Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Arianna Sparrow, 1842-1927

For a strong biographical sketch of Arianna Sparrow, see the National Park Service posting: https://www.nps.gov/people/arianna-sparrow.htm.

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Arianna Cooley was born in Virginia in 1842, the daughter of Elizabeth Cooley. Arianna married George Sparrow, also Virginia born, in 1879 and in 1900 the couple lived in Boston with her widowed mother. George Sparrow, 55 in 1900, was an unemployed barber and the couple had no children. George died later in 1900 and in 1920, Arianna continued to reside in Boston, living alone as a 78-year-old widow. Arianna died in Boston in 1927.

Arianna Cooley was active in the woman suffrage movement in Boston with surviving records dating from 1885 and 1887. She continued as a suffrage supporter as a founder of the Woman's Era Club in 1893 and an organizer of the First National Conference of Colored Women of America, held in Boston in 1895. An 1894 article in The Woman's Journal described the first members of the club as "able and fearless advocates of woman suffrage."

When Boston Black clubwoman and suffragist Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was excluded from participation in a national meeting of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in 1900, Arianna Sparrow co-authored a statement condemning the Federation's action, concluding: "we shall feel very sorry for the cause of woman to see its standard lowered, its accepted ideals repudiated, its power diminished by any declaration that it is the cause of white women for which it stands, not the cause of woman."

Arianna was listed frequently as a speaker or singer at public events in the Black community of Boston. She was prominent in celebrations honoring Boston abolitionists, speaking at tributes for William Lloyd Garrison in December 1905 and for Charles Sumner in January 1911. In 1907 she addressed a gathering celebrating the centennial of the birth of the poet John Greenleaf Whittier. In 1915 she performed as a soprano in a choir at St. Augustine and Martin Church. In 1918 she stood in a receiving line that welcomed attendees at a testimonial for the Guardian, a Boston Black newspaper edited by William Monroe Trotter.

Sources:

Federal Manuscript Census, Boston, 1900 and 1920. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

National Park Service, "'Make the World Better': The Woman's Era Club of Boston," accessed online at https://www.nps.gov/articles/womans-era-club.htm.

Yasmeen Freightman, "Warrior for Women's Justice in the West End: Arianna Sparrow," February 2022, accessed online at the website of the West End Museum, https://thewestendmuseum.org/news/february-2022-newsletter/.

"Sets in Colored Society," Boston Globe, 22 July 1894.

"Colored Women and Suffrage," The Woman's Era, 2:7 (November 1895).

"By the Woman's Era Club," The Boston Globe, 28 Nov. 1900, p. 2.

"Tributes to the Work of Garrison," The Boston Globe, 11 Dec. 1905, p. 5.

"Col. Higginson's Address," The Boston Globe, 17 Dec. 1907, p. 8.

"C.G. Morgan Presided," The Boston Globe, 7 Jann. 1911, p. 4.

"St. Augustine and Martin Church, Lenox Street," Boston Evening Transcript, 3 April 1915, p. 44.

"Colored Americans in Testimonial to Guardian," The Boston Globe, 22 March 1918, p. 5.

 

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