the place later known as Seneca Falls,
New York, Iroquois women stage a protest against irresponsible warfare. They
refuse to make love or bear children unless their voices are heard on whether to
wage war. Colonial women of European descent note that Iroquois women and
men share power almost equally.
Fox (1624-1691), English Dissenter and a founder of the Religious Society of
Friends (commonly known as the Quakers or Friends), writes “To Friends
beyond the sea that have Blacks and Indian Slaves.” He reminds them that
Quakers who own slaves should be merciful and should remember that God “hath
made all Nations of one Blood.” Quakers also believe that all men and women
are equal in the eyes of God. Fox initiates three centuries of Quaker debate and
activism over slavery and Quakers contribute significantly to the women’s
suffrage movement. Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), a prominent Massachusetts Quaker,
was a pioneer in both efforts.
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Century -- Plantocracy and White Male Rule
plantocracy in colonial America may have been less horrific than
the brutality recorded in the West Indies by Thomas Thistlewood (1721-1786)
in his 14,000 page diary, but “the bottom line” was that all slaves were
controlled through force and/or terror. The economic value of plantation slavery
in the United States was magnified in 1793 with the invention of the cotton gin
by Eli Whitney. The Quakers played a crucial role in changing public opinion in
England and in colonial and independent America in abolition societies.
Education in the Thirteen Colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries varied
considerably depending on location, race, gender, and social class. With very
few exceptions, white males had more educational opportunity than any other
group of people in the colonies. The New England Puritans had valued education
for the sake of religious study and for economic success. Secondary schools were
rare outside of major towns. Higher education began with the founding of Harvard
in 1636. The first colleges were strictly for men, and primarily white men.
Overwhelmingly rural, the South had few schools of any sort until the
Wealthy children studied with private tutors; many poor
and middling white children as virtually all black children went unschooled. In
French colonial Louisiana, however, more importance was placed on the education
of girls than that of boys because it was felt that it was going to be females
that brought French civilization and sophistication to the colony and that it
was more important for boys to be educated in their future trade than to receive
formal education. Common schooling would not emerge until the 1830s.
Chapin Taft (1712-1778) becomes the first woman legally allowed to vote in
colonial America. Because of the landowner and taxpayer status of her
husband Josiah in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, upon his untimely death, she
is permitted to vote at three town meetings.
colonies adopt the English system of property ownership for married women as
stated by Judge John Wilford Blackstone: “By marriage, the husband and wife
are one person in the law. The very being and legal existence of the woman is
suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated into that of her
husband under whose wing and protection she performs everything.” As a result,
women cannot own property in their own names nor keep their own earnings.
is a contentious issue in U.S. politics during this entire period. It
becomes a topic of heated debate in the drafting of the Constitution and
an unresolved issue until the Civil War. In 1767 the Newport Mercury
publishes the first poem by Phyllis Wheatley (1753-c.1784), the first
African-American woman whose writings are published and the first one to publish
a book, Poems on Various Subjects in 1774. She becomes a sensation
in Boston in the 1760s. In the 1830s, abolitionists reprint her poetry and
March 31, Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John, who is attending the
Continental Congress in Philadelphia: “Remember, all men would be tyrants if
they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are
determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound to any laws
in which we have no voice or representation.”
But starting in 1777, laws
are passed in the original thirteen states that prohibit women from voting.
Women will lose the right to vote in New York (1777), in Massachusetts (1780),
in New Hampshire (1784). Following
the American Revolution (1775-1783), women were allowed to vote only in New
Jersey provided they met property requirements then in place, from 1790 until
1807. In 1807, women were again forbidden from voting in New Jersey, the last
state to revoke the right.
1787 The United States
Constitutional Convention places voting qualifications in the hands of the
states. When the Constitution is written, only white male property owners
(about 10 to 16 percent of the nation's population) have the vote. Women in all states, except New Jersey, lose
the right to vote.
modern movement for women’s suffrage is considered to have originated in
France, where Antoine Condorcet and Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793) advocated
women’s suffrage in national elections. De Gouges publishes Declaration des
Droits de la Femme et de la Citoyenne in this same year that Mary
Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
The latter is thought to have begun the
struggle to achieve equal rights for women in the English-speaking world.
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Century -- Stereotypes Hold Sway
Americans, in general, hold highly stereotypical notions about
women’s and men’s roles in society. What historians would later term
“The Cult of Domesticity” is evident from a variety of printed sources
published during this period -- advice manuals, poetry and literature, sermons,
and medical texts. The Cult of Domesticity was a prevailing view among upper and
middle class women during the nineteenth century in both Great Britain and the
United States. Women were “supposed to embody perfect virtue in all senses.”
Women were put in the center of the domestic sphere and “True Women” were to
hold the four cardinal virtues: piety, purity, submission, and domesticity.
“Without them...all was ashes. With them she was promised happiness and
Godey’s Lady’s Book
(1830-1898), the most widely
circulated women’s magazine in the United States and one with “an influence
unimaginable for any single publication today,” encouraged motherhood as a
religious obligation: “The perfection of womanhood…is the wife and mother,
the center of the family, that magnet that draws man to the domestic altar, that
makes him a civilized being, a social Christian.” One historian suggests that
in the nineteenth century: “any form of social change was tantamount to an
attack on woman’s virtue.”
struggle for women's suffrage in America is said to have begun in the 1820s
with the writings of the wealthy Frances “Fanny” Wright (1795-1852). Born
in Scotland, the controversial lecturer, writer, freethinker, abolitionist and
social reformer, emigrated to the United States in 1818 and toured from 1818 to
1820. Wright became the first woman to lecture publicly before a mixed audience
when she delivered an Independence Day speech at New Harmony, Indiana in 1828.
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1830s -- Movements
Begin to Emerge
abolition of slavery and the women’s suffrage movement are closely linked.
Many women who fought for the abolition of slavery fought for women’s rights
and vice versa from the 1770s through the 1860s. Slave importation had become
illegal in 1808. After 1830, a religious movement led by William Lloyd Garrison
declared slavery to be a personal sin. The highly controversial movement was a
factor in causing the American Civil War.
During the decade of the 1830s, the
participation of women’s anti-slavery activities reached its height when
American women engaged in a massive petition campaign and organized female
anti-slavery societies (FASS). The first FASS was formed
in 1832 in Salem, Massachusetts. FASS proliferated after the founding of the
American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia in 1833. In 1837, an
Antislavery Convention of American Women met in New York City with both black
and white women participating. Eighty-one delegates from twelve states attended.
