Mrs. I. J. Williams


Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Mrs. I. J. Williams


By Ryan Linthicum, Smithsonian Institution

Mrs. I. J. Williams was an African American suffragist and head of the Suffrage Department for the Florida State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs (FSFCWC).

Mrs. Williams's leadership coordinated the eighteen women's clubs that made up the FSFCWC. As far as it is known, she served in 1916 and 1917 as head of the Suffrage Department.

The FSFCWC was formed in St. Augustine, Florida on March 10, 1908 and consisted of various local clubs, such as the Civil Improvement Club, the Sojourner Truth Club, the Woman Development Club among others. Their mission was to "better communities and lend a helping hand to the unfortunate girl."

In 1915 the Federation adopted a resolution urging woman suffrage. In an overwhelming vote of 100 to 5, the FSFCWC reversed its previous year's position against suffrage. That year the Federation also voted into membership the Orlando Suffrage League, which was the first suffrage organization in the State. The committee's aim was to take an active part in trying to obtain the election of legislators in the June 1916 primaries, who were favorable to women's suffrage.

In 1918, sixteen towns and twenty Florida counties granted women the right to vote in municipal elections. This is due in large part to the suffrage work of local Colored Women's Clubs in Florida, which Mrs. Williams led.

Though the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920, it wasn't until 1969 that Florida Legislature went through the formality of approval. And it wasn't until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 that significant numbers of Black Floridians actually were able to vote.


"Get in Line Report of the City Federation of Colored Women's Clubs of Jacksonville, Florida." Lightsy & Cain, June 1917. 4.

Johnston, Sidney. "Clubhouses of Florida's Woman's Clubs." National register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, NPS Form 10-900bMB No. 1924-0018, June 1998. 4.

Meyer, Jessie. Leading the Way: A Century of Service; GFWC Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, 1895-1995. Lakeland: GFWC-Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, 1994. 91.

"State Federation Guest of City Federation of Colored Women's Clubs." Florida Printing Company, June 1916. 4.

Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn. African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920. Indiana University Press, 1998. 92.

"Urge Suffrage in Florida." New York Times, November 21, 1915. 20.


Related Writings in Database

View works by

View works about




Back to List of Black Woman Suffragists
back to top