The few black suffragist leaders that were active at the time were also excluded from the mainstream feminist movement. For example, Frederick Douglass, a black suffragist leader, was asked not to participate in the suffragists events conducted in southern states. Another example that typifies the racial attitudes of the time is the suffrage parade of 1913. Due to her support for black women’s cause Ida Wells-Barnett was ordered to march alongside other blacks in the parade; it is another matter that she defied those orders. All these examples prove that race was still a contentious factor during first-wave feminist movement. White suffragists of the time saw black emancipation (of both genders) as a threat to their own opportunities. In other words, the liberation that they were seeking and fighting for was a hypocritical one. They were successfully able to disentangle the two related social factors of race and gender, and channel their activist protests for progress in the latter (DeLamotte, Meeker & O’Barr, p.154).
In Britain and rest of Europe, the contentious issues centered on class disparities as opposed to racial inequalities. The fact that descendants of black people from the days of slavery were relatively less compared to their presence in the New World. In addition to this, the nineteenth century Europe was profoundly influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution of the preceding century. This meant that economic issues such as distribution of wealth and socio-democratic organization of society took precedence to issues relation to race in much of Europe. Historian Charles Sowerwine provides some valid reasons for the inability of socialism to bring down class barriers in France in particular and Europe in general (LeGates, 273). Hence, the notion of race and racial identity played a significant role in the way political development panned out during the period of first-wave feminism.
Marlene LeGates, In Their Time: A History of Feminism in Western Society, Published by Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0415930987, 9780415930987, 406 pages
Eugenia C. DeLamotte, Natania Meeker, Jean F. O’Barr, Women Imagine Change: A Global Anthology of Women’s Resistance from 600 B.C.E. to Present, Published by Routledge, 1997, 518 pages.