In 1837 the “Pastoral Letter of the
General Association of Massachusetts to the Congressional Churches under Their
Care” is promulgated against women speaking in public against slavery. In a
period when the white male was “superior,” women like Sojourner Truth
(c.1797-1883), the Grimké sisters: Sarah (1792-1873) and Angelina (1805-1879),
Harriet Tubman (c.1820-1913), Sarah Parker Remond (1826-1894), and many others,
thought otherwise. These women fought against the voice of the majority
for the rights and freedoms of the minority “in an age when ‘respectable’
women did not speak in public."
The role of women in the abolition movement
divided the male dominated society. The formation of 230 female anti-slavery
societies between 1832 and 1859 has been documented. Members
faced not only criticism and ridicule but also mob violence. Abolitionists would
face increased antagonism by the end of the 1850s. Frederick
Douglass claimed the unity of the anti-slavery cause and the fight for women's
rights, saying: "When the true history of the antislavery cause shall be
written, women will occupy a large space in its pages, for the cause of the
slave has been peculiarly woman's cause."
“As common schooling emerged in the
1830s, providing white children of all classes and ethnicities with the
opportunity to become full-fledged citizens, it redefined citizenship as
synonymous with whiteness. This link between school and American identity
increased white hostility to black education at the same time that it spurred
African Americans to demand public schooling as a means of securing status as
full and equal members of society.” [Hilary
J. Moss. Schooling Citizens: The Struggle for African American Education in
beginning of the American woman’s reform movement is
considered by some to date with the decision of Reverend Charles
Grandison Finney (1792-1875), a Presbyterian and Congregationalist figure in the
“Second Great Awakening” (1790-1840s). Finney began allowing women to pray
aloud in gatherings of men and women, a challenge to women’s traditional roles
in religion. There would be much ferment about various social issues during the
1830s and 1840s, which has been referred to as the First Reform Era. Temperance
was another important part of this period. Some 6,000 temperance groups had been
established by the 1830s. By 1855, 13 of the 31 states had temperance, or
alcohol prohibition, laws. An important influence on suffragists as well was the
abolition of property qualifications for white men voters between 1812-1860, a
result of the “Jacksonian democracy” of Andrew Jackson’s presidency
between 1829 and 1837.
associations that encourage the full participation of women are organized
by abolitionist and journalist William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879). Garrison’s
ideas were not welcomed by a majority of other abolitionists, the result of
which is a split within the abolitionist movement.
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 (1818-1893) and Antoinette Brown (1825-1921). Stone becomes
prominent in the abolitionist and suffrage moments. Brown will be the first
woman to be ordained as a minister in the United States and uses her religious
faith in her efforts to expand women’s rights.
B. Anthony (1820-1906) begins teaching at age 15 in rural New York State.
She discovers her weekly salary is equal to one-fifth that of her male
colleagues. When she protests this inequality, she loses her job. Because of
“expected behaviors,” women are assumed to make better teachers and thus
teaching is one of the first out-of-home jobs for women. One estimate is that
one quarter of all native-born New England women were schoolteachers at some
point in their lives between 1825 and 1860.
first Antislavery Convention of American Women meets in New York City
on May 9 with approximately 200 women, both black and white participating. The
convention is a monumental step for both the women's rights movement and the
abolition movement as a whole.
Grimké sisters become the first women to address a meeting of the Massachusetts
state legislature. Sarah (1792-1873) and Angelina (1805-1879) speak about
slavery and abolitionism based on their experience with slavery on their
family’s South Carolina plantation. As a result of their experiences of abuse
and ridicule in response to their public efforts, they became early activists in
the women’s rights movement.
World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 represents a significant
development in the history of the women’s suffrage movement. When
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) and Lucretia Mott travel to London as
convention delegates, they along with British women participants, are refused
permission to speak at the meeting on account of their gender. Stanton
later recalls: "We resolved to hold a convention as soon as we returned
home, and form a society to advocate the rights of women."
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-- And Merge
This year, Abby Kelley (1811-1887) becomes the first woman
ever elected to a position in the American Anti-Slavery Society. She works
closely with William Lloyd Garrison. Because her election angered many
abolitionists who did not want women in positions of authority, it resulted in
the formation of a new organization, the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery
Society. Those who remained in the old organization with Garrison widened their
reform agenda to include women’s rights. Women were beginning to learn
critical fundraising, speaking, and organizational skills while agitating for
the abolition of slavery. Many would apply these same skills to their work for
of the first permanent labor associations for working women in the United States
is organized. Female textile workers in Massachusetts organize the Lowell
Female Labor Reform Association and demand a 10-hour workday.
Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) publishes Woman in the Nineteenth
Century. It is considered the first major feminist work in the
United States. Fuller was an advocate of women's rights and, in particular,
women's education and the right to employment. By the time she was in her 30s,
Fuller had earned a reputation as the best-read person in New England. Fuller
was the first woman allowed to use the library at Harvard College.
is believed to be the first ever women’s suffrage leaflet is published by the English Quaker Anne Knight (1786-1862). Knight, outraged by the behavior
of male leaders at the 1840 London anti-slavery convention, starts a campaign
advocating equal rights for women.
many years before 1848, American women had manifested considerable discontent
with their lot. They wrote and read domestic novels in which a thin
veneer of sentiment overlaid a great deal of anger about women’s dependence on
undependable men. They attended female academies and formed ladies’ benevolent
societies, in which they pursued the widest range of interests and activities
they could imagine without calling into question the whole notion of
‘woman’s sphere.’ In such settings, they probed the experiences that
united and restrained them -- what one historian has called ‘the bonds of
womanhood.’ Yet women’s discontent remained unexamined, implicit, and above
all disorganized. Although increasing numbers of women were questioning what it
meant to be a woman and were ready to challenge their traditional position, they
did not yet know each other. The women’s rights movement crystallized these
sentiments into a feminist politics.” (Ellen
Carol Dubois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent
Women’s Movement in America, 1848-1869. Cornell, 1978.)
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The first women’s rights convention in
the United States, The Seneca Falls Convention, is held at Seneca Falls,
New York, July 19-20, 1848. It is the direct result of the 1840 Anti-Slavery
Convention in England. While women’s participation in reform efforts was
growing along with discontent, the “bonds of womanhood” were fragmented and
without leadership. The Seneca meeting would change that. It is considered the
moment when the push for women’s suffrage first gained national prominence and
initiates the “first-wave feminism.” Thereafter, women’s rights meetings
are held on a regular basis and the “sacred right to the elective franchise”
become their focus.
The convention was the result of a social
meeting a few days earlier between Mott, Stanton, Martha C. Wright, Mary Ann
McClintock, and Jane Hunt, all Quakers except Stanton. The women decided to call
for a convention “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and
rights of woman.” Fresh in their minds was the April passage of the
long-deliberated New York Married Woman's Property Rights Act, a
significant but far from comprehensive piece of legislation.
