Biographical Sketch of Julia Dorsey

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890 - 1920

Biography of Mrs. Julia Dorsey, 1849 - ?

By Ryan Linthicum, Smithsonian Institution

Mrs. Julia Dorsey was an African American signer of an 1877 petition in Washington D.C. calling for women's suffrage. Among the signers of this document were Frederick Douglass Jr. and his wife, and Freder5ick Douglass's daughter Rosetta Douglass Sprague and her husband Nathan Sprague.

Mrs. Julia Dorsey was born to a single mother Julia William in Maryland. When she was 28 years old, she married Ignatius Dorsey on March 12, 1883 in Boston, Massachusetts. They had one child, James Dorsey. They lived on 94 Sumner Avenue in Boston, where Mrs. Dorsey was a housewife while her husband worked as a laborer. She also attended school to learn how to read and write.

Soon after their marriage, however, the Dorseys moved to Hillsdale near Washington, DC. It was here in 1880 that Ignatius Dorsey purchased a lot of land on Nicholas Avenue for $200 and built a two-story house.

It was in the Hillsdale neighborhood, now Anacostia, that the Dorseys befriended the Douglass family and became active in the suffrage movement. The area was once a white suburb known as Uniontown, but after the Civil War, and around 1877, African Americans began to move north and settle in towns like Hillsdale and create a community for newly freed African Americans.


Petition for Woman Suffrage from Colored Men and Colored Women, Residents of the District of Columbia, ca. 1877 [LINK]

Williams, L. Servants of the People: The 1960s Legacy of African American Leadership. 2016.

New England Historic Genealogical Society; Boston, Massachusetts; Massachusetts Vital Records, 1911–1915 Year: 1880; Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: 121; Page: 168B; Enumeration District: 008

“Real Estate Transfers.” The Washington Post. June 1, 1880. Page 3.

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