Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born free in Maryland in 1825. By the 1830s, activists petitioned
, wrote pamphlets, and hosted meetings to oppose slavery and win the vote for all citizens. Harper soon joined in. They advocated for equal pay, the right to own property, and access to education for every person. Harper soon joined these efforts.
After slavery was abolished, voting rights advocates founded the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 to secure the ballot for all, "irrespective of race, color, or sex
." Harper gave a moving speech at the group's first meeting, urging them to confront prejudice based on race and gender.
However, this collaborative effort did not last. In 1869, the association split: Most members supported the 15th Amendment allowing Black men to vote, but some racist white women insisted that Black men should not be able to vote before they could.