To the thirty-two-year old Stanton fell the
task of drawing up the Declaration of Sentiments and eleven resolutions
that will define the meeting. Taking the Declaration of Independence as
her guide, Stanton submitted that: "all men and women had been created
equal" and went on to list eighteen "injuries and usurpations" --
the same number of charges leveled against the King of England--"on the
part of man toward woman." Stanton made the argument that women had a
natural right to equality in all spheres. The ninth resolution held forth the
radical assertion that it was the duty of women to secure for themselves the
right to vote. Stanton saw clearly that “the power to make the laws was the
right through which all other rights could be secured.”
Not many people had
been expected, but a crowd of about three hundred people, including forty men,
predominantly Quakers, came from five miles round. Frederick Douglass,
then publisher of the anti-slavery North Star, attended. A vigorous
discussion sprang up regarding women's right to vote, with many including Mott
urging the removal of this concept, but Douglass argued eloquently for its
inclusion—that women of all races needed to make strides and obtain their
rights together, and the suffrage resolution was retained. One hundred attendees
signed the document, 68 women and all 32 men who attended. Many people respected
the courage and abilities behind the drafting of the Declaration, but
were unwilling to abandon conventional mindsets.
Newspaper editors were so scandalized by
the shameless audacity of the Declaration of Sentiments, and particularly
of the ninth resolution -- women demanding the vote -- that they attacked the
women with all the vitriol they could muster. The backlash began when the
women's rights movement was only one day old. An article in the Oneida Whig
published soon after the convention described the document as "the most
shocking and unnatural event ever recorded in the history of womanity."
Many newspapers insisted that the Declaration was drafted at the expense
of women's more appropriate duties. At a time when temperance and female
property rights were major issues, even many supporters of women's rights
believed the Declaration's endorsement of women's suffrage would hinder
the nascent women's rights movement, causing it to lose much needed public
But those who attended the meeting agreed to hold an
Convention two weeks later in Rochester New York, August 2. Abigail Bush (c.
1810-c. 1899) chaired the public meeting, a first for an American woman. By 1851
and the second National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester,
Massachusetts, the women’s right to vote was no longer at issue -- it had become
a central tenet of the women’s rights movement.
This same year, 1848, African-American
Benjamin F. Roberts is incensed that his five-year-old daughter Sarah is turned
away from five white schools near her Boston home and is forced to attend the
poor and densely crowded all black school far away. He files suit: Roberts
vs. Boston (1848-1849). This case was of extreme importance because it was
the first trial case law against segregated schools in the country. It
indirectly related to the 1855 ban of segregated schools in Massachusetts. The
case was later cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson,
which established the “separate but equal” standard. Segregated schools
would not be banned nationally until 1954.
Tubman (c. 1820 or 1821-1913) escapes from slavery in Maryland north into
Pennsylvania. Over the next ten years she will lead many slaves to freedom by
the Underground Railroad. When the far-reaching United States Fugitive Slave
Law was passed in 1850 that forced law enforcement officials (even in states
which had outlawed slavery) to aid in the capture of fugitive slaves, and
imposed heavy punishments on those who abetted escape, Tubman helped guide
fugitives farther north into Canada. Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), now 29,
begins to take part in conventions and gatherings related to the temperance
movement, which existed alongside various women’s rights movements.
In 1849, Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894) begins
to publish The Lily, initially devoted to the cause of temperance, but
later it focuses on women’s rights. In the April 1851 issue, Bloomer advocates
that women abandon their unhealthy tight stays, impractical long skirts, and
restrictive petticoats for a new mode of dress consisting of a loose tunic and
short skirt over Turkish-style pantaloons that came to be known as the bloomer
custom. The bloomer received so much attention, and the dress reformers so much
ridicule, that the reformers were forced to return to their conventional dress.
In The Ladies Wreath, a monthly periodical published from 1846 to 1862, a
young lady is represented in dialogue with her “professor.” The girl
expresses admiration for the bloomer custom—it gives freedom of motion, is
healthy, and attractive. The professor sets her straight. Trousers, he explains,
are “only one of the many manifestations of that wild spirit of socialism and
agrarian radicalism which is so rife in our land.”
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) becomes the first woman to receive a medical
degree in the U.S. Women are permitted to practice medicine legally for
the first time.
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Acquires National Stature
The first (1850) and the
second (1851) National Women’s Rights Conventions are held in Worcester,
Massachusetts. The 1850 convention, attended by more than 1,000 delegates from
eleven different states, marks the beginning of the
organized movement for women’s rights and call for the total reorganization of
“all social, political, industrial interests and institutions.” Its final
resolution, which calls for “Equality before the law without distinction of
sex or color,” is highly controversial because of its shocking support of
equality for black women.
The convention was applauded by a few local and national newspapers, but
disparaged by most of them. The issues raised at the convention, however, were
heard throughout the world. It became a touchstone for international feminism,
inspiring coverage and essays in France, England, and Germany. Significantly,
some of the same women and men who addressed such issues as suffrage, education,
property rights, and wages at the Worcester Woman’s Rights Conventions went on
to petition the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1853.
The conventions were ended by the American Civil War (1861-1865). Over the
objections of Anthony, women put aside suffrage activities to help the war
Another mid-century indicator that times were slowly changing: the establishment
in 1850 of the world’s first medical school for women in Philadelphia. It was
founded by Quaker businessmen, clergy and physicians at a time when the
prevailing notions were that women were too feeble-minded to succeed in such a
demanding arena and too delicate to endure its physical requirements.
B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton meet for the first time, on a street
corner in Seneca Falls, New York in March. They will be lifelong friends. At the
May 28–29 women rights convention in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth (1797?-1883)
rises from her seat to silence the hecklers and electrify the whole audience
with a speech titled: "Ain't I a Woman?" The point of this speech was
to show that fighting for equal rights for women with men was not enough. Other
women, including African Americans, faced additional obstacles. Truth wanted the
participants to not only dedicate their lives to ending sexism but also to
assist all people to achieve equality.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), partly
inspired by the autobiography of Josiah Henson, a black slave who had escaped in
1830 from a 3,700-acre tobacco plantation in North Bethesda, Maryland, writes Uncle
Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. It first appeared in 41 weekly
installments in the National Era, an abolitionist national periodical,
where an estimated 50,000 people read it. It was published in book form in March,
1852, selling out its complete print run. The book was translated into all major
languages, and eventually became the second best-selling book after the Bible in
the 19th century. The book had a profound effect on attitudes toward African
Americans and slavery. Its impact was so great that when Abraham Lincoln met
Stowe at the start of the Civil War, he reportedly declared: “So this is the
little lady who made this big war.” According to
the 1850 census, there were 3,204,313 slaves out of a total population of
23,191,876, almost fourteen percent.
and Stanton start the Women’s New York State Temperance Society. Anthony
had joined the Daughters of Temperance in 1848, but had not been allowed to
speak at a temperance rally in Albany because she was a woman. She left that
group shortly thereafter. Anthony attended her first woman’s rights convention
this year in Syracuse, New York. A pivotal year for the suffrage pioneer, she
would incorporate women’s rights with three other reform movements:
temperance, labor, and education.
law is passed in Massachusetts that allows women to keep their property after
marriage. In the same year, Massachusetts becomes the first state in the
country to permit women to keep their own wages.
