Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Sarah A. Moles, 1833-1919


By Anya Brooks, undergraduate student, Rosemont College, Rosemont, Penn.

Sarah A. Manyard, also spelled Maynard, was born in the 1830s in Maryland, and by the 1850 census, she had moved to Greenwich, New York, where she lived with Seneca and Maria McNeil, a white family. It is likely that Manyard was part of an extended, enslaved family, who utilized the Underground Railroad to travel from Maryland to Greenwich in the late 1840s. At some point, Sarah Manyard moved to Brooklyn, and by 1880, she had married Samuel Moles. Moles was a laborer from Pennsylvania, who served in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry and was wounded in the assault at the Battle of Fort Wagner, Morris Island, South Carolina. By the 1870 census, he was living in Brooklyn and working at a stable. Samuel Moles died July 8, 1882, leaving Sarah Moles a widow. Sarah Moles adopted a daughter, Magalina Moles, who was intentionally left out of Sarah Moles's will upon her death because the daughter's “course of conduct has been such as to forfeit all consideration.”

Sarah Moles attended the fifth annual meeting of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs in Buffalo on July 3-4, 1913. At this meeting, the state federation “placed itself on record as being in favor of Woman's Suffrage,” according to the New York Age. Moles attended as a delegate.

In addition to clubwork and support of suffrage, Sarah Moles was an avid churchgoer at the Concord Baptist Church of Brooklyn, where she became a deaconess after the death of her husband. She served as treasurer of the Dorcas Home Mission Society for “nearly a quarter of a century.” The Dorcas Society was dedicated to helping the less fortunate and, at one time, boasted as being the largest Black women's organization in Kings. Its leader, Alice Wiley (later Seay), also headed the Northeast region's woman's club and founded the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs. Sarah Moles devoted her life to “becoming one of the most active women of her age connected with Concord,” where she witnessed talks from notable suffragists like Madame C.J. Walker and others.

Sarah A. Moles died on February 8, 1919, in Brooklyn, New York. Her final place of rest was with her husband at Cypress Hill Cemetery in Brooklyn. According to the probate record, she left portions of her estate to friend Mary Bailey Edwards, to niece Annie Manyard Asia, niece Augusta Wicks Sauter, friend Alice Wiley Seay, the Dorcas Home Society of the Concord Baptist Church, and several other institutions, including an orphanage, a home, and the Concord Baptist Church.


“Afro-American Notes.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle(Brooklyn, NY). Mar. 17, 1909.

“Alice Wiley Seay's Memory Honored.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY). Feb. 28, 1938.

“The Annual Donation Visit: To Pastor William T. Dixon of the Concord Baptist Church.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY). Jan. 29, 1893.

“Brooklyn.” New York Age (New York, NY). Apr. 20, 1918.

Calarco, Tom. The Underground Railroad in the Adirondack Region. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. GoogleBooks.

Deaths. Moles, Sarah A. Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY). Feb. 9, 1919.

“Female Smokers are Criticized- Empire State Federation Also Protests Against the Chewing of Gum- Women Want to Vote.” New York Age (New York, NY). Jul. 10, 1913.

New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948. Samuel A. Moles, Kings, NY. Ancestry Library Ed.

New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999. Sarah A. Moles, Kings, NY, April 2, 1919. Ancestry Library Ed.

Vital Records-Deaths. Moles, Sarah A. Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY). Feb. 10, 1919.

“Women's Day Service: Dorcas Home Missionary Society in Session- Prominent Speakers Heard.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY). Mar. 25, 1912.

United States Census 1850, s.v. “Sarah A. Maynard, Greenwich, NY.” HeritageQuest.

United States Census 1880, 1900, s.v. “Sarah A. Moles, Brooklyn, Kings, NY.” HeritageQuest.

U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865. Samuel Moles, enlisted April 8, 1863, Massachusetts.


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