Blanche E. Colder Wilkinson

 

Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Blanche E. Colder Wilkinson, 1872-1942

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Blanche E. Colder was born in Pennsylvania in 1872. Her parents are unknown and the 1880 census entry for eight-year-old Blanche lists her as boarding with her three brothers in Philadelphia, the children ranging in age from 14 to 2. In 1893 Blanche was enrolled in the Training School for Nurses at Howard University and a D.C. city directory recorded her as a teacher in 1894. In 1900, Blanche was living in Washington, D.C. with an aunt and continued to work as a teacher.

In 1905 Blanche Colder married Garnet C. Wilkinson, a graduate of the M Street High School in D.C. and of Oberlin College. He did further graduate study at the University of Pennsylvania and Howard University Law School. He began his teaching career as a Latin teacher at M Street High School and later became the principal of Armstrong Manual Training School and then of Dunbar High School (formerly M Street High School). In 1924 he became the Assistant Superintendent of Colored Schools in the District, a position her held into the 1950s. In 1921 Garnet Wilkinson was serving as the treasurer of the D.C. Branch of the NAACP. The couple lived together in D.C. through Blanche's passing in 1942. They had no children.

Occasional newspaper articles trace Blanche Wilkinson's community activities. In May 1910 she presided at a "Parents and Peace Day" at the Bunker Hill Road School. In May 1911 she presented a paper, "Woman and the Caesars" before a women's group, the Mutual Improvement Club. In 1916 she served on a committee that oversaw a fundraising campaign to erect a modern building for the Colored YWCA. Lastly, she served on a 1926 fundraising committee for the National Training School for Women and Girls (led by Black suffragist Nannie Burroughs) after a fire decimated the school's main building.

In February 1921, Mrs. G. C. Wilkinson joined a delegation of 60 Black women suffragists, who protested violations of the recently ratified 19th Amendment in Southern states that denied Black women their voting rights. The delegation, headed by the NAACP field secretary, Addie W. Hunton, met with Alice Paul, head of the National Woman's Party (NWP) on the eve of the party's national convention. Their purpose was to press the NWP to pass a resolution calling on Congress to investigate the failures of Southern states to enforce the 19th

Amendment for Black women. Paul made no such commitment and the convention as a whole refused to endorse the call.

Blanche E. Wilkinson passed away in Washington, D.C. in June 1942. Her husband remarried to Caroline Manns in August 1948 and he passed away in June 19690.

Sources:

Federal Manuscript Censuses, Blanche Coltder (sic), Philadelphia, PA, 1880; Blanche Colder, 1900, Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C., 1920-1940; Garnet Wilkinson, 1950, Washington, D.C. Accessible online with Ancestry Library Edition.

Marriage record, Blanch E. Colder and Garnet C. Wilkinson, 21 June 1905; Colder entry in Howard University School Catalog, 1893; Colder city directory entry, Washington, D.C., 1894. Accessible online with Ancestry Library Edition.

Blanche E. Wilkinson, death notice, Washington Evening Star, 26 June 1942, p. 16.

Dr. Garnet Crummell Wilkinson, death record, 15 June 1969, in Find-a-Grave website. Includes a short biographical sketch.

List of NAACP Delegation Members to Alice Paul, 12 February 1921, NAACP Papers, Part 04 Voting Rights and Voting Rights Campaign, 1916-1950 (Feb. 8, 1921-April 3, 1921), frames 61-64, Library of Congress.

"Parents' Day Is Observed," Washington Evening Star, 19 May 1910, p. 22.

Untitled, Washington Evening Star, 21 May 1911, p. 68.

"To Campaign for Funds," Washington Evening Star, 4 March 1916, p. 10.

"National School in $100,000 Drive," Washington Evening Star, 11 Nov. 1926, p. 6.

 

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