Suffrage Movements Merge 1890 - History

Suffrage Movements Merge 1890 - History


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National American Woman Suffrage Association's support for Bristow-Mondell amendment.

The nation's two largest women's organizations, the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Women's Suffrage Organization, merged to form the National American Women's Suffrage Association. NAWSA was dedicated to obtaining the vote for women.

After the Civil two different Women’s organizations developed the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association. Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton had formed the NWSA while the AWSA was led by Lucy Stone her husband Henry Blackwell and Julia War Howe. The two organization while both working for women's rights had different focus. The AWSA worked exclusively to get women the right to vote, while NWSA worked on other women's issues including divorce rights and equal pay. The AWSA had both men and women in the leadership roles. The tactics of the two organizations differed somewhat with the AWSA trying to cultivate a more respected image while Elizabeth Stanton of the NWSA got arrested while voting illegally,

There had been a number of attempts to bring about a merger between the two organizations but they had not been successful. In 1887 this changed when Stone who was 70 and in failing health attempted to bring about a merger. She suggested creating an umbrella organization that would include the two separate organizations. That idea did not go far but soon the two sides were meeting to try to negotiate an agreement to merge. By January 1889 an agreement in principal was reached to merge the two organizations. In February all of the main leaders issued a ‘Open Letter to the Woman of America “ indicating their intention to merge.

On February 18, 1890 the founding convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association was held. The new organization was the merged entity of the the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association. Elizabeth Stanton was elected the first President of the new organization with Susan Anthony being the Vice President.


The Woman Suffrage Movement

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the legal right to vote, was signed into law.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, women and men of all backgrounds and ethnicities aided in the fight for universal suffrage. Despite this, the 19th Amendment in 1920 did not guarantee full voting rights for all women. The work needed to grant this right to women of color endured many obstacles in the coming years. Still, the law became the first in many steps along the United States’ journey to full voting rights for all people.

While the fight started by the early suffragists continued past 1920, Texas Woman’s University proudly celebrates the trajectory of this historic moment and the events that made it possible, while also acknowledging the work that must continue in regards to voting rights for all.

Thank you, suffrage pioneers!

History of the woman suffrage movement in the U.S.

1848
The first women’s rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. After two days of discussion and debate, 68 women and 32 men sign a Declaration of Sentiments, which outlines grievances and sets the agenda for the women’s rights movement. A set of 12 resolutions is adopted calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.

1850
The first National Women’s Rights Convention takes place in Worcester, Mass., attracting more than 1,000 participants. National conventions are held yearly (except for 1857) through 1860.

1868
Ratification of the 14th amendment declaring “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” and that right may not be “denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States.”

1870
Congress ratifies the 15th amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

1869
Split among the suffragist movement. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association. The primary goal of the organization is to achieve voting rights for women by means of a Congressional amendment to the Constitution.

Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association, which focuses exclusively on gaining voting rights for women through the individual state constitutions.

1872
Susan B. Anthony arrested for voting for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election.

1878
The Women’s Suffrage Amendment is first introduced to Congress.

1890
The National Women Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). As the movement’s mainstream organization, NAWSA wages state-by-state campaigns to obtain voting rights for women.

1893
Colorado is the first state to adopt an amendment granting women the right to vote.

1896
The National Association of Colored Women is formed, bringing together more than 100 black women’s clubs. Leaders in the black women’s club movement include Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell and Anna Julia Cooper.

1913
Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage. Their focus is lobbying for a constitutional amendment to secure the right to vote for women. The group is later renamed the National Women’s Party. Members picket the White House and practice other forms of civil disobedience.

1916
Alice Paul and her colleagues form the National Woman’s Party (NWP) and began introducing some of the methods used by the suffrage movement in Britain. Tactics included demonstrations, parades, mass meetings and picketing the White House over the refusal of President Woodrow Wilson and other incumbent Democrats to actively support the Suffrage Amendment.

1917
In July, picketers were arrested on charges of “obstructing traffic,” including Alice Paul. She and others were convicted and incarcerated at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. While imprisoned, Paul began a hunger strike.

1918
In January, after much bad press about the treatment of Alice Paul and the imprisoned women, President Wilson announced that women’s suffrage was urgently needed as a “war measure.”

1919
The federal woman suffrage amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is then sent to the states for ratification.

August 18, 1920
Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, clearing its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states.

August 26, 1920
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is signed into law.

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


Contents

Until the 1832 Great Reform Act specified 'male persons', a few women had been able to vote in parliamentary elections through property ownership, although this was rare. [4] In local government elections, women lost the right to vote under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. Unmarried women ratepayers received the right to vote in the Municipal Franchise Act 1869. This right was confirmed in the Local Government Act 1894 and extended to include some married women. [5] [6] [7] By 1900, more than 1 million women were registered to vote in local government elections in England. [8] Women were also included in the suffrage on the same terms as men (i.e., all parishioners over 21) in the unique set of border polls carried out in 1915-1916 under the Welsh Church Act 1914. [9] These were held to determine whether the residents of parishes which straddled the political border between England and Wales wished their ecclesiastical parishes and churches to remain with the Church of England or to join the disestablished Church in Wales when it was set up. They are one of the earliest examples, if not the earliest, of an official poll being carried out in the United Kingdom under a system of universal adult suffrage, though also permitting non-resident ratepayers of either gender to vote. [10]

Both before and after the 1832 Reform Act there were some who advocated that women should have the right to vote in parliamentary elections. After the enactment of the Reform Act, the MP Henry Hunt argued that any woman who was single, a taxpayer and had sufficient property should be allowed to vote. One such wealthy woman, Mary Smith, was used in this speech as an example.

The Chartist Movement, which began in the late 1830s, has also been suggested to have included supporters of female suffrage. There is some evidence to suggest William Lovett, one of the authors of the People's Charter wished to include female suffrage as one of the campaign's demands but chose not to on the grounds that this would delay the implementation of the charter. Although there were female Chartists, they largely worked toward universal male suffrage. At this time most women did not have aspirations to gain the vote.

There is a poll book from 1843 that clearly shows thirty women's names among those who voted. These women were playing an active role in the election. On the roll, the wealthiest female elector was Grace Brown, a butcher. Due to the high rates that she paid, Grace Brown was entitled to four votes. [11]

Lilly Maxwell cast a high-profile vote in Britain in 1867 after the Great Reform Act of 1832. [12] Maxwell, a shop owner, met the property qualifications that otherwise would have made her eligible to vote had she been male. In error, her name had been added to the election register and on that basis she succeeded in voting in a by-election – her vote was later declared illegal by the Court of Common Pleas. The case gave women's suffrage campaigners great publicity.

Outside pressure for women's suffrage was at this time diluted by feminist issues in general. Women's rights were becoming increasingly prominent in the 1850s as some women in higher social spheres refused to obey the gender roles dictated to them. Feminist goals at this time included the right to sue an ex-husband after divorce (achieved in 1857) and the right for married women to own property (fully achieved in 1882 after some concession by the government in 1870).

The issue of parliamentary reform declined along with the Chartists after 1848 and only reemerged with the election of John Stuart Mill in 1865. He stood for office showing direct support for female suffrage and was an MP in the run up to the second Reform Act.

In the same year that John Stuart Mill was elected (1865), the first ladies' discussion society, Kensington Society, was formed, debating whether women should be involved in public affairs. [13] Although a society for suffrage was proposed, this was turned down on the grounds that it might be taken over by extremists.

Later that year Leigh Smith Bodichon formed the first Women's Suffrage Committee and within a fortnight collected nearly 1,500 signatures in favour of female suffrage in advance to the second Reform Bill. [14]

The Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage was founded in February 1867. Its secretary, Lydia Becker, wrote letters both to Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and to The Spectator. She was also involved with the London group, and organised the collection of more signatures. Lydia Becker reluctantly agreed to exclude married women from the "Married Women's Property Act" reform demand. [15]

In June the London group split, partly a result of party allegiance, and partly the result of tactical issues. Conservative members wished to move slowly to avoid alarming public opinion, while Liberals generally opposed this apparent dilution of political conviction. As a result, Helen Taylor founded the London National Society for Women's Suffrage, which set up strong links with Manchester and Edinburgh. In Scotland one of the earliest societies was the Edinburgh National Society for Women's Suffrage. [16]

Although these early splits left the movement divided and sometimes leaderless, it allowed Lydia Becker to have a stronger influence. The suffragists were known as the parliamentarians.

