—Then I move that the resolution be reconsidered. No Tricks. Mr. Douglas—Oh! no; you cannot do that while the floor is occupied. How about Black Women? Mrs. Harper then proceeded with her remarks, saying that when it was the question of race she let the lesser question of sex go. But the white women all go for sex, letting race occupy a minor position. She liked the idea of working-women, but she would like to know if it was broad enough to take in colored women? Miss Anthony and several others—Yes, yes. … Miss Anthony stepped forward and the assembly came to order. She said she would take the opportunity to say…that the fifteenth amendment was not an equal rights affair, as it elevated one-half of a new class to a position where it could be law makers for them. She thought the government should give them as much as it did to the black man. (Applause) [...] Mr. Douglas then came out to the front of the platform and the noise gave way to applause and cries of “Douglas, Douglas.” … Mr. Douglas said the sooner you hear my friend the sooner you will hear something better than my friend.… Mr. Burleigh essayed to speak. What could be reported only were the words: “This fifteenth—does not—any person—bar against the enfranchisement of women.” A Crazy Convention. Here the laughter became tremendous and anything but funny to the speaker.”
The tumultuous meeting strained Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass’s relations, resulting in the AERA’s dissolution the next year: Stanton and Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association; Lucy Stone, Frances E.W. Harper, and others initiated the American Woman Suffrage Association.
The 15th Amendment was ratified a year after Douglass and Stanton’s clash at this meeting, but it took half a century before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.
Description: [Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances E.W. Harper:] Battling for the Ballot. Extraordinary Scenes at the Woman’s Rights Convention ... Female Suffrage First, Negro Suffrage Last [within:] The World.
New York: Friday, May 14, 1869. 6pp. 23½ x 16¼ inches. Toned; usual fold lines; very good.