Carrie S. Cook Horton

Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biography of Carrie S. Cook Horton, 1875-1971

By Brandon Dunn, student, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and Karla J. Strand, Gender and Women's Studies Librarian, University of Wisconsin-Madison

President of Political Equality League branch for African American women in Milwaukee; dedicated club woman in Chicago

Carrie S. Cook was born in Louisiana around 1875. In 1905, she married Oscar W. Horton and by 1910, the couple was living in Milwaukee.

In 1909, Carrie Horton was among the women who founded the Women's Improvement Club of Milwaukee, a group dedicated to the improvement of Black women's lives. Affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, many of the members were college graduates. They made their first public appearance in May at St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the oldest African American congregation in the city. That night, Horton, who also served as the secretary for the group, gave a monologue that earned her high praise.

In July 1911, the Women's Improvement Club became affiliated with the Political Equality League (PEL) and the first Black women's suffrage league in Wisconsin was formed. The PEL was created by Ada L. James of Wisconsin, as a response to the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage League's more conservative tactics. PEL state organizer Mabel Judd attended several meetings of interested African American Milwaukeeans at St. Mark's AME Church that summer and encouraged the creation of the new branch of the PEL that was dedicated to the involvement of African Americans in the fight for women's suffrage in Wisconsin.

Six years earlier, Carrie Horton had voted in Denver; she “thought nothing of going to the polls” and found it “odd not to be allowed to vote in this progressive northern state.” She was excited to help in Wisconsin's fight for equal suffrage and was elected president of the new branch which had twenty-four members, almost half of whom were men.

There is little coverage of the Milwaukee Black women's branch of the PEL until late July 1912, when suffragist A.L.T. Waytes of Boston visited Milwaukee. Referring to African American women in Milwaukee as “among the most advanced of the country,” Waytes gave several presentations encouraging fellow African Americans to become involved in the fight for universal suffrage. The Crisis in September 1912 also reported: “Miss Carrie Horton is president of the Colored Suffrage League of Milwaukee.” Unfortunately the Milwaukee PEL branch for African Americans did not last long, mainly due to the lack of “a sufficient population base and press coverage” in Milwaukee.

Also in 1912, Carrie Horton was among twelve delegates appointed by Governor Francis E. McGovern to represent Wisconsin at an educational congress for African Americans held that year in St. Paul, Minnesota, from July 15 to 19. In 1914, Horton and two other women represented the Women's Improvement Club of Wisconsin at the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC) national convention. At this time, there was no Wisconsin Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, so Horton and others from Wisconsin were active in the Illinois Federation instead. In 1915 she represented Wisconsin at the founding conference of the Northwestern Federation of Colored Woman's Clubs.

Around 1916, the Hortons moved to Chicago, where they would spend the rest of their lives. Continuing her work to improve the lives of African American women, Carrie S. Horton served as Corresponding Secretary of the Chicago branch of the NACWC in 1917-1919, as president of the Chicago and Northern District Federation of NACWC around 1924 and in 1934 was elected president of the Illinois Association of Colored Women. She was also a member of the Cornell Charity Club in Chicago and parliamentarian of the Illinois Federation of Colored Women's Clubs.

Oscar W. Horton died in 1955; the couple had no children. Carrie S. Horton would remain committed to the fight for women's equality on several fronts until her death in 1971. Once referred to as “the regular little human DYNAMO” [emphasis in original], Carrie S. Horton is remembered as one of the most dedicated and respected club women in Illinois history.


“Along the Color Line.” The Crisis 4, no. 5 (1912): 215. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.

“Carrie S. Horton Heads Illinois State Club Ass'n.” The Pittsburgh Courier, July 28, 1934, pg. 8.

“Chicago Women at Work.” National Notes [publication of the NACWC], XXVIX (2), Nov. 1925, pg. 6. Retrieved from Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Part 1 [online database].

“Colored Suffragettes Form an Organization.” Duluth News-Tribune, 43(72), July 18, 1911, pg. 3.

“Colored Suffragist Here to Give Talks.” Milwaukee Free Press, July 28, 1912.

“Colored Women Want to Vote.” Leader-Telegram [Eau Claire, WI], July 2, 1911, pg. 7.

Graves, Lawrence. The Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Movement 1846-1920 [unpublished doctoral thesis]. 1954, pg. 181.

Harper, Ida Husted, et al, eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pg. 702.

McBride, Genevieve G. On Wisconsin Women: Working for Their Rights from Settlement to Suffrage. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993, pg. 214.

“M'Govern Appoints Twelve Delegates.” La Crosse Tribune, June 7, 1912, pg. 5.

“Negro Women Want to Vote.” The Austin Daily Herald, July 17, 1911, pg. 4.

“Obituaries: Oscar W. Horton.” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 3, 1955, pg. 38.

“The Badger State.” The Chicago Defender, Sep. 1, 1917, pg. 5.

“Women's Improvement Club of Milwaukee, Wis.” The Freeman [Indianapolis, IN], XXLI(21), May 22, 1909, pg. 2.


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