In Ireland, Isabella Tod, an anti-Home Rule Liberal and campaigner for girls education, established the North of Ireland Women's Suffrage Society in 1873 (from 1909, still based in Belfast, the Irish WSS) Determined lobbying by the WSS ensured the 1887 Act creating a new municipal franchise for Belfast (a city in which women predominated due to heavy employment in mills) conferred the vote on "persons" rather than men. This was eleven years before women elsewhere Ireland gained the vote in local government elections. [17] The Dublin Women's Suffrage Association was established in 1874. As well as campaigning for women's suffrage, it sought to advance women's position in local government. In 1898, it changed its name to the Irish Women's Suffrage and Local Government Association.

Women's political groups Edit

Although women's political party groups were not formed with the aim to achieve women's suffrage, they did have two key effects. Firstly, they showed women who were members to be competent in the political arena and as this became clear, secondly, it brought the concept of female suffrage closer to acceptance.

The Primrose League Edit

The Primrose League (1883 - 2004) was set up to promote Conservative values through social events and supporting the community. As women were able to join, this gave females of all classes the ability to mix with local and national political figures. Many also had important roles such as bringing voters to the polls. This removed segregation and promoted political literacy among women. The League did not promote women's suffrage as one of its objectives. [ citation needed ]

The Women's Liberal Associations Edit

Although there is evidence to suggest that they were originally formed to promote female franchise (the first being in Bristol in 1881), WLAs often did not hold such an agenda. They operated independently from the male groups, and did become more active when they came under the control of the Women's Liberal Federation, and canvassed all classes for support of women's suffrage and against domination.

There was significant support for woman suffrage in the Liberal Party, which was in power after 1905, but a handful of leaders, especially H. H. Asquith, blocked all efforts in Parliament. [18]

Pressure groups Edit

The campaign first developed into a national movement in the 1870s. At this point, all campaigners were suffragists, not suffragettes. Up until 1903, all campaigning took the constitutional approach. It was after the defeat of the first Women's Suffrage Bill that the Manchester and London committees joined together to gain wider support. The main methods of doing so at this time involved lobbying MPs to put forward Private Member's Bills. However such bills rarely pass and so this was an ineffective way of actually achieving the vote.

In 1868, local groups amalgamated to form a series of close-knit groups with the founding of the National Society for Women's Suffrage (NSWS). This is notable as the first attempt to create a unified front to propose women's suffrage, but had little effect due to several splits, once again weakening the campaign.

Up until 1897, the campaign stayed at this relatively ineffective level. Campaigners came predominantly from the landed classes and joined together on a small scale only. In 1897 the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was founded by Millicent Fawcett. This society linked smaller groups together and also put pressure on non-supportive MPs using various peaceful methods.

Pankhursts and suffragettes Edit

Founded in 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was tightly controlled by the three Pankhursts, Emmeline Pankhurst (1858–1928), and her daughters Christabel Pankhurst (1880–1958) and Sylvia Pankhurst (1882–1960). [19] It specialized in highly visible publicity campaigns such as large parades. This had the effect of energizing all dimensions of the suffrage movement. While there was a majority of support for suffrage in parliament, the ruling Liberal Party refused to allow a vote on the issue the result of which was an escalation in the suffragette campaign. The WSPU, in contrast to its allies, embarked on a campaign of violence to publicize the issue, even to the detriment of its own aims. [20]

The Cat and Mouse Act was passed by Parliament in an attempt to prevent suffragettes from becoming martyrs in prison. It provided for the release of those whose hunger strikes and forced feeding had brought them sickness, as well as their re-imprisonment once they had recovered. The result was even greater publicity for the cause. [21]

The tactics of the WSPU included shouting down speakers, hunger strikes, stone-throwing, window-smashing, and arson of unoccupied churches and country houses. In Belfast, when in 1914 the Ulster Unionist Council appeared to renege on an earlier commitment to women's suffrage, [22] the WSPU's Dorothy Evans (a friend of the Pankhursts) declared an end to "the truce we have held in Ulster." In the months that followed WSPU militants (including Elizabeth Bell, the first woman in Ireland to qualify as a doctor and gynaecologist) were implicated in a series of arson attacks on Unionist-owned buildings and on male recreational and sports facilities. [23] In July 1914, in a plan hatched with Evans, Lillian Metge, who was previously part of a 200-strong deputation that charged George V as he entered Buckingham Palace, bombed Lisburn Cathedral. [24]

Historian Martin Pugh says, "militancy clearly damaged the cause." [25] Whitfield says, "the overall effect of the suffragette militancy, was to set back the cause of women's suffrage." [26] Historian Harold Smith, citing historian Sandra Holton, has argued that by 1913 WSPU gave priority to militancy rather than obtaining the vote. Their battle with Liberals had become a "kind of holy war, so important that it could not be called off even if continuing it prevented suffrage reform. This preoccupation with the struggle distinguished the WSPU from that by the NUWSS, which remained focused on obtaining women's suffrage." [27]

Although non-historians often assumed the WSPU was primarily responsible for obtaining women's suffrage, historians are much more skeptical about its contribution. It is generally agreed that the WSPU revitalized the suffrage campaign initially, but that it is escalation of militancy after 1912 impeded reform. Recent studies have shifted from claiming that the WSPU was responsible for women's suffrage to portraying it as an early form of radical feminism that sought to liberate women from male-centered gender system.

The greater suffrage efforts halted with the outbreak of World War I. While some activity continued, with the NUWSS continuing to lobby peacefully, Emmeline Pankhurst, convinced that Germany posed a danger to all humanity, persuaded the WSPU to halt all militant suffrage activity.

Parliament expands suffrage 1918 Edit

During the war, a select group of parliamentary leaders decided on a policy that would expand the suffrage to all men over the age of 21, and propertied women over the age of 30. Asquith, an opponent, was replaced as prime minister in late 1916 by David Lloyd George who had, for his first ten years as an MP, argued against women having the franchise.

During the war there was a serious shortage of able-bodied men and women were able to take on many of the traditionally male roles. With the approval of the trade unions, "dilution" was agreed upon. Complicated factory jobs handled by skilled men were diluted or simplified so that they could be handled by less skilled men and women. The result was a large increase in women workers, concentrated in munitions industries of highest priority to winning the war. This led to a increased societal understanding of what work women were capable of. Some believe that the franchise was partially granted in 1918 because of a decline in anti-suffrage hostility caused by pre-war militant tactics. However, others believe that politicians had to cede at least some women the vote so as to avoid the promised re-resurgence of militant suffrage action. Many of the major women's groups strongly supported the war effort. The Women's Suffrage Federation, based in the east end and led by Sylvia Pankhurst, did not. The federation held a pacifist stance and created co-operative factories and food banks in the East End to support working class women throughout the war. Until this point suffrage was based on occupational qualifications of men. Millions of women were now meeting those occupational qualifications, which in any case were so old-fashioned that the consensus was to remove them. For example, a male voter who joined the Army might lose the right to vote. In early 1916, suffragist organizations privately agreed to downplay their differences, and resolve that any legislation increasing the number of votes should also enfranchise women. Local government officials proposed a simplification of the old system of franchise and registration, and the Labour cabinet member in the new coalition government, Arthur Henderson, called for universal suffrage, with an age cutoff of 21 for men and 25 for women. Most male political leaders showed anxiety about having a female majority in the new electorate. Parliament turned over the issue to a new Speakers Conference, a special committee from all parties from both houses, chaired by the Speaker. They began meeting in October 1916, in secret. A majority of 15 to 6 supported votes for some women by 12 to 10, it agreed on a higher age cut off for women. [29] Women leaders accepted a cutoff age of 30 in order to get the vote for most women. [30]

Finally in 1918, Parliament passed an act granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5, and graduates of British universities. About 8.4 million women gained the vote. [31] In November 1918, the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 was passed, allowing women to be elected into the House of Commons. [31] By 1928 the consensus was that votes for women had been successful. With the Conservative Party in full control in 1928, it passed the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act that extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21, granting women the vote on the same terms as men, [32] [33] although one Conservative opponent of the bill warned that it risked splitting the party for years to come. [34]