This year, in Missouri, in
Missouri v. Celia, a black woman is declared
to be property without a right to defend herself against a master’s act of
rape. Celia, a 19-year old slave woman, who had been raped repeatedly for years
by her master since he bought her when she was fourteen, decided to fight him
off. She hit him on the head and he died. Although Missouri law permitted
a woman to physically resist being raped, the Missouri courts hold that this
slave woman has no right under the law to defend herself against further sexual
molestation. Celia is hanged, but her execution is delayed so that she could
give birth to yet another child from her master’s sexual assaults.
1857 The Dred Scott v. Sandford decision by the U.S. Supreme Court excludes slaves
and their descendants
from possessing Constitutional rights and determines that they can never be
citizens of the United States.
the 1860 United States Census, the slave population in the United States was
now 3,953,760 out of a population of 32,443,321.
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1861 to 1865 -- The Civil
Civil War disrupts suffrage activity as women, North and South, divert their
energies to "war work." Women work to manufacture arms,
ammunition, uniforms, and other war supplies. (Prior to its destruction, women
in the Fayetteville, North Carolina arsenal made some 900,000 rounds of small
arms munitions in 1864.)
Both the Union and Confederate armies
forbade the enlistment of women, but little known is that there were women
soldiers disguised as men. Because they passed for men successfully and secrecy
was paramount, it is impossible to know with any certainty how many women served
as soldiers in the Civil War. It is estimated, however, that over 400 women
served in war on both sides, not counting the thousands who served as nurses.
Historical records verify that over 80 women were either wounded or killed in
battle. The war served as a "training ground.” Women gained important
organizational and occupational skills that they later used in post bellum
organizational activity. In 1865, surgeon Dr. Mary Edwards (1832-1919) was the
first woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, the U.S.'s highest
military award, and only one of eight civilians to receive it. Her medal was
later rescinded by the Army, but was restored in 1977.
According to Pulitzer Prize-wining historian Leon Litwack (1929-), as late as
the 1940s, many eminent historians of the South depicted slavery as a largely
benign system similar to that depicted by Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the
Wind (1936). Historian Kenneth M. Stampp (1912-2009) helped transform the
study of slavery in the United States in his 1956 book, The Peculiar
Institution, by exposing plantation owners as practical businessmen, not
“magnolia-bloom” romantics defending a noble heritage.
both the Pulitzer Prize-winning historians David Brion Davis (1927-) and Eugene
Genovese (1930-) treatment of slaves was both harsh and inhumane. Whether
laboring or walking about in public, slaves were regulated by legally authorized
violence. Plantations in the Deep South were essentially “ruled by terror.”
There were contemporary accounts that revealed “complex and fraught
situations” and the abuses of sexuality and power. Mary Boykin Chesnut
(1823-1886) from South Carolina began her sophisticated diary in 1861 and ended
it in 1865 (it would not be published until 1905). Chesnut portrayed southern
society, the mixed roles of men and women, and slavery. Fanny Kemble (1809-1893
was a British actress who married an American, Pierce Butler, grandson of a
Founding Father and heir to a large Georgia sea island plantation. She was
shocked by the conditions of the slaves and their treatment. Kemble’s diary
was published in 1863. Accounts by former slaves all attested to the abuse of
women slaves by white men of the owning and overseer class.
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The New York State legislature repeals many of the gains women had made
in 1860. Susan B. Anthony was "sick at heart" but could not convince
women activists to hold another convention focusing solely on women's rights.
Mary Jane Patterson (1840-1894) is the first African American woman to receive a
full baccalaureate degree from Oberlin College.
recently moved to New York City, joins with Anthony to send a call out, via
the woman's central committee chaired by Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis
(1813-1876), to all the "Loyal Women of the Nation" to meet again in
convention in May. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and others form the
Woman’s National Loyal League on May 14, the first national women's political
organization. The WLNL objective is to lobby for an amendment to the Constitution
to abolish slavery and to end the Civil War. The WLNL claimed some 5,000
members. It organized a Mammoth Petition and collected 400,000 signatures, which
significantly assisted in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Abolitionists found The
Nation magazine in July 1865.
On December 6, 1865 the Thirteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution is adopted,
having been ratified by the legislatures of twenty-seven of the then thirty-six
states. It abolishes slavery and authorizes Congress to enforce
1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for
crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the
United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by
the desire to unite the energies of the anti-slavery and women’s suffrage
movements, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony propose the idea of an equal
rights association at an American Anti-Slavery Society meeting in Boston in
January. The Eleventh National Women’s Rights Convention is called to order by
Stanton on May 10, 1866 in New York City. At this meeting attendees will be
stirred by the speech by African-American activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
(1825-1911). The American Equal Rights Association (AERA), for white and black
women and men and dedicated to the goal of universal suffrage, is formed at the
end of the convention by Anthony, Stanton and Frederick Douglass (1818-1895).
Tensions between proponents of the
dissimilar goals of sexual equality and racial equality caused AERA to split
apart in 1869. The brief existence of AERA marks the separation of the women’s
and black rights movements after their successful collaboration in abolitionism
before and during the Civil War. Suffragists presented petitions bearing 10,000
signatures directly to Congress for an amendment prohibiting disenfranchisement
on the basis of sex.
On October 10
Elizabeth Cady Stanton declares herself
a candidate for Congress from the 8th Congressional District of New York. She
receives 24 of 22,026 votes cast in November. The National
Labor Union, the first national labor federation in the United States is
organized. Its priorities were labor reforms that included the eight-hour day. It
took a stand for the rights of working women. The NLU boasted 700,000 members at
its height but collapsed in 1873.
The Congress proposes
the Fourteenth Amendment on June 13.
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on woman suffrage are held in fifty-six states
puts a woman suffrage amendment proposal on the ballot, the first time the
question goes to a direct vote. It loses. Sojourner Truth, now 80, speaks at its
first anniversary meeting of the AERA in May.
begins to publish a weekly journal entitled The Revolution in
Rochester, New York in January. Its motto: “The true republic -- men,
their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.” Stanton
is the editor. The main thrust of The Revolution is to promote women’s
and African-Americans’ right to suffrage, but it also discusses issues of
equal pay for equal work, more liberal divorce laws and the church’s position
on women’s issues.
