White women pioneered 🌟 WHITE 🌟 feminism [revised]

Georgia NeSmith
8 min readMar 30, 2020
Photo taken on Susan B. Anthony’s [center front] front porch in Adams, MA, 1896, with several other well-known [white] women’s suffrage movement leaders.

It is often asserted, as does the writer above [responding to Marley K’s The Hypocrisy and Betrayal of White Feminism] that white female suffragists were heroines not only for other white women, but for black women as well. The “women’s suffrage” movement was about suffrage for all women, not merely for the white women who were the public face of the movement in white media, and later in high school textbooks.

A look at history says otherwise.

Let me clarify that. The term “history” is used in multiple ways. We speak of history as what happened, including — both written and unwritten stories or data. And then there’s history as recorded in and represented by the white mainstream media — as one journalism historian called it, “the first draft of history.” And a few other levels of history — as written by amateur and professional historians, scholarly historians, and the versions reproduced in textbooks for different levels of readers, from children to high school to college students.

Most people have some acquaintance with textbook history, and little beyond that. The written textbook history of the women’s suffrage movement, first reproduced in rare high school textbooks giving more than a few paragraphs to it; and later, following the second wave of feminism, you might find as much as several pages. The overwhelming significance to society of the changes embodied therein for both women and men is still not given its due.

None that I have seen, however, says much [if anything at all] about black women feminists and suffragists, who had to fight not only the general resistance to women’s suffrage period, but also had to cope with the racism of white women suffragists.

And at the same time that white suffragists fought for women’s voices to be heard in legislatures as well as at the dining table, they denied black women and working class women an equal place on the battlefield alongside them. They required black women to walk at the back of their processions. Black suffragists were either banned from the halls where pro-suffrage speeches were held, or required to sit in the back of the hall or in the balcony.

Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.