Emmeline Pankhurst was a key figure gaining intense media coverage of the women's suffrage movement. Pankhurst, alongside her two daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, founded and led the Women's Social and Political Union, an organisation that was focused on direct action to win the vote. Her husband, Richard Pankhurst, also supported women suffrage ideas since he was the author of the first British woman suffrage bill and the Married Women’s Property Acts in 1870 and 1882. After her husband’s death, Emmeline decided to move to the forefront of the suffrage battle. Along with her two daughters, Christabel Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst, she joined the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). With her experience with this organisation, Emmeline founded the Women's Franchise League in 1889 and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903. [35] Frustrated with years of government inactivity and false promises, the WSPU adopted a militant stance, which was so influential it was later imported into suffrage struggles worldwide, most notably by Alice Paul in the United States. After many years of struggle and adversity, women finally gained suffrage but Emmeline died shortly after this. [36]

Another key figure was Millicent Fawcett. She had a peaceful approach to issues presented to the organisations and the way to get points across to society. She supported the Married Women's Property Act and the social purity campaign. Two events influenced her to become even more involved: her husband’s death and the division of the suffrage movement over the issue of affiliation with political parties. Millicent, who supported staying independent of political parties, made sure that the parts separated came together to become stronger by working together. Because of her actions, she was made president of the NUWSS. [37] In 1910–1912, she supported a bill to give vote rights to single and widowed females of a household. By supporting the British in World War I, she thought women would be recognised as a prominent part of Europe and deserved basic rights such as voting. [38] Millicent Fawcett came from a radical family. Her sister was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson an English physician and feminist, and the first woman to gain a medical qualification in Britain. Elizabeth was elected mayor of Aldeburgh in 1908 and gave speeches for suffrage. [39]

Emily Davies became an editor of a feminist publication, Englishwoman's Journal. She expressed her feminist ideas on paper and was also a major supporter and influential figure during the twentieth century. In addition to suffrage, she supported more rights for women such as access to education. She wrote works and had power with words. She wrote texts such as Thoughts on Some Questions Relating to Women in 1910 and Higher Education for Women in 1866. She was a large supporter in the times where organisations were trying to reach people for a change. [40] With her was a friend named Barbara Bodichon who also published articles and books such as Women and Work (1857), Enfranchisement of Women (1866), and Objections to the Enfranchisement of Women (1866), and American Diary in 1872. [41]

Mary Gawthorpe was an early suffragette who left teaching to fight for women's voting rights. She was imprisoned after heckling Winston Churchill. She left England after her release, eventually emigrating to the United States and settling in New York. She worked in the trade union movement and in 1920 became a full-time official of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union. In 2003, Mary's nieces donated her papers to New York University. [42]

Males were also present in the suffrage movement.

Laurence Housman Edit

Laurence Housman was a male feminist that devoted himself to the suffrage movement. Most of his contributions were through creating art, such as propaganda, with the intent of helping women in the movement to better express themselves, [43] influencing people to join the movement [44] and informing people about particular suffrage events such as the 1911 Census protest. [45] He and his sister, Clemence Housman, created a studio called the Suffrage Atelier which aimed to create propaganda for the suffrage movement. [46] This was significant because he produced a space for women to create propaganda to better aid the suffrage movement and, at the same time, earn money by selling the art. [43] Also, he created propaganda such as the Anti-Suffrage Alphabet, [47] and wrote for many women's newspapers. [47] Additionally, he also influenced other men to aid the movement. [44] For example, he formed the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage with Israel Zangwill, Henry Nevinson and Henry Brailsford, hoping to inspire other men to participate in the movement. [44]

Whitfield concludes that the militant campaign had some positive effects in terms of attracting enormous publicity, and forcing the moderates to better organise themselves, while also stimulating the organization of the antis. He concludes: [48]

The overall effect of the suffragette militancy, however, was to set back the cause of women's suffrage. For women to gain the right to vote it was necessary to demonstrate that they had public opinion on their side, to build and consolidate a parliamentary majority in favour of women's suffrage and to persuade or pressure the government to introduce its own franchise reform. None of these objectives was achieved.

The Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst Memorial in London was first dedicated to Emmeline Pankhurst in 1930, with a plaque added for Christabel Pankhurst in 1958.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Women being given the right to vote, a statue of Millicent Fawcett was erected in Parliament Square, London in 2018. [49] The photo colouriser Tom Marshall released a series of photos to mark the 100th anniversary of the vote, including an image of suffragettes Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst, which appeared on The Daily Telegraph front page on 6 February 2018. [50]


Suffrage Movements Merge 1890 - History

Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are barred from attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London. This prompts them to hold a Women's Convention in the US.

Seneca Falls, New York is the location for the first Women's Rights Convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanton writes "The Declaration of Sentiments" creating the agenda of women's activism for decades to come.

The first state constitution in California extends property rights to women.

Worcester, Massachusetts, is the site of the first National Women's Rights Convention. Frederick Douglass, Paulina Wright Davis, Abby Kelley Foster, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth are in attendance. A strong alliance is formed with the Abolitionist Movement.

Worcester, Massachusetts is the site of the second National Women's Rights Convention. Participants included Horace Mann, New York Tribune columnist Elizabeth Oaks Smith, and Reverend Harry Ward Beecher, one of the nation's most popular preachers.

At a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth, a former slave, delivers her now memorable speech, "Ain't I a woman?"

The issue of women's property rights is presented to the Vermont Senate by Clara Howard Nichols. This is a major issue for the Suffragists.

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is published and quickly becomes a bestseller.

Women delegates, Antoinette Brown and Susan B. Anthony, are not allowed to speak at The World's Temperance Convention held in New York City.

During the Civil War, efforts for the suffrage movement come to a halt. Women put their energies toward the war effort.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the American Equal Rights Association, an organization dedicated to the goal of suffrage for all regardless of gender or race.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Parker Pillsbury publish the first edition of The Revolution. This periodical carries the motto “Men, their rights and nothing more women, their rights and nothing less!”

Caroline Seymour Severance establishes the New England Woman’s Club. The “Mother of Clubs” sparked the club movement which became popular by the late nineteenth century.

In Vineland, New Jersey, 172 women cast ballots in a separate box during the presidential election.

Senator S.C. Pomeroy of Kansas introduces the federal woman’s suffrage amendment in Congress.

Many early suffrage supporters, including Susan B. Anthony, remained single because in the mid-1800s, married women could not own property in their own rights and could not make legal contracts on their own behalf.

The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified. "Citizens" and "voters" are defined exclusively as male.

The American Equal Rights Association is wrecked by disagreements over the Fourteenth Amendment and the question of whether to support the proposed Fifteenth Amendment which would enfranchise Black American males while avoiding the question of woman suffrage entirely.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), a more radical institution, to achieve the vote through a Constitutional amendment as well as push for other woman’s rights issues. NWSA was based in New York

Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe, and other more conservative activists form the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) to work for woman suffrage through amending individual state constitutions. AWSA was based in Boston.

Wyoming territory is organized with a woman suffrage provision.

The Fifteenth Amendment gave black men the right to vote. NWSA refused to work for its ratification and instead the members advocate for a Sixteenth Amendment that would dictate universal suffrage. Frederick Douglass broke with Stanton and Anthony over the position of NWSA.

The Woman’s Journal is founded and edited by Mary Livermore, Lucy Stone, and Henry Blackwell.

Victoria Woodhull addresses the House Judiciary Committee, arguing women’s rights to vote under the fourteenth amendment.

The Anti-Suffrage Party is founded.

Susan B. Anthony casts her ballot for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election and is arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, New York. Fifteen other women are arrested for illegally voting. Sojourner Truth appears at a polling booth in Battle Creek, Michigan, demanding a ballot to vote she is turned away.

Abigail Scott Duniway convinces Oregon lawmakers to pass laws granting a married woman’s rights such as starting and operating her own business, controlling the money she earns, and the right to protect her property if her husband leaves.

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded by Annie Wittenmyer. With Frances Willard at its head (1876), the WCTU became an important proponent in the fight for woman suffrage. As a result, one of the strongest opponents to women's enfranchisement was the liquor lobby, which feared women might use their vote to prohibit the sale of liquor.

Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage disrupt the official Centennial program at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, presenting a “Declaration of Rights for Women” to the Vice President.

A Woman Suffrage Amendment is proposed in the U.S. Congress. When the 19th Amendment passes forty-one years later, it is worded exactly the same as this 1878 Amendment.

The first vote on woman suffrage is taken in the Senate and is defeated.

The National Council of Women in the United States is established to promote the advancement of women in society.

NWSA and AWSA merge and the National American Woman Suffrage Association is formed. Stanton is the first president. The Movement focuses efforts on securing suffrage at the state level.

