Celia Gray

(1840-?) Virginia

Celia Gray—who was presumably born in Virginia in 1840 (according to the 1910 census)—was an African-American woman who resided in Washington D.C.'s Uniontown development. She, along with many other women, was associated with the sustained struggle for women's suffrage.

In 1893, during the depression, Gray disappeared and was no where to be found in the city's directory. She had moved to Virginia and as of April 1901, was working as a servant for Edwin Cox, a white attorney and member of the Legislative Committee of the Virginia Equal Suffrage League. In 1920, women in the United States achieved their constitutionally-protected right to vote.

In the year 1877, together with 22 other African-American men and women, Celia Gray signed a petition for women's suffrage in Washington. She lived three miles away from Frederick Douglass, a civil rights advocate and suffragist who often opened his home to people who believed in the cause. Celia shared the same commitment to social causes and joined in with Frederick Douglass Jr., Rosetta Douglass Sprague, and other African-American neighbors in Fredrick's home to sign the petition.

This was because of the ratification of the 19th Amendment by the 36th State, however, Virginia was not part of the ratifying state until 1952. This wasn't until after the Virginia Equal Suffrage League was disbanded and reorganized as the League of Women Voters. The question here is, “Was Celia Gray aware of the work of the Virginia Equal Suffrage League and Edwin P. Cox's role in it? Was Celia herself a petitioner for women's suffrage in Virginia?”. Although there is no source that currently answers these questions, it is known for sure that she was a supporter of women's suffrage.

Why I Chose This Person

" "I am Richard Arthur Quansah, and I chose Celia Gray because whilst doing my research, I came to realize that there was less known about her. Celia, like many other black women who are not famous and whose stories are not well known by the masses, are the ones who perhaps made a great deal of contribution to the cause of women's suffrage, as they also dealt with the racism and oppression during their time."




Photo - Petition for Woman Suffrage, 1877 (facsimile) National Archives, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives suffrage-petition.


Works Cited

Forlaw, Blair. Biographical Sketch of Celia Gray. Alexandria: Alexander Street, 2020. Alexander Street database. Alexander Street. available here