Susan Elizabeth Frazier

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists
Biography of Susan Elizabeth Frazier, 1864-1924

By Jessica Fournier, undergraduate student, Harvard College and Thomas Dublin

Susan Elizabeth Frazier was born in New York City on May 29, 1864 to Louis M. and Helen Eldridge Frazier. Her father's family had been longtime residents of New York state. Frazier's great-grandfather, Andrew Frazier, served in the Revolutionary War in the Continental Army.

She attended New York City public schools, graduating from P.S. 83, at which the noted Black suffragist Sarah J. Garnet served as principal. Later, she studied to become a teacher, graduating from the Normal School in 1887 and Hunter College in 1888. After her graduation, Frazier served as a substitute public school teacher in New York City public elementary schools until 1895, when she became eligible for a full-time teaching appointment. However, Frazier was denied full employment because she was African American. In response, she sued the trustees of the 22nd Ward of the New York School Department alleging she had been denied employment because of her race, a violation of the department's policy. She successfully became the first black teacher in an integrated public school in New York in a teaching career that extended for 34 years.

In addition to her work as a teacher, in 1893 Frazier was a founder of the Woman's Loyal Union, a Black women's organization in Brooklyn, and served as its Recording Secretary in 1894 and president in 1909-1910. The group raised funds for the anti-lynching crusade of Ida B. Wells-Barnett and in March 1909 Frazier hosted a reception in honor of Wells-Barnett. She was a contributor to Woman's Era, the first newspaper edited by African American women. She wrote an 1894 profile called "Mrs. William E. Matthews," about the then-president of the Women's Loyal Union, Victoria Earle Matthews, for the paper. She also addressed the Brooklyn Literary Union in an 1892 talk in which she discussed the importance of black women's contributions to literature and poetry in the United States, including Phillis Wheatley, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and H. Cordelia Ray. The talk was later published as "Some Afro-American Women of Mark" in the AME Church Review. Frazier remained active in the Woman's Loyal Union in 1914, when a newspaper account described her as one of the Union's "pioneer workers."

Frazier was also active in the Empire State Federation of [Colored] Women's Clubs, serving as the club's financial secretary and a member of the club's Resolutions Committee in 1909. The Federation met in Brooklyn in 1909 and 1912. In 1910 Frazier served as first vice-president of the Woman's Civic Association of New York City (colored) and raised funds for its Colored Mission. In 1911, at the statewide meeting of the Empire State Federation, Frazier spoke on behalf of providing financial assistance to Harriet Tubman, a longtime project of the federation. In 1912 Frazier was active in the Lincoln Neighborhood Club, which supported a settlement house in this Brooklyn neighborhood. She was also a member of the congregation of St. Phillip's Protestant Episcopal Church, where she was a Sunday School teacher and president of the Church Missionary Society.

In April 1917, the Woman's Loyal Union, led by its president, S. Elizabeth Frazier, pledged its "loyal support" as the nation declared war. The Union prepared comfort bags for Black soldiers. An ardent supporter of the rights of African American soldiers, Frazier founded the Women's Auxiliary to the Old Fifteenth National Guard in 1917, serving as the president until her death. The organization continued to assist the relatives of soldiers in the 396th Infantry New York National Guard after the war, which was the successor to the Old Fifteenth regiment. Following the war, she was selected in a contest organized by the New York Evening Telegram to visit battlefields in France and Belgium. Upon her return, she spoke about her experience at the Frederick Douglass Community Centre Forum in May 1920. She also chaired the Fourth Roll Call of the Red Cross that joined with Urban League for fundraising.

Her support for woman suffrage continued in the years after the passage of the 19th Amendment. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertised in September 1922 a forthcoming series of articles: "Elizabeth Frazer [sic] begins a series of articles outlining a definite program by which women with the vote can better the condition of millions of their sisters chained to the wheels of industry."

Frazier died on February 6, 1924. Her funeral received full military honors by the 369th Regiment Armory in recognition of her support for soldiers and veterans; hers is believed to be the first funeral with full military honors for an African-American woman. A year after her death, St. Phillip's Protestant Episcopal Church dedicated a plaque in her memory thanking her for "an unselfish devotion to duty" and "unfaltering courage under conviction."


Brown, Hallie Q. Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction.

Fagan Yellin, Jean. The Pen is Ours: A Listing of Writings by and About African-American Women. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Frazier, Susan Elizabeth. "Mrs. William E. Matthews," Woman's Era (1 May 1894): 1.

Frazier, Susan Elizabeth. "Some Afro-American Women of Mark," AME Church Review 8 (1892): 373-86.

Maffly-Kipp, Laurie F. and Kathryn Lofton, editors. Women's Work: An Anthology of African American Women's Historical Writings from Antebellum America to the Harlem Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

National Council of Negro Women. The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000.

"Susan Elizabeth Frazier Dedication," Friends of Rhinebeck Cemetery Newsletter, 6:1 (Winter 1919).

Terbong-Penn, Rosalyn. African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920. Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 1998.

Williams, Chad L. Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Searches for "Susan Elizabeth Frazier" and "S. Elizabeth Frazier" in for New York and Brooklyn in 1890-1924 resulted in numerous articles outlining her community engagement over more than three decades.


U.S. Passport photo of Susan Elizabeth Frazier, 1919. Commons


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