Wyoming is admitted to the Union with a state constitution granting woman suffrage.

The American Federation of Labor declares support for woman suffrage.

The South Dakota campaign for woman suffrage loses.

The Progressive Era begins. Women from all classes and backgrounds enter public life. Women's roles expand and result in an increasing politicization of women. Consequently the issue of woman suffrage becomes part of mainstream politics.

Olympia Brown founds the Federal Suffrage Association to campaign for woman’s suffrage.

Colorado adopts woman suffrage.

600,000 signatures are presented to the New York State Constitutional Convention in a failed effort to bring a woman suffrage amendment to the voters.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Woman’s Bible. After its publication, NAWSA moves to distance itself from Stanton because many conservative suffragists considered her to be too radical and, thus, potentially damaging to the suffrage campaign.

Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Frances E.W. Harper among others found the the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.

Utah joins the Union with full suffrage for women.

Idaho adopts woman suffrage.

Mary Dreier, Rheta Childe Dorr, Leonora O'Reilly, and others form the Women's Trade Union League of New York, an organization of middle- and working-class women dedicated to unionization for working women and to woman suffrage.

Washington State adopts woman suffrage.

The Women’s Political Union organizes the first suffrage parade in New York City.

The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) is organized. Led by Mrs. Arthur Dodge, its members included wealthy, influential women, some Catholic clergymen, distillers and brewers, urban political machines, Southern congressmen, and corporate capitalists.

The elaborate California suffrage campaign succeeds by a small margin.

Woman Suffrage is supported for the first time at the national level by a major political party -- Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party.

Twenty thousand suffrage supporters join a New York City suffrage parade.

Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona adopt woman suffrage.

In 1913, suffragists organized a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The parade was the first major suffrage spectacle organized by the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

The two women then organized the Congressional Union, later known at the National Women’s Party (1916). They borrowed strategies from the radical Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in England.

Nevada and Montana adopt woman suffrage.

The National Federation of Women’s Clubs, which had over two million women members throughout the U.S., formally endorses the suffrage campaign.

Mabel Vernon and Sara Bard Field are involved in a transcontinental tour which gathers over a half-million signatures on petitions to Congress.

Forty thousand march in a NYC suffrage parade. Many women are dressed in white and carry placards with the names of the states they represent.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts continue to reject woman suffrage.

Jeannette Rankin of Montana is the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Woodrow Wilson states that the Democratic Party platform will support suffrage.

New York women gain suffrage.

Arkansas women are allowed to vote in primary elections.

National Woman’s Party picketers appear in front of the White House holding two banners, “Mr. President, What Will You Do For Woman Suffrage?” and “How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?”

Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, is formally seated in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Alice Paul, leader of the National Woman’s Party, was put in solitary confinement in the mental ward of the prison as a way to “break” her will and to undermine her credibility with the public.

In June, arrests of the National Woman’s party picketers begin on charges of obstructing sidewalk traffic. Subsequent picketers are sentenced to up to six months in jail. In November, the government unconditionally releases the picketers in response to public outcry and an inability to stop National Woman’s Party picketers’ hunger strike.

Representative Rankin opens debate on a suffrage amendment in the House. The amendment passes. The amendment fails to win the required two thirds majority in the Senate.

Michigan, South Dakota, and Oklahoma adopt woman suffrage.

President Woodrow Wilson states his support for a federal woman suffrage amendment.

President Wilson addresses the Senate about adopting woman suffrage at the end of World War I.

The Senate finally passes the Nineteenth Amendment and the ratification process begins.


August 26, 1920

Three quarters of the state legislatures ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.
American Women win full voting rights.


1869 National Woman Suffrage Association is founded with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as president. American Woman Suffrage Association is founded with Henry Ward Beecher as president. Wyoming Territory grants suffrage to women.

1870 Utah Territory grants suffrage to women. First issue of the Woman’s Journal is published with Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Blackwell as editors. The 15th amendment to the U. S. Constitution is adopted. The amendment grants suffrage to former male African-American slaves, but not to women. Anthony and Stanton bitterly oppose the amendment, which for the first time explicitly restricts voting rights to “males.” Many of their former allies in the abolitionist movement, including Lucy Stone, support the amendment.

1871 Victoria Woodhull addresses the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives arguing that women have the right to vote under the 14th amendment. The Committee issues a negative report.

1872 In Rochester, NY, Susan B. Anthony registers and votes contending that the 14th amendment gives her that right. Several days later she is arrested.

1873 At Anthony’s trial the judge does not allow her to testify on her own behalf, dismisses the jury, rules her guilty, and fines her $100. She refuses to pay.

1874 In Minor v. Happersett, the Supreme Court decides that citizenship does not give women the right to vote and that women’s political rights are under the jurisdiction of each individual state.

1876 Stanton writes a Declaration and Protest of the Women of the United States to be read at the centennial celebration in Philadelphia. When the request to present the Declaration is denied, Anthony and four other women charge the speakers’ rostrum and thrust the document into the hands of Vice-President Thomas W. Ferry.

1879 Belva Lockwood becomes the first woman lawyer admitted to practice before the Supreme Court.

1880 November 11: Lucretia Mott dies. New York state grants school suffrage to women.

1882 The House of Representatives and the Senate appoint Select Committees on Woman Suffrage.

1885 January 11: Alice Paul is born.

1887 The first three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage, edited by Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, are published.

1888 The International Council for Women is founded and holds its first meeting in Washington, DC.

1890 After several years of negotiations, the NWSA and the AWSA merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone as officers. Wyoming joins the union as the first state with voting rights for women. By 1900 women also have full suffrage in Utah, Colorado and Idaho. New Zealand is the first nation to give women suffrage.

1892 Susan B. Anthony becomes president of the NAWSA.

1893 October 18: Lucy Stone dies.

1895 Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Woman’s Bible, a critical examination of the Bible’s teaching about women. The NAWSA censures the work.

1900 Anthony resigns as president of the NAWSA and is succeeded by Carrie Chapman Catt.

1902 October 26: Elizabeth Cady Stanton dies. Women of Australia are enfranchised.

1903 Carrie Chapman Catt resigns as president of the NAWSA and Anna Howard Shaw becomes president.

1906 March 13: Susan B. Anthony dies. Women of Finland are enfranchised.

1907 Harriet Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founds the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, later called the Women’s Political Union.

1908 March 8: International Women’s Day is celebrated for the first time.

1910 The Women’s Political Union holds its first suffrage parade in New York City.

1911 National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage is founded.

1912 Suffrage referendums are passed in Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon.

1913 Alice Paul organizes a suffrage parade in Washington, DC, the day of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.

1914 Montana and Nevada grant voting rights to women. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns organize the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. It merges in 1917 with the Woman’s Party to become the National Woman’s Party.

1915 Suffrage referendum in New York State is defeated. Carrie Chapman Catt is elected president of the NAWSA. Women of Denmark are enfranchised.

1916 Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, is elected to the House of Representatives and becomes the first woman to serve in Congress. President Woodrow Wilson addresses the NAWSA.

1917 Members of the National Woman’s Party picket the White House. Alice Paul and ninety-six other suffragists are arrested and jailed for “obstructing traffic.” When they go on a hunger strike to protest their arrest and treatment, they are force-fed. Women win the right to vote in North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Michigan, New York, and Arkansas.

1918 Women of Austria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, and Wales are enfranchised. House of Representatives passes a resolution in favor of a woman suffrage amendment. The resolution is defeated by the Senate.

1919 Women of Azerbaijan Republic, Belgium, British East Africa, Holland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Rhodesia, and Sweden are enfranchised. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution granting women the vote is adopted by a joint resolution of Congress and sent to the states for ratification. July 2: Anna Howard Shaw dies. New York and twenty-one other states ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.

1920 Henry Burn casts the deciding vote that makes Tennessee the thirty-sixth, and final state, to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. August 26: The Nineteenth Amendment is adopted and the women of the United States are finally enfranchised.

1923 At the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention, Alice Paul proposes an Equal Rights Amendment to remedy inequalities not addressed in the 19th Amendment.

Late 1920s Many states continue to bar women from jury duty and public office. Widows succeed their husbands as governors of Texas and Wyoming. Middle-class women attend college and enter labor force. Anticipated “women’s vote” fails to materialize by end of decade.

