Lydia Flood Jackson

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Lydia Flood Jackson, 1862-1963

By Angelina Camilleri, Angelina Lopez, Stephen Martin, and Marinela Tupa,

Undergraduates, University of Michigan-Dearborn; Faculty: Georgina Hickey

Lydia Flood Jackson fought passionately for women's suffrage and equality for African Americans throughout her long life. Born into a family of elite Africans Americans, she proved herself a successful entrepreneur in several fields while also carrying on her family's activist tradition. Her parents joined the first wave of African American migration to California during the gold rush of the 1850s. Her mother, Elizabeth Thorn Scott Flood, who died when Lydia was just five years old, led the fight for the desegregation of schools in California. Lydia's father, Isaac Flood, succeeded financially, investing in real estate and working as a laborer and a tradesman. This success made the Floods one of the wealthiest African Americans families in California at the time. Both of her parents fought for the rights of African Americans, especially those involving education. These efforts allowed her to be the first black child to attend John Swett School in Oakland, California at the age of ten. After finishing school, she married William Jackson. The couple had no children.

Jackson remained politically active throughout her long life. She was a member of the Native Daughters Club, the Fannie Jackson Coppin Club, and the California Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. She was also a lifelong member of a church her parents founded, the Shiloh African Methodist Episcopal Church. Her activism focused on three different causes: calling for democracy (specifically in Mexico, West Indies, and South America), challenging white supremacy, and questioning gender roles assigned to women. In a speech in 1918 to the California Federation of Colored Women's Clubs she said, "Suffrage stands out as one of the component factors of Democracy; Suffrage is one of the most powerful levers by which we hope to elevate our women to the highest planes of life." In 1925 she gave a report on suffrage to the Federation's statewide meeting. In a 1940 speech to the Oakland residents who would later establish the First AME Church, Jackson discussed the activist pioneers who came before them, and their need for education and a church home.

Jackson grounded her own activism in her mother's legacy, publicly referencing her accomplishments in crusading for equal educational opportunities for African Americans. Her mother's prestige in the Oakland community helped Jackson establish her own credibility in the movement. She both continued her mother's work and sought to preserve the historical record of her mother's activism by researching the history of the educational opportunities afforded Black children in Oakland, California.

On the local level, Jackson also fought against the gender expectations placed on women because she believed it was important for women to have more options in life. As a leader in the California Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, an organization dedicated to helping women of color reach the highest levels of civil and political agency, Jackson took up the issue of woman suffrage. She was elected as the first legislative and citizenship chairman of the Federation and started the tradition of voting using secret ballots within the organization. Jackson kept close ties with her activist circle that included other wealthy African-American, church-going women, and remained in correspondence with Ruth Lasartemay late into her life. Lasartemay worked with Jackson on collecting oral histories and artifacts from active African American individuals in the Oakland, CA community.

In addition to her activism, Jackson developed entrepreneurial skills. Jackson initially supported herself by investing in real estate, which she learned from her father. Later she created her own successful business, Flood Toilet Creams, which sold beauty products on the West coast of the United States. Her activism and business acumen placed her in an emerging, yet powerful, group of African Americans whom historian Willard Gatewood dubbed "aristocrats of color."

Lydia Flood Jackson lived a long and influential life, dying at the age of 101 in 1963. She remained in Oakland her entire life. Her funeral service was held at the First AME Church, an institution that she had helped to create and that served as the base for much of her activist career.


Advertisement in California Eagle, 17 May, 1919, p. 3.


Beasley, Delilah. The Negro Trail Blazers of California. Los Angeles: Times Mirror Print, 1919. For quoted 1918 speech, see pp. 274-75.

Flood Jackson, Lydia. "A Synopsis of the Early History of the Church." Pioneer Day Program 1940. Oakland, CA. 1940. African American Museum & Library, Oakland Public Library, Oakland, California.

Flood Jackson, Lydia. "Correspondence with Ruth Lasartemay." Letter to Ruth Lasartemay. 12 Oct. 1955. MS. African American Museum & Library, Oakland Public Library, Oakland, California.

Flood Jackson, Lydia. 1918 Speech to California Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, reprinted online in "Writings of Black Women Suffragists" in Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000.

Gatewood, Willard B. Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880-1920. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

"Jackson, Lydia Flood (1862-1963)." Accessed March 20, 2016.

Jackson Sincere Service, and Stewards and Trustees of First AME Church. "Lydia Flood Jackson Obituary." Oakland, CA: African American Museum and Library at Oakland Public Library, 12 July 1963.

National Association of Colored Women. "Who Are We." National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC). N.p., 2011. Accessed March 31, 2016.

Wagner, Tricia Martineau. African American Women of the Old West. Guilford: The Globe Pequot Press, 2007.

"Lydia Flood Jackson," Wikipedia sketch and photographs, accessible online at

"Approximately 200 Members Attend Federation Meeting," Bakersfield Californian, 28 July 1925, p. 3.


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