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Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Corner

Screenshot from The Washington Post 2020 video on ‘The Fight’ for suffrage[1]. Host Hannah Jewell explains the racial conflicts within the suffrage movement in the second episode of ”The Fight“ from The Lily and The Washington Post. (Video: The Washington Post) Left to right: Frederick Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth. These four were among the founders of the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869.

Welcome to the DEI corner. This dedicated section on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will serve as a platform for sharing stories, initiatives, trainings and updates related to DEI efforts within the League and the broader community. 

Black History Month (February) is an appropriate time to remember that suffrage movements (including our own) are not immune to systemic racism. This point was brought home in a July 2018 New York Times article that explored ‘how the suffrage movement betrayed black women’ and was a major impetus for the creation of a DEI focus for the League.

In response to the article, the League ‘faced these hard truths’ and embraced a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy which was officially incorporated into the League by-laws in 2020. In 2020, Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins,the first woman of color to serve president of the LWVUS, from 1996-2002, published “The Untold Story of Women of Color” in the League of Women Voters. Now, DEI efforts are under a concerted attack as documented in a Jan. 21, 2024, article in the Sunday NYT

This DEI backlash challenges us to be courageous,[2] to resist the attack, and to renew our commitment to include more voters, to expand and protect voter access and  to ensure that elections remain fair and accessible. The LWVMA DEI committee, which began in 2019, is always open to new members. If you are interested, please reach out to and let us know how you would like to be involved. Thanks.

Next month: Three stories about the pre-Civil War lives of enslaved people in Boston, Deerfield, and Springfield.

[1] Jewell, H., Raver, G. How racism tore apart the early women’s suffrage movement. Washington Post, 8 September 2020.