1933 Frances Perkins is appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as first female Secretary of Labor. In the New Deal years, at urging of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Democratic women’s leader Molly Dewson, many women gain positions in federal social service bureaus, including Mary McLeod Bethune, director of the Negro Affairs Division of the National Youth Administration.

1936 Federal court rules birth control legal for its own sake, rather than solely for prevention of disease.

1941 United States enters World War II. Millions of women are recruited for defense industry jobs in war years and become significant parts of labor force. WAC and WAVE are established as first women’s military corps.

1947 Percentage of women in the labor force declines as women leave jobs to get married and to make way for returning soldiers. By end of decade, numbers of workingwomen are again on the increase.

1952 Democratic and Republican parties eliminate women’s divisions.

1955 Civil Rights movement escalates in the South Septima Clark and others lead sit-ins and demonstrations, providing models for future protest strategies.

1960 FDA approves birth control pills.

1961 President’s Commission on the Status of Women is established, headed by Eleanor Roosevelt. Commission successfully pushes for passage in 1963 of Equal Pay Act, first federal law to require equal compensation for men and women in federal jobs.

1963 Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique articulates dissatisfaction about limits on women.

1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits job discrimination on the basis of race or sex and establishes Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to address discrimination claims.

1966 National Organization for Women, founded by Betty Friedan and associates, promotes child care for working mothers, abortion rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, and “full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”

1972 After nearly 50 years, Equal Rights Amendment passes both houses and is signed by President Richard Nixon. Civil Rights Act bans sex discrimination in employment and education. Shirley Chisholm is first black American to run for president.

1973 In Roe v. Wade, U.S. Supreme Court affirms women’s right to first trimester abortions without state intervention.

1974 Ella Grasso of Connecticut becomes the first woman Governor elected in her own right.

1981 Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed first woman U.S. Supreme Court justice.

1982 Deadline for ERA ratification expires final count is three states short of adoption.

1984 Geraldine Ferraro is first woman from a major political party nominated as Vice President.

1991 Senate confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas as U.S. Supreme Court justice and testimony of Anita Hill raise awareness of sexual harassment.

1992 More women run for and are elected to public office than in any other year in United States history.

Today The fight for equality is waged on many fronts women are seeking political influence, better education, health reform, job equity, and legal reform. The demands echo those of the movement throughout its history. In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and others claimed on behalf of American women “all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens.” What would the reformers from Seneca Falls do today to contribute toward a future of equality? What will you do?

1792-1920 prepared by Mary M. Huth, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Rochester Libraries, February 1995.
1920-present from the Women’s Rights brochure produced by the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, National Park Service, 1994.

River Campus (mailing address): 500 Joseph C. Wilson Blvd., Rochester, NY 14627

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Woman's Suffrage History Timeline

The below timeline is from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection Home Page on the Library of Congress website.

One Hundred Years toward Suffrage: An Overview
Compiled by E. Susan Barber

1776
Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John, who is attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, asking that he and the other men--who were at work on the Declaration of Independence--"Remember the Ladies." John responds with humor. The Declaration's wording specifies that "all men are created equal."

1820 to 1880
Evidence from a variety of printed sources published during this period--advice manuals, poetry and literature, sermons, medical texts--reveals that Americans, in general, held highly stereotypical notions about women's and men's roles in society. Historians would later term this phenomenon "The Cult of Domesticity."

1821
Emma Hart Willard founds the Troy Female Seminary in New York--the first endowed school for girls.

1833
Oberlin College becomes the first coeducational college in the United States. In 1841, Oberlin awards the first academic degrees to three women. Early graduates include Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown.

1836
Sarah Grimké begins her speaking career as an abolitionist and a women's rights advocate. She is eventually silenced by male abolitionists who consider her public speaking a liability.

1837
The first National Female Anti-Slavery Society convention meets in New York City. Eighty-one delegates from twelve states attend.

1837
Mary Lyon founds Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, eventually the first four-year college exclusively for women in the United States. Mt. Holyoke was followed by Vassar in 1861, and Wellesley and Smith Colleges, both in 1875. In 1873, the School Sisters of Notre Dame found a school in Baltimore, Maryland, which would eventually become the nation's first college for Catholic women.

1839
Mississippi passes the first Married Woman's Property Act.

1844
Female textile workers in Massachusetts organize the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA) and demand a 10-hour workday. This was one of the first permanent labor associations for working women in the United States.

1848
The first women's rights convention in the United States is held in Seneca Falls, New York. Many participants sign a "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" that outlines the main issues and goals for the emerging women's movement. Thereafter, women's rights meetings are held on a regular basis.

1849
Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery. Over the next ten years she leads many slaves to freedom by the Underground Railroad.

1850
Amelia Jenks Bloomer launches the dress reform movement with a costume bearing her name. The Bloomer costume was later abandoned by many suffragists who feared it detracted attention from more serious women's rights issues.

1851
Former slave Sojourner Truth delivers her "Ain't I a Woman?" speech before a spellbound audience at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio.

1852
Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin, which rapidly becomes a bestseller.

1859
The successful vulcanization of rubber provides women with reliable condoms for the first time. The birth rate in the United States continues its downward, century-long spiral. By the late 1900s, women will raise an average of only two to three children, in contrast to the five or six children they raised at the beginning of the century.

1861 to 65
The American Civil War disrupts suffrage activity as women, North and South, divert their energies to "war work." The War itself, however, serves as a "training ground," as women gain important organizational and occupational skills they will later use in postbellum organizational activity.

1865 to 1880
Southern white women create Confederate memorial societies to help preserve the memory of the "Lost Cause." This activity propels many white Southern women into the public sphere for the first time. During this same period, newly emancipated Southern black women form thousands of organizations aimed at "uplifting the race."

1866
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the American Equal Rights Association, an organization for white and black women and men dedicated to the goal of universal suffrage.

1868
The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified, which extends to all citizens the protections of the Constitution against unjust state laws. This Amendment was the first to define "citizens" and "voters" as "male."

1869
The women's rights movement splits into two factions as a result of disagreements over the Fourteenth and soon-to-be-passed Fifteenth Amendments. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the more radical, New York-based National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe organize the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which is centered in Boston. In this same year, the Wyoming territory is organized with a woman suffrage provision. In 1890, Wyoming was admitted to the Union with its suffrage provision intact.

1870
The Fifteenth Amendment enfranchises black men. NWSA refuses to work for its ratification, arguing, instead, that it be "scrapped" in favor of a Sixteenth Amendment providing universal suffrage. Frederick Douglass breaks with Stanton and Anthony over NWSA's position.

1870 to 1875
Several women--including Virginia Louisa Minor, Victoria Woodhull, and Myra Bradwell--attempt to use the Fourteenth Amendment in the courts to secure the vote (Minor and Woodhull) or the right to practice law (Bradwell). They all are unsuccessful.

1872
Susan B. Anthony is arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, New York, for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election. At the same time, Sojourner Truth appears at a polling booth in Battle Creek, Michigan, demanding a ballot she is turned away.

1874
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded by Annie Wittenmyer. With Frances Willard at its head (1876), the WCTU became an important force in the fight for woman suffrage. Not surprisingly, one of the most vehement opponents to women's enfranchisement was the liquor lobby, which feared women might use the franchise to prohibit the sale of liquor.

1878
A Woman Suffrage Amendment is introduced in the United States Congress. The wording is unchanged in 1919, when the amendment finally passes both houses.

1890
The NWSA and the AWSA are reunited as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. During this same year, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr found Hull House, a settlement house project in Chicago's 19th Ward. Within one year, there are more than a hundred settlement houses--largely operated by women--throughout the United States. The settlement house movement and the Progressive campaign of which it was a part propelled thousands of college-educated white women and a number of women of color into lifetime careers in social work. It also made women an important voice to be reckoned with in American politics.

1891
Ida B. Wells launches her nation-wide anti-lynching campaign after the murder of three black businessmen in Memphis, Tennessee.

1893
Hannah Greenbaum Solomon founds the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) after a meeting of the Jewish Women's Congress at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. In that same year, Colorado becomes the first state to adopt a state amendment enfranchising women.

1895
Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Woman's Bible. After its publication, NAWSA moves to distance itself from this venerable suffrage pioneer because many conservative suffragists considered her to be too radical and, thus, potentially damaging to the suffrage campaign. From this time, Stanton--who had resigned as NAWSA president in 1892--was no longer invited to sit on the stage at NAWSA conventions.

