Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Eliza A. Duffield, 1849-

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, SUNY Binghamton

Eliza A Duffield, a widow whose maiden name is not known, is an elusive suffragist, but a longstanding advocate of woman's right to vote. The 1920 federal census in the District oi Columbia, lists a 71-year old widow, born in California, and living with her widowed daughter Elizabeth and two other lodgers.

An 1877 petition to Congress "asking for a Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibiting the several states from disfranchising United States citizens on account of sex.," signed by 748 Washington, D.C. citizens, includes the signature of E. A. Duffield.

A Washington Post article in November 1890 described Duffield in these terms: "Mrs. Eliza Duffield, a widow of middle age, has gained wide renown, not only as a social leader, but as a worker for the redemption of her race." The paragraph goes on to describe Duffield's work with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the National Christian Association. It goes on to note: "Rachel Foster Avery has named her the Susan B. Anthony of her people."

In addition, a Mrs. Duffield, otherwise not identified, participated in the March 1913 suffrage parade organized by the National American Woman Suffrage Association on the eve of Woodrow Wilson's first inauguration. Carrie Williams Clifford prepared a list of Black women participants in that event, published in The Crisis in April 1913. This was not Duffield's last suffrage activism, as she joined a delegation of 60 Black suffragists who lobbied Alice Paul in February 1921 on behalf of the NAACP, calling on the National Woman's Party to press for a Congressional investigation of the refusal of Southern states to permit Black women to register for the November 1920 election, despite the passage of the 19th Amendment. Paul and the NWP convention that met in DC refused to adopt the resolution that this delegation proposed.

No death record has survived for Eliza Duffield. In 1930 and 1940 her widowed daughter was living alone in DC, suggesting that her mother passed away sometime in the 1920s.


Federal manuscript census for Washington, D.C., 1920-1940, accessed online on Ancestry Library Edition.

Petition of Mrs. A.G. Riddle, R.J. Miens, Fred. Douglass, Mary F. Foster and others ___ 310 men and 438 women 748 citizens of the District of Columbia asking for a Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibiting the several states from disfranchising [sic] United States citizens on account of sex. Petitions and Memorials, 44th Congress (1875-1877). Committee on the Judiciary. HR44A - H8.3 to HR448 - H8.4. National Archives, Washington DC.

“Negroes of High Rank,” Washington Post, 16 November 1890, p. 1.

Carrie Williams Clifford, “Suffrage Paraders,” The Crisis, 5:6 (April 1913), p. 296.

1880 Federal manuscript census, for Baltimore, accessed online through

List of NAACP delegation members to NWP convention, February 1921, NAACP Papers, Part 04: Voting Rights and the Voting Rights Campaign, 1916-1965, in Subject File: Suffrage: Woman. (Feb 8, 1921-Apr 3, 1921), frames 60-63, Library of Congress.

Related Writings in Database

View works by

View works about




Back to List of Black Woman Suffragists
back to top