Life Of Brooklyn Suffragette Shows Influence Black Women Had On The Historic Movement

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tags: African American history, New York, suffrage

Near the southern tip of Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery sits the small grey headstone of suffragette Sarah Jane Smith Garnet, the city’s first Black public school principal who in life — and in death — lingered in the shadow of her more famous sister.

A tall tombstone inscribed with the word “doctor” and crowned with an etched fleur-de-lis, towers over Garnet’s modest early 20th century marker to denote the grave of her younger sibling: Dr. Susan Maria (Smith) McKinney-Steward, the first Black female physician in New York State, and the third in the country.

“This is her — and her sister is right here. She is quite literally in her shadow,” said Green-Wood’s Vice President of Development & Programming Lisa Alpert as afternoon sun beamed down on Steward’s headstone, leaving Garnet’s in the cool shade.

Little is known about Garnet, a long-time educator who was raised in Brooklyn’s Weeksville neighborhood during the mid-19th century and later founded the Equal Justice League, a club for Black women who fought for the right to vote.

But through her sister, historians are beginning to learn more about Garnet — a Suffragette whose role in the movement has been almost entirely overlooked.

“We’ve always known about her sister Susan,” said Green-Wood’s Director of Education Rachel Walman who has recently introduced Garnet into the cemetery’s school programming. “But we’re just in the beginning phases of researching Sarah."

“Their role in achieving a woman’s right to vote is under told… and Sarah is very much a part of that story.”


Read entire article at New York Daily News

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