1896
Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Margaret Murray Washington, Fanny Jackson Coppin, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Charlotte Forten Grimké, and former slave Harriet Tubman meet in Washington, D.C. to form the National Association of Colored Women (NACW).

1903
Mary Dreier, Rheta Childe Dorr, Leonora O'Reilly, and others form the Women's Trade Union League of New York, an organization of middle- and working-class women dedicated to unionization for working women and to woman suffrage. This group later became a nucleus of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).

1911
The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) is organized. Led by Mrs. Arthur Dodge, its members included wealthy, influential women and some Catholic clergymen--including Cardinal Gibbons who, in 1916, sent an address to NAOWS's convention in Washington, D.C. In addition to the distillers and brewers, who worked largely behind the scenes, the "antis" also drew support from urban political machines, Southern congressmen, and corporate capitalists--like railroad magnates and meatpackers--who supported the "antis" by contributing to their "war chests."

1912
Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive (Bull Moose/Republican) Party becomes the first national political party to adopt a woman suffrage plank.

1913
Alice Paul and Lucy Burns organize the Congressional Union, later known as the National Women's Party (1916). Borrowing the tactics of the radical, militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in England, members of the Woman's Party participate in hunger strikes, picket the White House, and engage in other forms of civil disobedience to publicize the suffrage cause.

1914
The National Federation of Women's Clubs--which by this time included more than two million white women and women of color throughout the United States--formally endorses the suffrage campaign.

1916
NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt unveils her "winning plan" for suffrage victory at a convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Catt's plan required the coordination of activities by a vast cadre of suffrage workers in both state and local associations.

1916
Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first American woman elected to represent her state in the U.S. House of Representatives.

1918 to 1920
The Great War (World War I) intervenes to slow down the suffrage campaign as some--but not all--suffragists decide to shelve their suffrage activism in favor of "war work." In the long run, however, this decision proves to be a prudent one as it adds yet another reason to why women deserve the vote.

August 26, 1920
The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified. Its victory accomplished, NAWSA ceases to exist, but its organization becomes the nucleus of the League of Women Voters.

1923
The National Woman's Party first proposes the Equal Rights Amendment to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender. It has never been ratified.


The Necessity of Other Social Movements to the Struggle for Woman Suffrage

Figure 1. Brass antislavery token dated 1838. Such tokens were sold at fundraising events organized by female antislavery activists.

Courtesy of The Library Company of Philadelphia, http://www.librarycompany.org.

American women’s struggle for the vote, a profoundly important chapter in the story of American democracy, did not unfold as an independent plot. Instead, the woman suffrage movement emerged from and was continually fed by other social movements and political causes. [1] Between the 1830s and 1920, women’s enfranchisement was intimately connected to such crusades as the struggle for racial justice, the women’s rights movement, the campaign to regulate alcohol, and the labor movement. [2] For some women, involvement in these social movements created the very desire for the vote for many, it honed skills necessary to building a political movement. At various points, factions within those social movements became allies of the suffrage campaign, expanding its base of support. Many of these movements circulated ideas about human rights and democracy that prompted increasing numbers of Americans to advocate women’s enfranchisement. In all these ways, other reform movements were crucial to the victories of woman suffrage.

The antebellum period (the years before the Civil War), awash in religious fervor, economic upheaval, and debates over the meaning of the American Revolution, generated many potent reform movements. Women’s participation in these movements often nudged them beyond the domestic sphere, accepted in the early nineteenth century as women’s natural place, and sometimes eroded their acceptance of social norms that required women’s subordination to men. In the 1840s and 1850s, a women’s rights movement coalesced from a wide array of antebellum reform drives and eventually produced a sustained struggle for woman suffrage.

The antislavery movement, the most significant antebellum reform effort, proved a powerful generator of women’s rights activism. A fundamental institution of American life at the birth of the republic, slavery became ever more central to the US economy during the early nineteenth century. Organized opposition to slavery emerged first among free Blacks in the North, as well as Quakers, Unitarians, and evangelical Christians, both Black and white. Radical abolitionism publicly debuted in 1829 when African American David Walker published Walker’s Appeal, In Four Articles, a forceful critique of slavery and racial discrimination. Two years later, white New Englander William Lloyd Garrison began publishing the Liberator, and, in 1833, he joined with other opponents of slavery to form the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). The AASS demanded the immediate abolition of slavery and full civil rights for African Americans. Its broad commitment to human rights opened the AASS to overtures by women for voice and leadership: over one hundred local women’s affiliates joined the cause. [3] (Figure 1)

The Liberator demonstrated its openness to women in 1831 when it published an essay by Maria Stewart , a free Black woman, who condemned slavery as well as discrimination against free Blacks and women. Stewart urged free Black men, “sue for your rights and privileges,” and she asked, “How long shall the fair daughters of Africa be compelled to bury their minds and talents beneath a load of iron pots and kettles?” [4] When a Boston antislavery society invited Stewart to speak in 1832, she became the first American-born woman to address an audience of both women and men. By doing so, Stewart violated social conventions that forbade women from speaking before what was termed a “promiscuous” audience. Women might speak before a gathering of women in their parlors or churches, but an audience of both women and men outraged propriety. Although Stewart left Boston in 1833, disappointed that the city seemed to reject her leadership, the publication of her works by the Liberator assured that her anti-racist, abolitionist feminism reached beyond Boston, and her public addresses set a precedent for other female activists. [5]

Figure 2. Charlotte Forten Grimké, member of a prominent African American family in Philadelphia. The women of the Forten family, including Charlotte’s mother, grandmother, and three aunts, were central to founding the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.

Courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library.

Stewart’s ideas certainly resonated with those of the interracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society founded the very year that Stewart left Boston. Philadelphia was a hotbed of antislavery activism in part because of its vital Quaker community, which was inclined to egalitarian social relations by the belief that God dwelled in every person. [6] Quaker egalitarianism even helped to convert two women born to the southern plantation elite, Angelina and Sarah Grimké , to antislavery activism. In 1836, after living in Philadelphia for several years, the sisters took up the abolitionist cause and soon scandalized many Americans by speaking before gender- and race-integrated audiences, as Maria Stewart had. Their audacity provoked violent opposition. [7]

The belief of many women in the antislavery movement that God called them to the cause weakened their acceptance of cultural prohibitions against women’s public activism. [8] Some antislavery activists even began to see the exclusion of women from public life as a violation of women’s own human rights. By 1838, Sarah Grimké came to the conclusion that “Men and women were CREATED EQUAL they are both moral and accountable beings and whatever is right for man to do, is right for woman.” [9] Some of those who could not countenance this perfect equality of women and men nevertheless questioned limitations on women’s freedom to work publicly to benefit others. After all, dominant ideals of womanhood assumed women’s selflessness and innate moral perspicacity. If God granted women special moral insight, some asked, did it make sense to ban women from public life, which so desperately needed moral leadership? (Figure 2)

So contentious did women’s roles become among abolitionists that they split over the issue in 1840. Those accepting women’s rights as a legitimate commitment for their movement remained in the AASS, and those opposed formed the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. From that point on, women such as Lucretia Mott and Lydia Maria Child were elected officers of the AASS, and others, including Susan B. Anthony , were hired as paid organizers. [10] In this way, the antislavery movement became a significant node in the emerging network of activists demanding greater power and scope for American women.

