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The National Woman's Party and Suffrage for African-American Women

Document 8

March 26, 1921.                       

Editor. The Nation,
New York City

Dear Sir:

       My attention has been called to an article in The Nation of March 2, on the Woman's Party Convention and I wish to protest against the inaccuracies in this article.  Every statement in this article concerning the colored woman is incorrect. . . .

       Your article states "The attitude of Alice Paul and her supporters toward these disturbers of the peace . . . was the attitude of all established authorities. "Why do these people harass us?" asked Miss Paul. "Why do they want to spoil our convention?" The answer that never occurred to her, was this: "For the very same reason that made you disturb the peace and harass the authorities in your peculiarly effective and irritating way: because they want to further the cause they believe in."       

       May I point out to you that the Woman's Party made its protest against the authorities who were responsible for denying suffrage to the women of this country? We did not take our protest against other reform organizations who had no connection with the denial of suffrage to women. We naturally could not understand why, if the negroes wished to protest against denial of the franchise on account of race, they did not protest against the governmental authorities responsible for the denial instead of protesting against the Woman's Party which was in no way responsible for the denial.

       In reply to the general tenor of your article, I should like to point out that there has probably never been a convention where greater liberality was shown to opponents and to advocates of outside interests than at this one. Owing to the reputation of the Woman's Party for efficiency in accomplishing its purpose, it has been besieged by people desiring it to take up various causes. There were approximately fifty different groups insistent that the Woman's Party should decide at this convention to make their particular cause its own. . . . The leaders of the Woman's Party, in endeavoring to extend facilities to these groups for the presentation of their ideas to the convention, even had the sponsors of these various ideas made delegates and given full rights on the floor of the convention. At the request of Miss Paul the New York branch, for instance, made the head of the Voluntary Parenthood League a delegate to the convention with the right to advocate her cause from the floor although she had been a bitter opponent of the Woman's Party during its fight for suffrage. In the same way, at the request of Miss Paul various members of the pacifist organizations, who had strongly opposed the Woman's Party when it was waging its fight for suffrage were made delegates by the Woman's Party branches in the states to which they belonged, in order that they might have an opportunity to advocate their cause from the floor.

       Not only was there probably never a convention in which such an opportunity was given to opponents and outsiders to present their views to the convention, but probably never was there a convention in which there was such unanimity of feeling. . . . The outsiders who had taken no part in the previous life of the Woman's Party, and whose only interest in the convention was to obtain the support of the organization for their various causes, were disappointed with the convention because it had not adopted their particular cause. However, most of the members of the Woman's Party left the convention happy in the feeling that it had once again reaffirmed its determination to stand by the cause of women until women were completely free.

-- Excerpts from letter by Dora Lewis, Treasurer of the
National Woman's Party, to The Nation, 26 March 1921

12. How did Lewis defend the Woman's Party?




13. What did Lewis suggest that African-American women do to achieve the vote in the South?




To Document 9


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