Lottie Wilson Jackson was the first person of color to attend the Chicago Institute of Art. She pushed the National Women’s Suffrage Association to desegregate rail cars and painted Abraham Lincoln and Sojourner Truth together in a joint portrait. She was born in Niles, Michigan and lived in Bay City, Michigan later in her life.
Anna Howard Shaw was raised in rural northern Michigan, near Big Rapids. She began work as a teacher and a seamstress but eventually pursued high school education, education at Albion College, and recognition as a preacher, all without parental support. She attended Boston University School of Theology, where she was the only woman in her class and where she also received a medical degree. Shaw was active in and later President of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA).
The lives of Wilson and Shaw offer examples of:
Triumph and successes
Wilson and Shaw were “firsts” in their academic programs and pursued careers during a time when that was not easy for any woman.
Frustration and difficulties
Wilson’s effort to mobilize white activists to work against racial segregation on trains was tabled into oblivion. She also struggled to make a living as a painter in Washington D.C.
Shaw felt she was not welcome as a Lutheran minister and left the ministry though she was one of the first women to earn a theology degree from a Lutheran seminary and become ordained. In addition, she could not have her thirty-year relationship with a woman recognized by the state.
Racism and gender stereotype accommodation
While she was head of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, Shaw engaged in the denigration of black men, who had voting rights, in order to promote the idea that white women deserved the vote. As a woman with a ministerial calling and whose primary relationship was with a woman, Shaw lived her life far outside of mainstream; yet, as a suffrage leader, she strategically evoked the norms of women in the domestic, private sphere rather than link the suffrage cause to the expanding roles for women in the home and workplace.
The choice of Jackson and Shaw for the logo is intended to stimulate us to learn about participants in the suffrage movement and to recognize that Michigan citizens were actively involved in the movement. It is equally important that we learn about the moral failings of some members of the suffrage community. Actors who made important contributions and entered into formerly all-male spaces also had flaws, as the case of Shaw illustrates. Feminists have sometimes failed to understand that their definition of the collective needs to be broad, anti-racist, and focused on solidarity with all people excluded from politics and full citizenship. We need to know about and learn from these mistakes, as well as from these women’s successes.
Submitted by: Anne Manuel, 11-5-19
The UM Suffrage 2020 logo was designed by Michael Gawlick