Mary Church Terrell

An Appeal to Colored Women to Vote and Do their Duty in Politics - 1921

Mary Church Terrell
January 01, 1921
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[ca. 1921]

An Appeal to Colored Women to Vote and Do their Duty in Politics.

All women should be interested in the political affairs of the country in which they live. So far as in them lies, all women should inform themselves, not only about conditions in their own country, but about those which obtain all over the civilized world. But the duty of studying carefully the measures proposed and the questions discussed in the National Congress. in their respective State legislatures and in their respective city or town Councils devolves upon no group of women more than upon the colored women of the United States. One does not have to possess more of her share of gray matter than rightfully belongs to her to understand why this is so. Everybody who thinks at all sees clearly why colored women should not only study the political situation in which they live and move and have their being, but should actively engage in politics wherever, whenever and however they can without actually breaking the law.

Colored women have a double burden to carry- the burden of race as well as that of sex. White women all over the civilized world showed how great a handicap they though sex was by the desperate efforts they made to secure suffrage. The extreme and violent methods to which the English wo[m]en especially resorted are fresh in our minds. But those white women had only one handicap to overcome. What would they not have done, if they had been obliged to surmount TWO, as we colored women have to do?

There is no doubt that some of the disadvantages under which colored women labor may be removed by their votes. By casting their ballots properly, by putting good men into office and keeping bad men out colored women can do much to remove some of the disabilities under which we live i those sections where their votes are counted. And even in those sections of the country where the fifteenth amendment is not violated, there are many conditions confronting colored people which should and can be removed.

Each group of colored women must study political methods for [itself]. As the first director of the Eastern Division for Colored Women [during] the Harding-Coolidge Campaign I realized more than I had ever done [words missing] that situations, methods and conditions confronting colored [women] materially in the various States. The methods which can be successfully pursued in one State might not work well in another. A great deal depends upon the white leaders of a state and upon their attitude toward colored people on general principles. Much depends upon the breadth and justice of the white women who lead.

But there is one thing which colored women can and should do in ever State. They should do everything in their power to get the right men in the primaries There is where they should use diplomacy and tact. If they believe a certain man will deal justly by their race, they might go to him and urge him to become a candidate for governor, or senator (or any other office) for nomination in the primaries of the party to which they belong, assuring him of their support and promising to do everything in their power to secure his selection and election. Colored women must learn to play the political game as they would any other game in which they wished to become proficient and win.

Colored women should certainly watch carefully what the legislatures of their respective States are doing and keep posted on the bills which vitally affect us as a race. The State chairmen on Legislation should keep the women of the various states well informed on the measure which are introduced in their respective Legislatures which will help or hinder our race. A letter is a powerful weapon of defense, when rightly used. Colored women should send letters to their State or National representatives, urging them to take a stand for or against measures in which they are especially interested.

Now that colored women possess the ballot, it will be a terrible reflection upon them, if they do not use it wisely. If colored women fail to study the political situation of their nation, their state, their city or their rowns and cast their ballots for men who will try to improve the conditions under which their group lived, they will certainly be recreant to their trust and perpetrate an irreparable injustice upon their race.

Terrell, Mary Church. 1921. “An Appeal to Colored Women to Vote and Do their Duty in Politics.” Mary Church Terrell Papers. Library of Congress.