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Visionary Women

Portrait of Mary Richardson Jones (1820-1910), taken sometime after 1883.

In November 1863, the Christian Recorder reported that the Chicago’s Colored Ladies Freedmen’s Aid Society (CCLFAS) sent a petition for the “entire abolition of slavery” to various federal officials in Washington, DC. The CCLFAS was cofounded by Mary Richardson Jones, who, after moving with her husband to Chicago in 1845, served as a “conductor” along the Underground Railroad, opening her home to aid those fleeing slavery. Jones assisted her husband’s decades-long campaign to end Illinois’s racially restrictive Black Codes, which prohibited any Black person from outside Illinois to stay in the state for longer than ten days, subjecting them to fines and deportation. After the Civil War, she joined Chicago women in organizing for women’s suffrage and was active in the city’s Black women’s club movement, which focused on social and political reform and assisted Black communities. Learn more about Mary Richardson Jones, the Black women’s club movement, and other visionary women who made the Chicago area a center of activism in the decades leading up to women’s suffrage in the second episode of CHM’s digital experience, Democracy Limited: Chicago Women and the Vote. Though they lacked rights, economic security, and formal political power, women from different backgrounds spoke out against injustices, identified problems and organized to solve them, and challenged the status quo. Learn More

Portrait of Mary Richardson Jones, taken sometime after 1883. CHM, ICHi-022363; Baldwin & Drake, photographer 

Democracy Limited: Chicago Women and the Vote

A century after ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the Chicago History Museum invites visitors to explore women’s activism in Chicago to secure the right to vote—and beyond. In our digital experience, Democracy Limited: Chicago Women and the Vote, discover the ways women organized to challenge the status quo and how these different paths led to a mass movement for suffrage. Find out what the vote did and did not accomplish, and for whom. Connect themes of the past with the present, which remind us that while injustice and inequality persist, so do activist women. See More

Virtual Tours

Explore Chicago history from wherever you are. Led by Museum staff and local experts, our virtual tours investigate a wide range of topics such as the hidden stories of Union Station, the Chicago Black Renaissance in Bronzeville, city life during Prohibition, and more! See All Events

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago's Stories
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