Florence Letcher Toms

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Florence Letcher Toms, 1892-1972

By Ryan Linthicum, Smithsonian Institution

Florence Letcher Toms was an African American suffragist and founding member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority at Howard University, which took a lead in the college suffrage movement.

She was born Florence Letcher on March 13, 1892 in Washington D.C. Florence attended Armstrong Manual Training High School and was awarded her diploma by President William Taft.

She later attended Howard University and was a founding member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. The sorority mission was to help influence the lives of women students and their future careers. Furthermore, against the wishes of Howard University's administration, she and more than twenty members of the Sorority joined in the March 1913 woman suffrage parade on Pennsylvania Avenue. Florence was the tallest in the group and as such carried their banner. Florence latter recalled, "we marched that day in order that women may come into their own, because we believed that women not only needed an education, but they needed a broader horizon in which they may use that education." The Delta Sigma Theta sorority was the only African American women's organization to march in the parade.

She went on to marry World War I PFC Charles Toms in 1921 and continued to earn a master's degree from New York University. She then became an assistant principal at Garnet-Patterson Junior High School in Washington D.C.

Florence Toms died on May 15, 1972 at age 80.


"Baltimore and Capital Teachers Banquet." Afro-American, May 27, 1939. 3.

Bernard, Michelle. "Despite the tremendous risk, African American women marched for suffrage, too." The Washington Post. March 3, 2013.

"Delta Sigma Thetas Honor leaders on Founders Day." Afro-American, February 12, 1949. 11.

"Deltas Honor Women Outstanding in Government." New Pittsburgh Courier (1959-1965), National Edition. August 29, 1964. 5.

Giddings, Paula. In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement. Delta Sigma Theta Inc., 1988. Pp. 33, 38, 51, 53, 57.

Lindsey, Treva B. Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington, D.C. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017. Pp. 105-07.

Howard University, "NIKH: 1914" (1914). Howard University Yearbooks. 93. https://dh.howard.edu/bison_yearbooks/93

Negro History Bulletin 1, no. 3. (1937): 3, 8.

"Report Shows P.-T.A. Aided 1,415 Needy School Children." Afro-American, May 22, 1937.

Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.

Year: 1930; Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0200; FHL microfilm: 2340032

Year: 1940. Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia. Roll: m-t0627-00566. Page: 62A. Enumeration District: 1-408.


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