Celebrate Women’s History Month with Mabel Ping-Hua Lee and Suffragist Cards

This is a guest post by Megan White, Visitor Services Specialist at the Library. 

The July/August 2019 LC Magazine included a set of “suffragist cards” with a photograph of a suffragist on one side, and information about her life and accomplishments on the other. When welcoming visitors onsite, our volunteer docents shared these cards with visitors, challenging them to find artifacts about each suffragist in the exhibition, and to come back to share something they learned in the exhibition that wasn’t already written on the backs of the cards. For Women’s History Month, you and your children can make your own Suffragist cards and use them to explore the Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote online exhibition. To create the cards, download and print pgs. 25-28 of the magazine, cut out the pictures and text boxes, match them up, and glue them together.

Portrait of Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (1896–1966). New-York Endowment Tribune, April 13, 1912. Chronicling America, National for the Humanities and the Library of Congress

Then, expand your pack of Suffragist Cards by exploring the “More to the Movement” section of the virtual exhibition. There you’ll find additional suffragists of color whose contributions have often been overlooked, like the inspiring Mabel Ping-Hua Lee. Lee was a Chinese immigrant who became active in the American suffrage movement as a teenager even though she knew she would not gain the right to vote when suffrage was passed. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigrants from obtaining naturalized citizenship and the rights that go along with it, prevented Lee from gaining the right to vote until the act was repealed in 1943. When she was sixteen, Lee was already well known in the suffrage circles of New York, and she rode horseback at the head of the 1912 New York City parade in support of women’s suffrage. Lee also began her studies at Barnard College when she was sixteen, and went on to Columbia where she become the first Chinese woman in the US to get a PhD in economics. In her 1915 essay, “China’s Submerged Half,” Lee wrote that without the equality of women, “no nation can ever make real and lasting progress in civilization.”

Find a picture of Mabel Lee in the Shall Not Be Denied exhibition or elsewhere in the Library’s collections, print it out, and write one of your favorite quotes from her essays or speeches on the back of her photo to make a Suffragist Card that represents her contribution to the movement. Then continue to explore the exhibition and the collections to see how many women you can add to your suffragist card pack.

To supplement your search for suffragist contributions in the Shall Not Be Denied exhibition, check out the “Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote” campaign in the Library’s “By the People” transcription project. This is a crowdsourced transcription project where you and your children can work together to transcribe critical suffragist manuscripts in the Library’s collections such as Mary Church Terrell’s papers. Then head to Instagram to reward yourself with suffrage themed stickers and .gifs, including one featuring Mabel Lee.