“Your children will reap the harvest of our solidarity — of our determination to stand together, to fight together, and, if needs be, to die together.”
Nellie Griswold Francis, from a speech published in The Appeal, May 7, 1921
Nellie Griswold Francis founded the Everywoman Suffrage Club (ESC) in 1914. It was the only Black woman suffrage organization in Minnesota.
Francis knew that voting was just one of many civil rights denied to the women in her community. Her reach was nationwide. She chaired the press department of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, and was active in the NAACP and the Urban League. Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, and other civic leaders were her friends and supporters.
Francis and other ESC members attended the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association convention in 1916. She believed in working with white suffrage organizations, and she enlisted white women to champion the causes of Black women.
This was a controversial stand that cost Francis allies. The national suffrage movement was segregated, often as a tactical move by white leadership. Racist statements and actions were commonplace. But Francis followed the path of her aunt Juno Frankie Pierce, a Nashville suffragist who employed similar techniques.
In 1920, the ESC became the Everywoman Progressive Council, dedicated to “the promotion of political and economic equality and social justice of the Negro, cooperation between white and colored women and men, training of local colored women leaders, and fostering the recognition of Negroes who have achieved success.”