Politics and Government

Women and the Political Process

How did the changed political landscape in the Midwest and Northeast affect black women and the ballot?

The Midwestern and Northeastern states finally granted women limited access to the ballot. Black women knew the power of the ballot for social reform in their community and its ability to promote the political process in the community. Illinois was the first state east of the Mississippi to give women access to municipal politics. Thus, in Chicago elections, this resulted in almost twice as many black votes on Chicago’s South Side. Black women then founded suffrage clubs, taught women the power of the political process, and taught them how to register and vote. Ida B. Wells-Barnett and a white colleague founded the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago, developed their own political platforms, and searched for the best candidate regardless of party affiliation. The suffrage clubs also made demands on political candidates and insisted on their presence at meetings. Some claim that the effectiveness of the Alpha Suffrage Club was seen in the 1915 election of Oscar DePriest as Chicago’s first black alderman.


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