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Frederick Douglass’s draft for a speech on woman suffrage at Tremont Temple, Boston, Mass., May 24, 1886

In a speech given more than 20 years after Congress abolished slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment, Frederick Douglass expressed his deep appreciation for the work of women abolitionists and his support for women’s rights, which were not yet protected by the Constitution. Women achieved suffrage only after Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, ratified in 1920.

When invited to be here, I was compelled to comply by two reasons; First; because I believe in the justice of the cause of woman, and Second; because I gratefully appreciate the services rendered by her to the cause of Emancipation.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Frederick Douglass’s draft for a speech on woman suffrage at Tremont Temple When invited to be here, I was compelled to comply by two reasons; First; because I believe in the justice of the cause of woman, and Second; because I gratefully appreciate the services rendered by her to the cause of Emancipation.

Suffrage for All

After the Civil War, many suffragists who had worked to abolish slavery hoped Congress would guarantee full civil rights for all citizens, regardless of race or sex. Instead, the Fifteenth Amendment banned discrimination on the basis of race or color, but not gender. This split the ranks of those who had previously joined forces in support of civil rights. Some suffragists accepted the urgency of protecting freedmen as a step toward universal suffrage; others felt betrayed that the cause for women was not more strongly pressed.