19th at 100: Commemorating the Suffrage Struggle and Its Legacies in Northeast Ohio

Lethia Cousins Fleming

Born in 1876 in Virginia, Lethia Cousins Fleming attended high school in Ironton Ohio, and college in Morristown, Tennessee. She moved to Cleveland, Ohio when she married Thomas Wallace Fleming, a man deeply involved in republican politics. She got involved right with him and became a major fundraiser for black institutions, including the Phillis Wheatley Association, a settlement house for single black females. Fleming joined the mostly white Cleveland Woman’s Party and marched in the 1914 parade along with Phillis Wheatley Association founder Jane Edna Hunter. Fleming fought against racism in the suffrage movement, especially the “Southern Strategy”, which placed white female votes above those of black men and sought out support from Democratic southerners. 

After the 19th Amendment, Fleming began to rise in politics, becoming sought out for her campaign and fundraising talent. She worked at the national level to recruit black female voters to the Republican vote. Sadly, she did not live to see the Voting Rights Act or the elimination of the poll tax, dying in 1963 shortly before both were achieved. 

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