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Elizabeth Piper Ensley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elizabeth Piper Ensley (1847-1919), was an African American suffragist.[1]. She spent her early life in Boston where she became a teacher in a public school and established a circulating library.[1][2] She then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C. with her husband.[3] In the mid-late 1880s they moved to Denver, Colorado.[1] There Ensley joined Denver's relief efforts for the poor and the homeless.[1] She also joined the campaign to put a women's suffrage amendment on the November 1893 ballot in Colorado.[1] She was the treasurer of the Colorado Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association, and beginning with a fund of twenty-five dollars, helped gain the money necessary for the campaign.[1] The suffrage amendment was approved in 1893.[1]

She organized the Colorado Colored Women's Republican Club to teach black women why and how to vote.[1] She also helped found the Women's League in 1894, and she founded the Colorado Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACW) in 1904.[4] The NACW led community and educational programs, including the George Washington Carver Day Nursery.[1] Ensley was the only black member of the predominantly white board of the Colorado Federation of Women's Clubs.[1]

Ensley wrote about Colorado's first election in which women voted (which occurred in 1894) in the Woman's Era, which was the national publication of the NACW.[4]

She is buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.[3]

Family and Early Life

Although some sources claim that Ensley was born in 1848 in the Caribbean, census and marriage records, as well as her grave, place her birth at New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1847[5][6]. Her father, Phillip F. Piper was born in Virginia and her mother, Jane, in Georgia.[5] In the early 1870s she studied abroad in Germany and Switzerland. When she returned, she established a circulating library in Boston and became a public school teacher.[2] She married her husband Newall H. Ensley on September 4, 1882 in Boston. Newall was born in Nashville, Tennessee and was a teacher.[6] Elizabeth and Newall had three children, Roger (1883), Charlotte (1885), and Jean (1888). Jean died in June 1888 when she was 3 months old. Newall died in May of that same year.[7]


Sometime between 1885-1888, Elizabeth and Newall moved to Washington, DC to join the faculty of Howard University. Following a brief stint at Alcorn State University in Mississippi they finally settled in Denver Colorado.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "WOW Museum: Western Women's Suffrage - Colorado". Archived from the original on 2015-08-12. Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  2. ^ a b "Elizabeth Piper Ensley". The Crisis. 20: 38. May 1920. 
  3. ^ a b "Denver cemetery's data "very valuable" to state". The Denver Post. 2005-12-23. Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  4. ^ a b "Women of the West Museum: The LoDo Mural Project". Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  5. ^ a b 1910 United States Federal Census. Denver Ward 9, Denver, Colorado: United States. 1910. pp. T624_116; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0110; FHL microfilm: 1374129. 
  6. ^ a b Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915. 
  7. ^ "Newell Houston Ensley on Find A Grave". Find A Grave. Jul 12, 2015. Retrieved October 27, 2017. 
  8. ^ Jameson, Elizabeth, ed. (1997). Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women's West. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 374. ISBN 0806129298. 
This page was last edited on 11 May 2018, at 13:31
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