Little is known about Elizabeth Piper Ensley’s early life, but she was born around 1847. She was a librarian, teacher, and organizer. She lived in Boston and Washington D.C. before moving to Colorado with her husband in the early 1890s. After spending time helping the poor and homeless, Ensley became involved with the women’s suffrage movement in Colorado. There, suffragists hoped to get a women’s suffrage amendment on the state ballot for the November 1893 election.
Ensley joined the Colorado Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association as its treasurer. She felt that she, as a Black woman, could organize Black Coloradans to support the movement in ways the mostly white organization had not been able to. Her guidance enabled the suffragists to raise the money needed to fund their campaign. The amendment passed that November, giving Colorado women the vote.
Ensley continued to work as an organizer after the successful Colorado suffrage campaign. Within a year, she had founded the Colorado Colored Women’s Republican Club to help teach Black women about voting. In 1904 she founded the Colorado Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, which helped organize community programs like daycare and educational programs.
She died in 1919 around age 72.
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