Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded on January 13, 1913 at Howard University. Less than two months after the sorority’s founding, the sorority began their political activism by participating in the historic 1913 Women’s Suffrage March on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 1913.
The Delta Sigma Theta members and the women from Chicago’s Alpha Suffrage Club with Ida B. Wells-Barnett were the only black women’s organizations to walk in the march. The sorority believed that black women needed the right to vote to protect against sexual exploitation, promote quality education, assist in the workforce, and empower their the African American community.
Black female marchers were subjected to racism, not only by people who were opposed to the enfranchisement of women, but by march organizers reluctant to advocate suffrage for black women.Since 1890, white Democrats of the southern states of the former Confederacy had ratified new state constitutional amendments and passed legislation that effectively disenfranchised most blacks and many poor whites. Black women marching for the right to vote reminded many that black men had also been disenfranchised. Also, in those years, Washington was effectively a segregated city in public areas. Mary Church Terrell recounted that she and the Delta Sigma Theta Founders had to assemble in an area specifically allocated for black women.
Although the young Founders were criticized for their participation in the suffrage march, none regretted her participation. Florence Letcher Toms commented, “We marched that day in order that women might come into their own, because we believed that women not only needed an education, but they needed a broader horizon in which they may use that education. And the right to vote would give them that privilege.”
Sigma Lambda Xi recognizes the strength and tenacity our Delta ancestors faced. We are beneficiaries of their hard work. It is our duty to remind everyone of the role Delta Sigma Theta played during this movement.