The Fifteenth Amendment passes Congress
February 26 giving the vote to black men. It will be ratified in 1870 but not
fully realized for almost a century. Women petition to be included but are
On July 9 the
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is adopted
after the Civil War as one of the Reconstruction Amendments, having been
ratified by the legislatures of 28 of the then 37 states. It defines citizenship
as “male” (This is the first use of the word male in the Constitution),
prohibits states from interfering with privileges and immunities, requires due
process and equal protection, punishes states for denying the vote, and disqualifies
Confederate officials and debts. The Fourteenth Amendment overrules the Dred
Scott v. Sandford decision of 1857:
1. 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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge
the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any
State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of
law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to
their respective numbers counting the whole number of persons in each State,
excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the
choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States,
Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or
the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants
of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States,
or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime,
the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the
number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens
twenty-one years of age* in such State.
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of
President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the
United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a
member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any
State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to
support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in
insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the
enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law,
including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in
suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the
United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred
in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for
the loss or emancipation of any slave. But all such debts, obligations and
claims shall be held illegal and void.
The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the
provisions of this article.
Twenty-Sixth Amendment (1971) standardized the voting age to 18.
The New England Woman Suffrage Association
is formed but lasts only a year. In New Jersey, 172 women attempt to vote; their
ballots are ignored. In December, the first move toward insuring suffrage for
the Negro, and in effect women, by means of another federal amendment is made by
Senator S.C. Pomeroy of Kansas. His proposal bases suffrage on citizenship, thus
including women. Three other bills are introduced, including one to give the
vote to women in the District of Columbia, one to grant it to women in the
territories, and later one to give it to the women of Utah.
The National Labor Union, one of the nation’s first organized labor advocacy
groups, supports equal pay for equal work. The NLU pushes for a law to end
discrimination but is not successful.
While Congress is making ready to submit a 15th amendment, the first suffrage
convention is held in Washington in January. A new feature at women's rights
conventions is the attendance of several colored men who are given the
opportunity to speak freely. All denounce the women for jeopardizing the black
man's chances for the vote and “one, standing by the side of that saintly
superwoman, Lucretia Mott, presiding officer, declared that ‘God intended the
male should dominate the female everywhere.’ ” [Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler.
Woman Suffrage and Politics.
Charles Scribner’s Sons (1926).]
The Congress proposes
the Fifteenth Amendment on February 26, 1869. The Fifteenth Amendment
passes Congress in February. It will be ratified the following year, giving the
vote to black men. Women petition to be included but are turned down.
In March, a federal women's suffrage
amendment is introduced as a Joint Resolution in both Houses of Congress by Rep.
George W. Julian of Indiana. Douglass and others concentrate on fighting for
black male suffrage. Tensions between proponents of the dissimilar goals and
disagreements over the Fourteenth and soon-to-be passed Fifteenth Amendments
cause the AERA to split into two factions. The more radical New York-based
National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), open to women only, is formed in May
by Anthony and Stanton. The NWSA opposes the Fifteenth Amendment unless it
includes the vote for women. Stanton is president. The primary goal of the
NWSA is to achieve voting rights for women by means of a Congressional amendment
to the Constitution. The NWSA also advocates easier divorce and an end to
discrimination in employment and pay.
The more conservative Boston-based American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) is
formed in November by Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe with
Henry Ward Beecher as president. The AWSA is only concerned with obtaining the
vote and does not campaign on other issues. It focuses on amending individual
In England, John Stuart Mill, economist, a
pre-eminent 19th century thinker and husband of suffragist Harriet Taylor
(1808-1858), publishes On the Subjugation of Women.
The first territorial legislation of the Wyoming Territory granted women
suffrage in 1869. The Wyoming territory
is the first to grant women suffrage since 1807.
to 1875 -- Go Straight
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women -- including Virginia Louisa Minor, Victoria Woodhull, and Myra Bradwell
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.
Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) is the first woman elected to the
American Philosophical Society.
Woman's Journal debuts on January 8, edited by
Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Mary Livermore. (Later in 1900 it is adopted as
the official paper of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the
merged suffrage organizations.) Women in Wyoming become the first to vote
following the granting of territorial status.
On February 3, the Fifteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits
each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote
based on that citizen's “race, color, or previous condition of
servitude" (i.e., slavery), is adopted, having been ratified by 28 states:
1. 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.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by
The NWSA had refused to work for its
ratification, arguing that it be “scrapped” in favor of a Sixteenth
Amendment providing universal suffrage. Frederick Douglass broke with Stanton
and Anthony over NWSA's position.
The Utah territory grants woman suffrage in
1870, but Utah women will be disenfranchised by provisions of the federal
Edmunds-Tucker Act in 1887. Iowa is the first state to admit a woman,
Arabella Mansfield, to the Bar. The Grimké sisters, now quite aged, and 42
other women attempt to vote in Massachusetts. Their ballots are cast but
Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) addresses the House Judiciary Committee on
January 11, arguing the women's right to vote under the 14th Amendment. The
Anti-Suffrage Party is founded by wives of prominent men, including many Civil
May 10, Woodhull becomes a Presidential candidate
of the Equal Rights Party, naming Frederick Douglass (who declines) as her
running mate. Although laws prohibited women from voting, there was nothing
stopping women from running for office. During the campaign Woodhull called for
the "reform of political and social abuses; the emancipation of labor, and
the enfranchisement of women." Woodhull also argued in favor of improved
civil rights and the abolition of capital punishment. The supporters of
President Ulysses Grant attacked her character. As a result of her fighting
back, Woodhull was arrested eight times and had to endure several trials for
obscenity and libel. She was eventually acquitted but legal bills forced her
Susan B. Anthony initiates a campaign to
encourage women to register to vote, then vote, using the Fourteenth Amendment
as justification. In November, Anthony is arrested and indicted in New York for
casting a ballot with 15 other women for having “knowingly voted without
having a lawful right to vote.” Her sisters and one other woman are held for
$500 bail. Anthony is held for $1,000 bail.
At the same time, Sojourner Truth appears at a polling booth in Battle
Michigan, demanding a ballot; she is turned away. The Republican Party platform
includes a reference to woman suffrage.
