Editor's note: Carol
A. Scott, the retired senior associate director of the New Jersey State School
Boards Association, is an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware
majoring in Africana studies and Spanish.
her first year at UD, she took a class on Pan Africanism taught by Wunyabari Maloba,
professor of Africana studies and of history, and, she says, “hungered to know
more about Africa’s and the Diaspora’s placement in history.”
she assisted Anne Boylan, professor emerita of history, in a project to
research the work and contributions of black women in Delaware. Scott’s paper
about suffragist and activist Blanche Williams Stubbs was selected from some 65
submissions nominating individuals for inclusion in the Delaware Women’s Hall
of Fame. At its 38th annual induction ceremony in October, the Hall of Fame
inducted Stubbs as its first posthumous honoree.
research is also included in the national Biographical
Database of Black Woman Suffragists. Here, she shares some highlights of her work:
Stubbs was born in Wisconsin in 1872. She was 10th of 15 children of John
Ebenezer Williams and Elizabeth Bisland. She graduated from Howard University
in Washington, D.C., in 1892 before migrating to and settling in Wilmington,
Delaware. Her first encounters with segregation and perverse inequalities
toward Blacks began in Washington, D.C., and Wilmington.
entered the field of education and taught at the Howard School, which was by
the 1890s, Black-run and the only four-year high school for African Americans
in Delaware. Blanche taught at the school for over five years, resigning
shortly after marrying J. Bacon Stubbs, a former colleague from Howard
University. At this time, she began what would become her life-long journey as
1912 she, along with her husband and former teachers from Howard High School, founded
the Garrett Settlement House, named for the city’s famed abolitionist leader,
Thomas Garrett. This facility was the only agency of its kind that served the
city’s African American community. Blanche became the settlement’s first
director and served in that capacity until 1949.
with this major accomplishment, she supported and later became vice president
of the Wilmington NAACP, devoted time to women’s club work and started the City
Federation of Women’s Clubs, focusing on African American youth. This project
prompted the opening of the Delaware Industrial School for Colored Girls in
1919. Advancement of Black youth was one of her primary concerns; however,
becoming an active suffragist was as well.
is now readying to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th
Amendment that gave women voting rights. Blanche Stubbs was part of this
milestone of struggle, agitation and protest. When Delaware’s suffragists
organized Wilmington’s first mass suffrage parade, she served as marshal to the
“colored” section marching separately from white suffragists with whom Black
women had joined hands in every reform movement since 1848. Blanche voiced her
views on Black women’s suffrage in several ways, most notably in a lengthy
letter published in the Wilmington Evening Journal insisting that Black
women could be Democrats and Republicans and held diversified opinions.
July 1916, as the Congressional Union (CU) was recruiting ward-level suffrage
support in Wilmington, she opened the Garrett Settlement House for CU’s use and
presided over and organized the meeting. Later, on June 3, 1920, one day after
the Delaware State legislature refused to ratify the 19th Amendment, she
scheduled a public lecture at the settlement house on “The Equality of Men and
Women.” Suffrage now won, Blanche protested Southern states’ disfranchisement
of Black women and confronted the National Women’s Party chair, Alice Paul, on
the refusal to support African Women’s voting rights.
continued her activism from 1920 through 1950. In the early 1920s she became
chair of the Black-led National Republican Women’s Auxiliary Committee, and in
1927 she attended at least one Pan-African Congress in New York. When she was
sitting vice president of the Wilmington NAACP, she was instrumental in
blocking local theater showings of the racist film The Birth of a Nation.
In 1927, Blanche lodged a formal complaint with Wilmington’s Park Commission
when a group of her students were denied access to use playground equipment.
Her action helped pave the way for all of Delaware’s public accommodations to
be integrated. Her work and contributions to the civic life of Wilmington were
honored by the Alumni Association of Howard University.
took ill and passed away on March 11, 1952, in Wilmington. At her passing,
Blanche Williams Stubbs, once an outsider to Wilmington, Delaware, was
eulogized as one of the most prominent women in Wilmington’s African American
learn more about the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, visit the Our Vote website about UD’s
three-semester teaching initiative on the subject.
Article by Carol A. Scott
Published Nov. 21, 2019