Naomi Bowman Talbert Anderson
A Life of Activism
Class of 2021
Naomi Bowman Talbert Anderson (1843-1899) was born to free black parents in Michigan City, Indiana in 1843. Initially barred from attending public school, she was later admitted to a previously all-white school at age 12. This Michigan City native became a tireless advocate for women's rights and for racial equality. In 1869 she spoke before a women's suffrage convention in Chicago. After her fiery speech, newspapers covered her speeches, honors, women's suffrage, civil rights advocacy, temperance and philanthropic involvement. Her message to former slaves was for them to ensure that their children were educated.
With great courage, Naomi Anderson confronted two of the most critical issues in 19th-century America: voting rights for women and civil rights for people of color. She became known for her writing and civic involvement in the five states in which she lived, and speeches to audiences great and small throughout the Midwest following the Civil War and in California during the final years of her life.
Fiercely independent, Naomi Anderson moved around the country, speaking at hundreds of suffrage events. Beginning with her first public speech, her eloquent and empowering words acknowledged women's right to vote. In 1896, Naomi Anderson and Susan B. Anthony jointly led a campaign in support of a California ballot proposition to give women the right to vote, with Mrs. Anderson gaining top billing on at least one occasion.
Naomi Anderson lived a life of brilliant and effective activism. She founded three orphanages, trained women in business, established a seamstress union to ensure fair wages, fought for educational opportunities for girls and food for orphans, and fearlessly spoke at city council meetings. She served as the Kansas state representative to the National Woman Suffrage Association and represented her church before the Kansas legislature in her fights against school segregation.
Naomi Bowman Talbert Anderson was nominated by Bonita Schaaf and Mary Neil Murphy