Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Sylvia A. Harris, 1863-1924


By Cassandra Antzoulatos, undergraduate student, Rosemont College

Sylvia A. Gail, was born in June 1863. She grew up in South Carolina and lived in various places during her adult life, including Georgia and Rhode Island. She married Abram Harris in Rhode Island in 1891. They had a child named Eva who tragically died in 1900. After the death of her daughter, Abram, Sylvia, and her brother Elijah moved to New York.

Though she worked as a dressmaker, Harris was also greatly involved in the feminist movement of the time. In July 1913, Sylvia A. Harris was one of the chosen delegates at the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs in New York. She also served as a superintendent in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and was again chosen to be a delegate in the National WCTU convention of 1917 in Washington D.C. Under that committee, Harris led a "linen shower" in which she gathered donations of towels, sheets, etc., to give to individuals in need. In addition to her suffragist work, Harris was involved with her church and would often give speeches to other parishes, such as the Michigan Street Baptist Church and Michigan Zion Methodist Episcopal Church. Her involvement started because of her husband, who applied to become a reverend. She attended A.M.E. Zion Church on the corner of Fleet and Hudson in Brooklyn, New York, where she also lived on 335 Court Street. Sylvia Harris passed away in 1924 at age 61 and was buried in Rahway Cemetery, New Jersey.


"Among the Women's Organizations." Buffalo Evening News(Buffalo, NY), May 15, 1917.

"Ashland Pl. Y. W. C. A." New York Age(New York, NY), Mar. 01, 1924, p. 8.

"Brooklyn." New York Age(New York, NY), Nov. 29, 1917.

"Election of officers." New York Age(New York, NY), Jul. 10, 1913, p. 1.

"Linen Shower for Empire Friendly Shelter." New York Age(New York, NY), Aug. 12, 1915.

"Sylvia A. Harris in the U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s- Current.", 2004.

"Sylvia Harris in the 1900 United States Federal Census." 2004.

"Personals." The Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, NY), Oct. 01 1915.


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