This is part of an ongoing Washington Informer series about the Women’s Suffrage Movement and an initiative that includes Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes that will use the lens of history, the fabric of art and culture and the venue of the public square to shine a light into dark places, equipping all with a compass to chart the way forward. The initiative lives in the institutional home of the Washington Informer Charities.
Do you know her? If not, perhaps you should.
Naomi Bowman Talbert Anderson was born March 1, 1843, in Michigan City, Ind.
Gaining attention due to her poetic talent, she received an invitation to attend a previously all-white school to complete her education.
Anderson, whose mother died when the young poet was just 17, married at the age of 20 and moved to Chicago. Her advocacy was immediate.
Anderson became a crucial player in the suffrage movement that advocated for equal rights for all people. She used her poetry to express the experience of being a Black woman and worked beside white suffragists in a campaign that led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
In quoting Bonnie Schaaf, the president of the Michigan City Commission for Women and vice president of the League of Women Voters of LaPorte County in Indiana, writer William Halliar recently proclaimed that Michigan City had rediscovered one of its true heroines in the struggle for women’s right to vote and in the eradication of racial oppression.
The March 2020 proclamation by Halliar, titled “Rediscovering a Local Hero,” honored Anderson.
He noted that her “extended last name is derived from the fact that she survived several husbands which attests to her fortitude.”
He continued, quoting Schaaf.
“Anderson was known throughout the United States for her eloquence, moral force and life of activism, gaining a reputation for giving fiery controversial speeches. And she did this fighting for dual oppression for being both Black and female.”
Anderson would eventually move to Ohio and join the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, writing articles describing the demoralizing effects of alcohol abuse on people of color.
“She was especially concerned with the lack of education – a root cause of the problem,” Halliar wrote.
Following her husband’s death in 1881, Anderson worked as a hairdresser while continuing to write editorials and op-eds for various newspapers.
In an “Emancipation Day” address, Anderson expressed her faith, her view of history and her hope for the future.
“Woman has a power within herself, and the great God that reigns above, who furnished Abraham Lincoln with the knowledge to write the Emancipation Proclamation whereby four million Blacks were set free. That God, our God, is with and for us and will hear the call of woman and our rights will be granted and she shall be permitted to vote.”
Anderson died in California on June 9, 1899.