There were many other nodes. One was the labor movement. Textile manufacturing industrialized in the early nineteenth century and recruited young women from rural families to work in the new cloth-making mills that dotted New England. In the 1830s, those earliest of America’s industrial workers staged strikes against deteriorating working conditions, claiming a public voice and presence for working women. [11] In that same decade, both Black and white women, working and middle class, joined a movement for moral reform. These activists decried social norms that allowed respectable men to frequent brothels while condemning prostitutes as hopeless sinners. Moral reformers wanted men held to the same chaste standard as women and to offer alternative employment opportunities to poor women. This movement critiqued the existing gender system and slid some women reformers into public life. [12] Like moral reform, the temperance movement urged men to control their desire for pleasure, in this case by abstaining from drunkenness. Some women saw temperance as an issue on which they must take a public stand in order to protect their families from domestic violence and poverty. The antebellum temperance movement became another site for reimagining women’s proper place in society and giving some women experience in public speaking and movement organizing. [13]

The antebellum period also witnessed independent campaigns explicitly for women’s rights. Frances Wright began lecturing about the equality of women and men soon after her immigration to the United States from Scotland in the 1820s. Her efforts produced no sustained following, probably because she rejected marriage and supported racial equality. [14] But other, more focused drives won adherents. Calls for equal access to education and employment, for instance, drew broader support. [15] Demands for equal pay resonated powerfully among women teachers. [16] Agitation for married women’s property rights gained momentum when, in 1836, Ernestine Rose, a Jewish immigrant from Poland by way of England, campaigned in New York for a law aimed at securing married women’s property rights. The proposal represented change because, when women in the United States married, they generally lost control of their property and even the wages they earned. Husbands controlled all under the legal doctrine of coverture, which said that women had no independent legal identity once married. In the 1840s, emerging feminists Paulina Wright and Elizabeth Cady Stanton joined Rose in lobbying for married women’s economic rights in New York, where they achieved partial success in 1848 and a broader triumph in 1860. [17]

Figure 3. Presentation Committee of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Illinois, ca. 1879. Frances Willard, president of the WCTU from 1879 to1898, is in the center of this photograph, which also features one of the organization’s home protection petitions.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

At the same time, Stanton, a privileged and brilliant mother deeply dissatisfied with the restrictions on antebellum women’s lives, imagined a broader agenda. Strong ties to antislavery Quakers made it possible for Stanton to organize support for her vision of greater equality for women. Her activist friends included Lucretia Mott, whom Stanton had first met in 1840 at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, Martha Coffin Wright , Mott’s sister, Mary Ann and Elizabeth M’Clintock , and Jane Hunt . Together, these women called the first women’s rights convention in US history. It convened at Seneca Falls, New York , in July 1848. Over three hundred participants, men and women, Black and white, attended that historic two-day meeting. They debated the Declaration of Sentiments , a sweeping list of demands for women’s advancement, which ranged from equal access to education and professions to married women’s property rights and access to divorce—as well as the vote. All the demands passed unanimously except the call for suffrage. Only passionate advocacy by Stanton and antislavery activist Frederick Douglass saved that item from the scrap heap. Clearly, suffrage was not, in the 1840s, a central issue even for many women’s rights advocates. Nevertheless, the vote commonly appeared on the agendas of national women’s rights conventions that began in 1850. [18]

Suffrage became a central concern of the women’s rights movement because of the allied movement for racial justice. The US Civil War interrupted the campaign for women’s rights between 1861 and 1865, but once slavery was legally abolished and the US Congress began to debate the civil and political rights of freed people, women’s rights agitation reemerged. During a congressional push for the protection of Black men’s voting rights, some advocates of African American and women’s rights formed the American Equal Rights Association to press for the simultaneous enfranchisement of Black men and all women. (By that point, the states had generally enfranchised all white men.) When it became clear, however, that Congress would, through the Fifteenth Amendment, protect the voting rights of Black men but not those of women, some women’s rights activists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, refused to support it and formed the National Woman Suffrage Association to push for a Sixteenth Amendment enfranchising women. Activists committed to maintaining the alliance between the movements for racial justice and women’s rights, especially Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe , formed the American Woman Suffrage Association, which supported the Fifteenth Amendment and mounted state-level battles for women’s enfranchisement. Not until 1890 would the two groups reunite in the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which became the principal woman suffrage organization in the decades leading to ratification of Nineteenth Amendment. [19] By that time, the alliance between the movements for racial justice and women’s rights was severely attenuated.

As women’s rights advocates split over their relationship to racial justice, the woman suffrage effort received a boost from another social movement, the temperance crusade. Founded in the 1870s, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) became the largest women’s organization in the late nineteenth century. Especially strong in the Midwest and South, the WCTU focused on closing saloons through nonviolent direct action and laws limiting the sale of alcohol. In 1876, one of the WCTU’s leaders, Frances Willard , concluded that women would have greater power to win temperance legislation if they had the vote. She did not claim the franchise as a right, however, but as a necessity for fulfilling women’s domestic duties. While in prayer, Willard wrote in her autobiography, she received the revelation that she should “speak for the woman’s ballot as a weapon of protection to her home.” [20] With that framing, in 1881 Willard convinced the WCTU to endorse woman suffrage. (Figure 3) As a result, many socially conservative women began to support their own voting rights, expanding the movement’s base. [21] Indeed, because so many women backed temperance, the Prohibition Party endorsed woman suffrage in 1872 and remained a staunch supporter of the movement for decades.

Figure 4. Rose Schneiderman, who emigrated from eastern Europe as a child, became an important labor leader in New York and a much-sought-after suffrage speaker. She helped to win full suffrage for women in New York in 1917.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Populist Party was another third-party advocate of votes for women. A coalition of farmers, workers, and small business owners opposed to the control of the US economy by an eastern corporate elite, the Populist Party in 1892 proposed a set of policies intended to broaden American democracy and democratize the US economy. The enfranchisement of women was on that agenda. The victory of woman suffrage in Colorado in 1893 can be directly credited to the Populists, and several men in Colorado, including juvenile court judge Benjamin Lindsey, became national spokesmen for women’s enfranchisement. [22]

Although the Populist Party disappeared into the Democratic Party in 1896, many of its commitments were absorbed by the Progressive movement that emerged in the 1890s and dominated American politics in the early twentieth century. The Progressive movement began in diffuse local initiatives aimed to diminish the egregious inequalities of wealth and power created by new national corporations. By the 1890s, these economic behemoths controlled entire sectors of the US economy and wielded substantial political power. Women were prominent among local reformers who tried to rein in corporate power through state laws to limit working hours, regulate child labor, and institute factory safety measures. Those same reformers also expanded public education, built public playgrounds, and created a juvenile justice system. They eventually created a federal income tax and public programs to reduce maternal and infant mortality. By the 1910s, many women in the Progressive movement were national political leaders, including Mary Church Terrell , first president of the National Association of Colored Women Jane Addams , champion of working-class families Florence Kelley, head of the National Consumers League and Ida B. Wells-Barnett , anti-lynching crusader and cofounder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). [23]

As millions of American women worked passionately in the Progressive movement, many came to believe, as had so many female abolitionists and temperance advocates, that they needed the vote in order to succeed in their other reform efforts. Some also believed that women deserved the vote as a matter of right. Either way, these reformers swelled the ranks of the woman suffrage movement. Their visibility and effectiveness as reformers also meant that Progressive men increasingly supported votes for women. In fact, the Progressive Party of 1912, an enormously important third-party effort, endorsed woman suffrage, and its presidential nominee, former president Theodore Roosevelt, proclaimed that women would participate in the Progressive Party on a basis of “absolute equality” with men. [24]

Although African American suffragists worked vigorously for the cause in the early twentieth century, the deterioration of US race relations after 1890—embodied in brutal measures to segregate the races and disfranchise African American men in the South—meant that suffragists worked mostly in racially segregated organizations between 1890 and 1920. While white suffragists, including some who expressly opposed the enfranchisement of Black women, increased the membership of NAWSA to two million, many Black women worked for the vote through multifocus organizations such as the National Association of Colored Women or the Women’s Convention of the Black Baptist Church. Ida B. Wells-Barnett founded the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago, which contributed mightily to the victory of woman suffrage in Illinois (1913). The NAACP, organized in 1909–10, became an important forum for suffrage activism that included both woman suffrage and the reenfranchisement of Black men in the South. [25]

Women in the labor movement and Socialist Party also expanded support for woman suffrage in the early twentieth century. Immigrant women in New York’s garment industry, including Clara Lemlich, Rose Schneiderman, and Pauline Newman, agitated for the vote. (Figure 4) Although many male labor leaders and Socialists supported woman suffrage in principle, they did not make it a priority. Indeed, many belittled woman suffrage as a middle-class issue. But leaders among the dramatically increasing group of working women argued that wage-earning women needed the vote. Only with suffrage, they insisted, could working women hope for equal pay, safe work places, and humane hours. In 1909, working-class suffragists generated a major debate about their cause within New York’s labor community, and in 1911 they formed the Wage Earners’ League for Woman Suffrage. [26] One of the league’s flyers asked, “Why are you paid less than a man? Why do you work in a fire trap? Why are your hours so long?” The answer: “Because you are a woman and have no vote. Votes make the law. The law controls conditions. Women who want better conditions must vote.” [27] Woman suffrage triumphed in New York in 1917 partly because so many working-class men voted yes. [28] Similar agitation occurred elsewhere to such an extent that throughout the 1910s, working-class men memorialized Congress to pass a woman suffrage amendment to the Constitution. [29] Likewise in the territories, where, Puerto Rican labor activist Luisa Capetillo argued so effectively for woman suffrage that by 1908 the island’s Free Federation of Workers endorsed women’s enfranchisement, and wage-earning women and the Socialist Party were among the most ardent suffrage activists. [30]

Relationships between the woman suffrage movement and other social movements were sometimes wrenching: witness the conflict over the Fifteenth Amendment and the racial and class segregation of most suffrage organizations in the early twentieth century. Even so, the suffrage movement owed its existence and much of its gradually increasing strength to other reform movements. A host of antebellum reform efforts drew female adherents out of the domestic sphere, challenging prevailing gender conventions and motivating many to ask questions about all the restrictions on their lives. The accumulation of those questions—and experience with writing, speaking, and organizing—produced a women’s movement that eventually put suffrage front and center. Moreover, the fervent desire to change American life—whether by increasing women’s wages or decreasing alcohol consumption—encouraged many women between the 1830s and 1920 to desire the vote as an important tool in their quest to perfect the union. Male colleagues in those reform movements increasingly perceived the value to their own political causes of enfranchising the women who worked alongside them. In sum, other reform movements were crucial to the victory of votes for women.