This year Congress enacts a federal law
that grants female federal employees equal pay for equal work. The same right
was not extended to the vast majority of female employees who worked for private
companies or state and local governments until the adoption of the Equal Pay Act
nearly a century later in 1963.
is tried for having voting illegally in
June. She is denied a trial by jury, is convicted, and fined $100 plus the
“costs of prosecution,” which she refuses to ever pay. She tells Judge Ward
Hunt: "May it please your honor, I will never pay
a dollar of your unjust penalty…'Resistance to tyranny is obedience to
Suffrage demonstrations are held at the
Centennial of the Boston Tea Party and at a commemoration of the Battle of
Lexington. The call for a Woman’s Congress in September is signed by 150 women
who are prominent professionals and reformers. They meet in October to exchange
ideas about women’s experience. The Association for the Advancement of Women
is formed to promote higher education and professional opportunities for women.
Women are barred from becoming lawyers by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bradwell
v. Illinois, an early legal challenge to sex discrimination in the United
States. The Court rules that the state of Illinois has the right to
exclude a woman, Myra Colby Bradwell from practicing law. Three justices sign
onto an opinion that says: “The paramount destiny and mission of [women] are
to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of
Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded by Annie Wittenmyer
(1827-1900). WCTU is the oldest continuing non-sectarian women’s organization
worldwide. While temperance was the WCTU’s primary objective at its beginning,
it focuses on women’s suffrage at the end of Wittenmyer’s term in 1879. She
lobbies for pensions for retired military nurses, which leads to 1892
legislation. With Frances Willard at its head (1876), the WCTU becomes an
important force in the fight for woman suffrage. Not surprisingly, one of the
most vehement opponents to women's enfranchisement is the liquor lobby, which
fears women might use the franchise to prohibit the sale of liquor. In Myner
Happerstett vs. the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that being
a citizen does not guarantee suffrage.
and Minnesota give women the "school vote." Despite the 1875
Civil Rights Act banning discrimination on the basis of race, creed, or
color, in theaters, hotels, transports, and other public accommodations, several
railroad companies defied this congressional mandate and racially segregated its
passengers. In 1875, the Supreme Court ruled women, too, were American citizens
but this did not give them the right to vote.”
The Civil Rights Act was introduced
to Congress by Charles Sumner and Benjamin Butler in 1870 but did not become law
until March 1, 1875. It promised that all persons, regardless of race, color, or
previous condition, were entitled to full and equal employment of accommodation
in "inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places
of public amusement." In 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the act as
unconstitutional and asserted that Congress did not have the power to regulate
the conduct and transactions of individuals.
Women's Suffrage Amendment Introduced
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the Civil War it seems to have occurred to no one that suffrage for women might
be gained through federal action. Public opinion in all parts of the
country was strongly resentful of any unusual assumption of authority by the
federal government and no precedent existed upon which to base a theory for such
action. The Civil War welded the loosely federated States into an
“indissoluble Union,” the word “nation” for the first time found its way
into the list of words frequently used as descriptive of the United States of
America, and the Acts of Reconstruction represented a degree of centralized
authority which before the war would not have been tolerated…hostility to
federal legislative supremacy was greatly modified after that period.
After suffragists had made their energetic and heroic struggle to prevent the
enfranchisement of the Negro without the inclusion of women in the plan, and
when, despite their protests, Negro suffrage was achieved with woman suffrage
left out, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments at least furnished precedents
for a federal woman suffrage amendment, and this at once became the ultimate aim
of the women's campaign. A group, led by Miss Anthony and Mrs. Stanton, wrote
the amendment, designated by the suffragists for many years as the Sixteenth,
and it was introduced in the Senate by A. A. Sargent of California on January
10, 1878. Owing to the death of the friendly chairman of the Committee on
Privileges and Elections, Senator Oliver P. Morton of Indiana, an adverse report
was made, but a minority report, accompanied by a lengthy address, was
“In 1878, when the woman suffrage amendment, known as the Anthony Amendment,
was introduced, the nation consisted of thirty-eight States and was accordingly
represented by 76 United States Senators. The constitutional requirement of a
two-thirds vote in the Congress for the submission of an amendment and action by
three-fourths of the Legislatures for ratification made the support of fifty-one
of these Senators and twenty-eight Legislatures necessary to its adoption. To
secure this result the vote of five Senators and the ratification of five
Legislatures of secession, or border, States had to be obtained, in addition to
the united support of all Northern and Western States…
“The suffragists of 1878 could not believe that the nation would long allow
its record of enfranchisement of illiterate men, fresh from slavery, and its
denial of the same privilege to intelligent white women to stand unchallenged.
They turned to the States, firm in the faith that they would soon furnish a
mandate to which popular opinion would yield, and through which the
congressional impasse would be broken… But between January 10, 1878 and June
4, 1919, when the amendment was finally passed by the Congress, lie forty years
and six months, During that period the amendment was continuously pending,
having been introduced in the same form in every succeeding Congress.” – Carrie Chapman
[Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler. Woman Suffrage and
Politics. Charles Scribner’s Sons (1926).]
The wording of the woman suffrage amendment
introduced in 1878 will remain unchanged until it becomes law in 1920.
houses of Congress appoint Select Committees on Woman Suffrage, and both
report the measure favorably.
is the sixteenth year that we have come before Congress in person, and
the nineteenth by petition,” states Anthony. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin
(1842-1924), who had participated in the forming of the American Woman Suffrage
Association in 1869, founds Woman’s Era, the first newspaper written by
and for black American women. It calls them to agitate for the rights of their
race and their sex.
first of six volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage, is published.
Written primarily by Anthony, Stanton and Matilda Jocelyn Gage (1826-1898), the
history is primarily of the suffrage movement in the United States and will be
compiled between 1881 and 1922. Women's suffrage activists pointed out that
blacks had been granted the franchise and had not been included in the language
of the Constitution’s Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments (which gave people
equal protection under the law and the right to vote regardless of their race,
respectively). This, they contended, had been unjust.
Utah women who had won the
right to vote by the territory in 1870 are disenfranchised by provisions of the
federal Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887. The main purpose of the act is to
disincorporate the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the grounds
that they foster polygamy. The act will be repealed in 1978.
and Stanton organize the 40-year celebration of the Seneca Falls Convention,
with delegates invited from a number of countries. The celebration leads
to the founding of The International Council by Anthony, May Wright Sewell
(1844-1920) and Frances Willard (1939-1898) among others. The ICW holds its
first convention March 25-April 1 with 49 delegates from 9 countries: Canada,
the United States, Ireland, Indian, England, Finland, Denmark, France and
Norway. The Council’s primary goal was the advancement
of women. It does not demand woman suffrage so as not to alienate the more
conservative members, but will work to promote health, peace, equality and
1890 to the Turn of
the Century Back
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the 1880s it becomes clear that it is not a good idea to have two rival groups
campaigning for votes for women. After several years of negotiations, the
AWSA and the NWSA merge in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage
Association (NAWSA). Over the next twenty years a large number of women
become involved in the struggle for women's rights. The NAWSA continues the work
of both associations by becoming the parent organization of hundreds of smaller
local and state groups, and by helping to pass woman suffrage legislation at the
state and local level. The NAWSA is the largest and most important suffrage
organization in the United States, and is the primary promoter of women's right
to vote. Like AWSA and NWSA before it, the NAWSA pushes for a constitutional
amendment guaranteeing women's voting rights, and was instrumental in winning
the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Anthony is the dominant figure in
NAWSA from 1890 to 1900, at which time she steps down in favor of Carrie Chapman
Catt (1859-1947). After success in 1920, the NAWSA will be reformed as the
League of Women Voters of the United States, which continues the legacy.
