Lifting While We Climb
Listening to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, I could not stop thinking about Mary Church Terrell, an all-too-often overlooked suffragette and civil rights activist. She was born the year of the Emancipation Proclamation and died the year of Brown vs the Board of Education.
In a speech to the National American Women's Suffrage Association on February 18, 1989, she said, "She said the following in an Address Before the National American Women's Suffrage Association on February 18, 1898:
“Consider if you will, the almost insurmountable obstacles which have confronted colored women in their efforts to educate and cultivate themselves since their emancipation, and I dare assert, not boastfully, but with pardonable pride, I hope, that the progress they have made and the work they have accomplished, will bear a favorable comparison at least with that of their more fortunate sisters, from whom the opportunity of acquiring knowledge and the means of self-culture have never been entirely withheld. For, not only are colored women with ambition and aspiration handicapped on account of their sex, but they are everywhere baffled and mocked on account of their race. Desperately and continuously they are forced to fight that opposition, born of a cruel, unreasonable prejudice which neither their merit nor their necessity seems able to subdue. Not only because they are women, but because they are colored women, are discouragement and disappointment meeting them at every turn.”
Mary Church Terrell called the white suffragettes her “favored sisters.” It was her way of acknowledging that even though it was called “The Women’s Movement” that movement did not treat all women equally.
Women are not a monolith, but we must fall victim to the divisions of the past when we valued one group of women over another. Tonight, I was proud to see a woman elected as the Vice President of the United States for the first time ever. It is a victory for all women.