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Women’s Suffrage In Europe

The first country to grant national-level voting rights to women was the self-governing British colony of New Zealand, which passed the Electoral Bill in September 1893. The British colony of South Australia granted full suffrage in 1894, giving women the right to vote and to stand for parliament. Australia federated in 1901 and country-wide women’s suffrage followed quickly in 1902 however, women of Australia’s indigenous people were specifically excluded until 1949, when the right to vote in federal elections was granted to all indigenous people. Remaining restrictions were abolished in 1962.

Other countries followed soon after New Zealand, with limited rights granted to women in Sweden, Britain, Finland, and some U.S. states by the early 20th century. When World War I began in 1914, many suffrage organizations shifted their focus to supporting the war effort, although some activists continued to fight for suffrage. Because of manpower shortages in warring countries, women took on many roles traditionally held by men and changed the dominant idea of what women were capable of doing, giving further momentum to the suffrage movement. Britain’s Parliament passed the Eligibility of Women Act in November 1918, which allowed women to be elected to Parliament. Ten years later, the Representation of the People Act granted women the right to vote. Following a path similar to Britain’s, many countries—Denmark, Iceland, the USSR, the Netherlands, Canada, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, the United States—had granted the vote to women by 1920.

Other European countries did not grant women the right to vote until much later—Spain in 1931, France in 1944, and Belgium, Italy, Romania, and Yugoslavia in 1946. Later still were Switzerland (1971) and Liechtenstein (1984). In Latin America, national suffrage was granted to women between 1929 (Ecuador) and 1946 (Argentina). In Africa, the right to vote was generally conferred on both men and women as colonial rule ended and nations became independent—the same is true for India, which granted universal suffrage with its constitution in 1949. Middle Eastern countries granted women the right to vote after World War II, although some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, do not have suffrage at all or have limited suffrage and exclude women completely (Kuwait).


Progressive Era: 1890–1920s: Women Suffrage

The story of woman’s suffrage in California, like that of the nation, is one of individual women who stepped into leadership roles in their communities and inspired other women to join them. Ellen Clark Sargent arrived in California with her husband in 1852 and quickly began to pursue her political interests. She founded the first suffrage group in Nevada City in 1869. At the same time, she began persuading her husband, Aaron Augustus Sargent, who had become a U.S. Senator, to introduce a 29-word amendment granting women the vote. That amendment was defeated in 1878, but in 1920, the same 29 words resurfaced and became the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

On the state level, the California legislature passed a bill in 1893 giving women the right to vote, but the governor vetoed it claiming that female suffrage was unconstitutional. Three years later suffrage supporters, while continuing an alliance with Republicans, unions and prohibitionists, took the issue directly to the people as a referendum. It was defeated by a vote of 137,099 to 110,355, with southern California counties voting in support and Alameda and San Francisco counties voting no, partly as a result of influence from liquor distillers and saloons. As a result of this defeat, suffragists knew where their support and their opposition lay. They used this knowledge to begin another campaign. In 1910, the California Republican Party platform officially adopted progressive reforms, including universal suffrage, for the upcoming statewide election.

Mary Keith, president of Berkeley Political Equality Society in 1902, inspired women to keep fighting after the 1896 defeat. She lectured, recruited suffragists, and personally lobbied state politicians. Through her leadership, more and more women were inspired to become publicly active. They joined women’s clubs, which had been established all over the state. Many of these clubs, initially formed for socializing and self improvement, turned their attention to suffrage, becoming one of the essential ingredients for the movement’s ultimate success.

After being left out of the original organizations working towards universal suffrage, black women began to form their own women’s clubs in Oakland and Los Angeles in 1895. Naomi Bowman Talbert Anderson spent much of her adult life in the Midwest before moving to California in 1895. While raising her family and working as a hairdresser, Anderson lectured, wrote poetry and newspaper articles, supporting temperance and advocating women’s rights. As a result, she received praise from Susan B. Anthony for her work promoting the suffrage movement in San Francisco.

Maud Younger, another suffragist in San Francisco, became involved in reform work. Unlike her middle and upper class colleagues, Maud Younger worked as a waitress and a union organizer in San Francisco. She also helped found the Wage Earner’s Equal Suffrage League in 1909, representing working women in her suffrage work. One of the more colorful suffragists, Miss Younger became recognizable from her women’s parade float pulled by six horses, which she drove herself. In 1915, Alice Paul, suffragist leader of the National Women’s Party, tapped Maud Younger to be her lieutenant in the campaign for national suffrage.

At the same time, other were working to oppose the efforts of the suffragists. Mrs. Mary Casewell and Mrs. George S. Patton (mother of the WW II general) were leaders of California’s anti suffrage association, and for every strategy and publicity point scored by the suffragists, they countered with the opposite. They attacked suffragists through fear, inviting male voters to imagine themselves coming home to dirty diapers, dishes in the sink and an uncooked dinner while their wives were on a jury with 11 other men deciding the fate of society’s worst elements. Furthermore, the anti suffragists argued that women were not fit either physically or intellectually for politics. Women who voted, they said, would become less feminine, less modest, and definitely less dignified.

In Southern California, Katherine Philips Edson was politically active through the Friday Morning Club in southern California, one of the hundreds of women’s clubs throughout the state allied with suffrage. In 1909 she joined John H. Braly, a Los Angeles progressive, to form the California Political Equality League, one of the most important suffrage organizations in the state, opened to both men and women. Mrs. Edson became one of the state’s leading progressives. In 1920, she was a California representative to the national Republican Party Convention.

Women, by 1920, had come such a long way from the first National Women’s Convention in 1848. During that convention, Frederick Douglass and others observed the roar of dissention that rose, when one woman after another objected to adopting a resolution giving them the right to vote. They simply could not conceive of having the right to vote. “Suffrage,” Douglass went on to say, “is the power to choose rulers and make laws, and the right by which all others are secured.”


Women's Suffrage and Women's Rights

The years 2019 and 2020 in Wyoming mark anniversaries of crucial milestones in women’s rights. In 1869, 150 years ago, Wyoming’s territorial legislature passed a law granting women the right to vote, and Gov. John Campbell signed the bill into law on Dec. 10. The following year, in March, women first served on juries in Laramie and on Sept. 6, 1870, also in Laramie, Louisa Swain became the first Wyoming woman to cast a ballot under the world’s first law granting women equal and unrestricted voting rights with men. On Jan. 27, 1920, Wyoming became the 27th state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment became part of the Constitution when Tennessee ratified it on August 18 of that year, making votes for women the law of the land. And on January 26, 1973, Wyoming became the 23rd state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

But there’s far more to the story than these bare facts suggest. See below for links to articles about the events and people involved, texts of the territorial legislation and of the part of the Wyoming Constitution that confirmed voting rights for women in 1890, a list of firsts for women in Wyoming, a map locating historic Wyoming sites related to women’s suffrage and much, much more.

And finally, the Wyoming Office of Tourism designated 2019 as “The Year of Wyoming Women,” to celebrate the anniversaries. Find more at “Wyoming: Home of the Women’s Vote.”

Do check back, as we will be adding more content on these topics throughout the year.


Watch the video: The History of Exclusion in the Womens Suffrage Movement