This same year, Jane Addams (1860-1935) and
Ellen Gates Starr (1859-1940) 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 is a part propels
thousands of college-educated white women and a number of women of color into
lifetime careers in social work. It also makes women an important voice to be
reckoned with in American politics. The South Dakota campaign for woman
suffrage loses. American Federation of Labor declares support for a woman
At the end of the 19th Century, Americans
are disturbed by the inefficiencies and injustices that have resulted from the
industrial revolution and the Gilded Age that runs roughly from 1865 to 1901.
There is a concerted attempt in the United States to establish basic reforms in
political, economic and social affairs. Reformers campaign against the
employment of child workers, slum housing, sweatshops, limited suffrage, unequal
distribution of wealth, business monopolies, racial discrimination, unfair tax
laws and political corruption. The Progressive Era, drawing its support
from the middle class, will flourish from the 1890s to the 1920s.
B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) is an African American teacher, journalist,
newspaper editor, an early leader of the civil rights movement as well as
active in the women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements. In 1884 she
refused a conductor’s order to give up her seat on a train in 1884 (71 years
before Rosa Parks). In 1891 Wells-Barnett becomes the first national crusader
against the prevalent practice of lynching despite threats from angry mobs.
Between 1882 (when reliable statistics were first collected) and 1968 (when the
classic forms of lynching had disappeared), 4,743 persons will die of lynching,
3,446 of them black men and women. In an expression of racism and sexism,
apologists claim that lynching protected white women from black rapists, but
actually, only one-quarter of lynching victims were accused of rape or attempted
rape. Wells-Barnett publicized evidence refuting this rape myth, as did the
later Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, a white
organization mobilized on a county-by-county basis later throughout 1930s to put
an end to mob violence.
May, the NAWSA sends some lecturers to the World’s Congress of Representative
Women in Chicago, held within the World’s Fair. Stone and Anthony speak as
do almost 500 women from 27 countries during the week long event that attracts
150,000 attendees. After a vigorous campaign led by Catt, Colorado, which had
defeated a referendum in 1877, adopts a constitutional amendment giving women
the vote, and is the second state to do so. Gage publishes Woman, Church, and
State. Hannah Greenebaum Solomon (1858-1942) 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 1904 she, along with Anthony
will represent the United States at the International Council of Women in
Berlin, Germany. New Zealand becomes the first nation to provide women’s
suffrage on a national level.
Anthony, Stanton and
others tour the state to garner support for state enfranchisement
before the New York State Constitutional Convention opens. The petition
with 600,000 signatures is presented to Constitution, but it fails.
order that suffrage delegates might plead with their representatives in Congress
to submit the suffrage amendment, until 1895 all the annual suffrage
conventions are held in Washington. After 1895, the conventions are held
alternate years in other cities, meeting in Washington during the first session
of each Congress only.
Much to the consternation of her long-time
colleague Susan B. Anthony and other suffragists, Stanton publishes The
Woman’s Bible, a controversial feminist reinterpretation of the Bible.
Stanton had long objected to conservative religious teachings on slavery,
marriage, divorce, and women's status, and she is determined to promote a more
liberating theology that stressed women's self-development rather than their
subordination. After its publication, NAWSA moves to distance itself from this
venerable suffrage pioneer because many conservative suffragists consider her to
be too radical and potentially damaging to the suffrage campaign. From this
time, Stanton -- who had resigned as NAWSA president in 1892 -- is no longer invited
to sit on the stage at NAWSA conventions.
Women’s clubs and other organizations
were formed by black women in the late 19th and first half of the 20th
centuries. In 1895, Josephine Ruffin (1842-1924) issued a call for the First
National Conference of Colored Women to take place in Boston. Following that
meeting, the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) was organized in 1896,
merging two national represented organizations: The Colored Women’s League
(1893) and the National Federation of Afro-American Women (1895). It marked the
beginning of a new era for African American women and provided a vehicle for
action through organized effort that focused on job training, wage equity,
childcare, segregated transportation systems and anti-lynching.
joins the Union, granting women full suffrage. Idaho grants woman suffrage. By the end of the nineteenth century, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming will
have enfranchised women after effort by the suffrage associations at the state
level. Women have made significant legal victories, gaining rights in areas such
as property and child custody, but the long struggle for the vote continued,
even though in 1875, the Supreme Court had ruled women, too, were American
-- New Century, the Struggle Continues
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Wood Park (1871-1955), age 29, finds herself the youngest delegate to the NAWSA
convention. Working with Inez Haynes Gillmore (1873-1970), she works to
attract more young members and establishes what will eventually become the
national College Equal Suffrage League. Symbolizing the passing of the suffrage
torch to a new generation, Anthony steps down as NAWSA president and chooses
Catt, recognized for her organizational skill, to succeed her and take over the
reins for her first presidential term (1900-1904). Suffragists concede that the
NAWSA was in the doldrums at the time. Catt succeeds in the formation of the
International Woman Suffrage Alliance in 1902.
a highly symbolic move, the NAWSA Annual Convention in New Orleans features
southern women prominently, votes to accept a states' rights structure and
permits southern state organizations to exclude black women from their
associations. 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 workingwomen and to woman
suffrage. The WTUL is a key institution in reforming
women's working conditions in the early 20th century. It becomes a
nucleus of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).
Equality League of Self-Supporting Women is formed by Harriet Stanton Blatch
(1856-1940), Elizabeth's daughter. It becomes the Women's Political Union in
1910. She had become friends with the English political activist and
suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1828) through their work in the Women’s
Franchise League. Blatch introduces the English suffragists’ more militant
tactics of parades, street speakers, and pickets. In 1999, Time Magazine will
name Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, who
“shaped an idea of women for our time; she took society into a new pattern
from which there could be no going back.” One of her most famous speeches,
or Death" will be delivered in Connecticut in 1913. Blatch’s League enrolls
thousands of working women who had never before been sought out by or attracted
to suffrage organizations.
