Sarah J. Smith Thompson Garnet (b. 1831—d. 1911)

Sarah J. Smith Thompson Garnet (b. 1831—d. 1911)

Born in Brooklyn in 1831, Garnet was the first African American woman to found a suffrage organization, the Equal Suffrage League. The Equal Suffrage League was founded in Brooklyn in 1902 as a suffrage club for Black women. Black men and women were welcomed to attend, and in 1907 the league was able to have Anne Cobden-Sanderson, a British suffragist, speak at their meeting. The Equal Suffrage League did collaborate with white suffrage organizations, for example in 1910, Garnet met with white suffragist Alva Belmont to discuss setting up a “colored” branch of her organization the Political Equality Association. Garnet was also a member of the National Association of Colored Women, leading its Suffrage Department.  Outside of her work in the suffrage movement, Garnet was a dedicated educator. In 1854 she taught at the African Free School of Williamsburg, and in 1863 she was appointed as the principal of Grammar School Number Four. She was the first African American woman to become a principal in the New York public school system. Outside of her role as a suffragist and educator, Garnet also owned a seamstress shop in Brooklyn. Also, Garnet was married twice, briefly to Samuel Tomkins (d. 1852) and abolitionist and minister Henry Highland Garnet (m. 1879, d. 1882). Her sister, Susan Maria Smith McKinney Steward, was the first black, female medical doctor licensed in New York State.

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