Before Obama and Clinton, there was Douglas and Stanton…
Blacks and women have typically shared — in their fight for the vote, non-discrimination and economic equality — give way to the nitty-gritty of reaching consensus, setting policy, passing legislation and, in the case of elections, making choices.
One bitter case from the 19th century involved a split between the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the women’s rights’ pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton was herself a fervent abolitionist, and a close ally of Douglass, who later confined herself to the cause of women’s equality. These ideals would eventually clash, resulting in increasingly divisive rhetoric that reached a harsh climax after Stanton condemned the 15th amendment — which gave black men the right to vote but left out women of all races — as something that would establish “an aristocracy of sex on this continent.” She also alluded to the “lower orders” like Irish, blacks, Germans, Chinese.
During a heated meeting in New York City’s Steinway Hall in 1869, Stanton wondered, “Shall American statesmen … so amend their constitutions as to make their wives and mothers the political inferiors of unlettered and unwashed ditch-diggers, bootblacks, butchers and barbers, fresh from the slave plantations of the South?” At which point, Douglass rose, paid tribute to Stanton’s years of work on civil rights for all, and replied, “When women, because they are women, are hunted down through the cities of New York and New Orleans; when they are dragged from their houses and hung from lampposts; when their children are torn from their arms and their brains dashed out upon the pavement; when they are objects of insult and rage at every turn; when they are in danger of having their homes burnt down… then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own.”
Blacks won the right to vote with the 15th Amendment in 1870; women won theirs with the 19th Amendment, in 1920, a half-century later. Each of their causes would stutter-step along at sometimes different paces, but usually in some loose if not formal concert.