Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Elizabeth Cain

By Elisa Naquin, librarian, Louisiana State University

Elizabeth Cain lived in Philadelphia around 1914. A Philadelphia Tribune "Women's Column" article from January of that year, in which she is referred to as "Mrs. M. E. Cain," calls her the "presiding officer of the Suffragetts [sic]," but does not specify which organization she might have led. The article describes her as "a woman of great adaptability." As an African American suffragist, Cain faced the threat of exclusion from the suffrage movement by white suffragists concerned about the response of Southern white suffrage supporters. In anticipation of this threat, the Tribune states, Cain had "fortified herself with a necessary political education."

There are a number of women named Elizabeth Cain in the 1910 Philadelphia Census, but I was unable to match any of them with this Elizabeth Cain with any certainty. Cain is not mentioned again in the Tribune, and I was unable to find information about her in any other source.

This sketch is slimmer than most of our sketches and we would welcome efforts by readers to track down Elizabeth Cain and expand the sketch. If you find further information, please contact


Fry, Jennifer Reed (2010). 'Our girls can match 'em every time': The political activities of African American women in Philadelphia, 1912-1941 (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest. (3390468). Discusses exclusion of African American suffragists by white suffrage leaders. Mentions the Tribune article, and that the author was unable to find additional information on Cain.

Garnett, E. Lavigne (1914, January 24). Woman Suffragettes Preparing a Great Pageant. Philadelphia Tribune, p. 2. Retrieved from Includes photo of Cain.


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