Blanche Armwood (Beatty) (Washington)

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Blanche Armwood (Beatty) (Washington), 1890-1939

By Nancy Hewitt, professor emerita, Rutgers Universi8ty

Blanche Armwood was a prominent reformer in Tampa, Florida, who founded Black women's clubs there and across the South and was active in the Urban League, social welfare organizations, the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and the Republican Party. Born January 23, 1890 to Levin Armwood and Margaret Holloman Armwood, Blanche grew up in an extended family of citrus growers and Republican activists. Blanche was educated at a Catholic school in Tampa and Spelman College in Atlanta, from which she graduated in 1906. Armwood then taught in Tampa's segregated schools alongside her sister Idella. In 1906, she founded the city's first Black women's club and helped organize the Tampa, Southeast Regional and Florida Federations of Colored Women's Clubs. In 1912, Armwood was among African American leaders who invited Booker T. Washington to Tampa. She touted his Atlanta Compromise and advocated manual training in Black schools.

Like other Black suffragists, Armwood fought against the disfranchisement of Black men and for the enfranchisement of women before and after 1920. In 1915, she wrote the Tampa Morning Tribune (TMT) to critique the Florida legislature's passage of a "grandfather clause" that would "deprive thousands of . . . tax-paying patriotic, liberty-loving citizens of that manhood [right], the franchise" (June 27) In 1917, Armwood joined Black Floridans petitioning President Wilson to investigate the St. Louis riot.

Armwood also allied with the Tampa Gas Company, the school board, and local Black ministers to establish the Tampa School of the Household Arts (TSHA) in 1915, which trained hundreds of Black women and girls in the use of modern gas appliances. From 1918 to 1922, she organized Household Arts courses in several southern cities; supervised Home Demonstration work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and traveled the North to promote women's suffrage for the NACW and presidential candidate Warren G. Harding for the National League of Colored Republican Women.

In 1919, Armwood married Florida dentist John Beatty and three years later they returned to Tampa when Blanche became Executive Secretary of the Tampa Urban League. She regularly spoke out on political issues, including the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, social welfare programs for the Black community, and Black participation in local elections. She was, for example, one of two women and two dozen men "to arouse colored taxpayers" to pay the poll tax and vote in a bond election to fund a hospital for Black Tampans in 1924. (TMT, Jan. 16) The previous year, she spoke alongside Mary McLeod Bethune at the state convention of Black clubwomen on women's political status and citizenship rights. She also lobbied the Florida legislature to establish a Home for Negro Delinquent Girls and served as parliamentarian for the NACW.

In 1926, after her husband was killed in a shooting, Armwood Beatty resigned as the League's Executive Secretary. However, she remained County Supervisor of Negro Schools until 1930, when she moved to Washington, D.C. and married Edwin T. Washington. She then toured the country for the NACW and the Republican Party, speaking on such topics as the power of Black votes in the North and southern disfranchisement. At the same time, she enrolled at Howard University Law School and received her J.D. in 1938. A year later, Armwood Washington took ill while speaking in Massachusetts and died on October 16 at age 49.


Armwood Family Papers, Special Collections, University of South Florida Library, Tampa, Florida
Benjamin Mays to Arthur Raper, June 26, 1927, Arthur F. Raper Papers, #3966, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Tampa Bulletin, November 11 and 18, 1933
Tampa Morning Tribune, various articles 1915-1922, especially June 11, 1923; June 16, 1924; and weekly Urban League column, 1922-1926

Mary Burke, "The Success of Blanche Armwood, 1890-1939," Sunland Tribune , XV, November 1989, pp. 38-43

Elizabeth Lindsay Davis, Lifting as They Climb, Chicago, IL: National Association of Colored Women, 1933: 264, 287

Nancy A. Hewitt, Southern Discomfort: Women's Activism in Tampa, Florida, 1880s-1920s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001): 27-28, 158-67, 249-50, 258-59, 265-66, 272.

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