Sarah Clay Bennett's 1897 Report from the Federal Suffrage Committee of NAWSA

Randolph Hollingsworth's picture

Sarah "Sallie" Clay Bennett of Richmond, Kentucky, had spoken before the U.S. Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage in 1894 (see the transcription of her 1894 speech archived in the Library of Congress) on the current legal interpretation of women's citizenship -- specifically mentioning the rights of both black and white women -- but to no avail. She did not give up, though, with the idea of breaking down the states' rules and customs for denying women the right to vote for federal officers. She gave her report to the National Association of Woman Suffrage at the convention in January 1897 about the work done the previous year by the NAWSA's Federal Suffrage Committee which she chaired.

She had written a political treatise that was presented to Congress that year by Senator Lindsay and Repreentative McCreary on behalf of the NAWSA, "asking Congress to protect white and black women equally with black men against State denial of the right to vote for members of Congress and the Presidential electors in the States, under the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, in accordance with the combined Minor vs. Happersett and Yarborough decisions of the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States. (44)" She also wrote private letters to every member of the U.S. Congress, enclosing a copy of the treatise. She sent a copy of it to the editors of newspapers "in every State of the Union" requesting that it be published.



"Minutes of the Suffrage Convention, January 29, 1897," Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association at the Central Christian Church... Des Moines, Iowa, January 26th, 27th, 28th, and 29th, 1897. Edited by Rachel Foster Avery. Philadelphia: Press of Alfred J. Ferris, [1897].