Comic of Mabel Ping-Hua Lee protesting for Women Equality

Illustrations by Berat Pekmezci; (background)

Mabel Ping-Hua Lee

In the early 1900s, most women in the U.S. weren’t allowed to vote. So they had no say in how our country was run. 

A 16-year-old named Mabel Ping-Hua Lee wanted to change that. In 1912, she helped lead about 10,000 marchers in New York City. Lee and the marchers were part of the suffrage movement. They believed everyone should have the right to vote. And they were willing to fight to make that happen. 

The Granger Collection

Mabel Ping-Hua Lee

Unfair Rules

Lee was born around 1896 in China. When she was a kid, her family moved to the U.S. At the time, that was rare for Chinese immigrants to do. 

In 1882, the U.S. government passed a law banning most Chinese people from entering the country. Why? Many people blamed Chinese immigrants for a lack of jobs. Those who were allowed into the U.S. were not allowed to vote. 

Lee thought this was unfair. As a teenager, she began giving speeches about suffrage for women—and for Chinese immigrants. 

Change for the Better

Lee knew giving all Americans this right would take an amendment, or change, to the U.S. Constitution. That’s the document that says how the U.S. government works.

In 1920, that change finally came. The 19th Amendment gave women in the U.S. the right to vote. But most Chinese immigrants, including Lee, were not allowed to vote for several decades.

Lee carried on her fight for the rights of Chinese immigrants and all women until she died in 1966.

  1. Based on the article, what was the suffrage movement? What details help you understand the meaning of this phrase?
  2. Why does the article mention the U.S. Constitution?
  3. What do you know about suffrage parades from studying the illustrations in the article? 
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