1908 - 1915 -- Go,
get another State Back
to top of page
get another State,” Theodore Roosevelt counsels as late as 1908. In 1909 The
American Suffragette begins publication. It believes in shaking up what it
sees as widespread indifference to issues of public welfare and women’s
suffrage in particular. The American Suffragettes, a radical group of New York
women formed by Bettina Borrman Wells, in 1908 introduces various means of
political agitation into the New York campaign, such as open-air meetings and
outdoor parades. The 1909 woman suffrage–connected strike of 20,000 women
garment workers and a boycott by the wealthy women who purchase clothing is
coordinated by the Women's Trade Union League in New York City. That year the
first National Woman's Day is observed with mass meetings across the United
States in February (observed until 1913). The NAWSA, primarily focuses on
state campaigns, collects 404,000 signatures for a woman's suffrage amendment,
which are submitted to Congress in April 1910. President Lincoln had considered
300,000 a sufficient mandate for the Emancipation Proclamation as a war measure.
State suffrage leaders in their seemingly
never-ending state-by-state effort were having difficulty holding on to faith
and maintaining energy. The movement had become fragmented and sluggish, but
around 1912, the same year that Oregon, Arizona, and Kansas granted women
suffrage, it begins to reawaken. The revitalization results from a new
generation of women who begin to embrace the cause and introduce the new and
more aggressive techniques.
Between 1910 and 1913, five major suffrage
parades are held with the dual aim of calling public attention to women's sense
of political injustice, as well as their capacity for equal citizenship. Through
spectacular displays, striking iconography, and the collective presence of
thousands of marching women, arguments for women's right to vote are visually
articulated on the streets of New York City and Washington, D.C. Twenty thousand
suffrage supporters join a New York City parade in 1912 that have a half-million
onlookers. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive (Bull Moose/Republican)
Party becomes the first national political party to adopt a woman suffrage
plank. The marches and parades between 1913 and 1915 bring the cause back to the
center. As it did in England, The Great War (World War I) of 1914-1918 slows
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 added yet another reason
to why women deserve the vote.
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state anti-suffrage associations merge creating The National Association Opposed
to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS), which issues its official journal, the Woman’s
Protest. The association recruited supporters “[by educating] the public
in the belief that women can be more useful to the community without the ballot
than if affiliated with and influenced by party politics.” Led by Mrs.
Arthur Murray Dodge (Josephine Marshall Jewell), its members include wealthy,
influential women and some Catholic clergymen. [Mrs. Dodge became a New
York voter unwillingly at age 62.] Active between 1912 and 1918, the
"antis" also draw support from urban political machines, Southern
congressmen, and corporate capitalists -- like railroad magnates and
meatpackers -- and the liquor industry concerned that the suffragists will
Alice Paul (1885-1977)
whose stay in England had transformed her from “a Reserved Quaker girl" into a
militant suffragist, joins the NAWSA in Washington, D.C. with her two
friends, Lucy Burns (1879-1966) and Crystal Eastman (1881-1928). Paul is
appointed head of its Congressional Committee, a NAWSA auxiliary for the
exclusive purpose of securing a federal amendment. Their efforts revive the
moribund suffrage issue.
election of 1912 marked the take-off point for two progressive movements -- that
for woman suffrage and that of women into politics. The election of 1912 put
both on the national agenda. It expanded their ranks and increased public
awareness of women's political work…What was different about 1912? Although
individual women had been active in political campaigns for many decades, by
1912 there was a critical mass of women eager and willing to work for the
presidential candidates of all political parties.”
Freeman [“The Rise of Political Women in the Election of 1912.”]
The New York Herald reports August
11: “With a suddenness and force that have left observers gasping,
women have injected themselves into the national campaign this year in a manner
never before dreamed of in American politics.”
Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat and leading Progressive intellectual, is elected
President. Wilson has a history of lukewarm support for women’s suffrage,
although he pays lip service to suffragists’ demands during political
campaigns and greets previously peaceful suffrage demonstrators at the White
House with decorum. He is also a former teacher at a women’s college and the
father of two daughters who considered themselves "suffragettes."
During the 1912 presidential campaign against Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson and his
opponent agree on many reform measures such as child-labor laws and pro-union
legislation. They differ, however, on the subject of women’s suffrage, as
Roosevelt is in favor of giving women the vote.
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Congressional Committee will remain a part of the NAWSA until late 1913, but Paul and Burns found the Congressional
Union for Women Suffrage (CUWS) on January 2, semi-autonomous with the NAWSA.
With little funding but in true Pankhurst style, Paul and Burns organize a
publicity event to gain maximum national attention: an elaborate and massive
parade of more than 20 floats and more than 5,000 marchers up Pennsylvania Ave on
March 3, one day before Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration.
“The scene turned
ugly, however, when scores of male onlookers attacked the suffragists, first
with insults and obscenities, and then with physical violence”—women were
jeered, tripped, grabbed, shoved, and many were subjected to “indecent
epithets” and ribald jokes while the police stood by and watched. One
hundred marchers had to be taken to the local emergency hospital.
The March 4 New
York Evening Journal reports: “Mob Hurts 300 Suffragists at Capital
Parade.” Before the afternoon was
over, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, responding to a request from the chief
of police, authorizes the use of a troop of cavalry from nearby Fort Myer to
help control the crowd. In spite of the difficulties, the
parade route is completed. At the railway station a few blocks away,
president-elect Woodrow Wilson arrives to little fanfare. One of his staff asks,
"Where are all the people?" "Watching the suffrage parade,"
the police tell him. The next day Wilson is driven down the miraculously clear
Pennsylvania Avenue, and cheered on by a respectful crowd.
The following day, Alice's group of suffragists make headlines across the nation
and suffrage becomes a popular topic of discussion among politicians and the
general public alike.” The event has upstaged and embarrassed the new
president but it is a major attention getter.
The states find the
time to ratify the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and on April
8 the U.S. Congress confirms the senators from the U.S. Senate, two from each
state, are to be elected by populate vote instead of by state legislatures.
On May 10, the
largest suffrage parade to date marches down Fifth Avenue: 10,000 people,
including some 500 men parade past somewhere between 250,000-500,000 onlookers.
Some marked success at the state level in 1913: The
Territory of Alaska adopts woman suffrage. Illinois is the first state to grant
women presidential suffrage by legislative enactment. The Southern States Woman
Suffrage Conference is formed. Two significant events take place in
late 1913: Pankhurst arrives from England October 18 to undertake a speaking
tour. At their annual convention in December, the NAWSA leadership expels the
militants, Paul and others.
In December, at their annual convention in
Washington, the NAWSA leadership, discomforted by the militant tactics of Paul
and the confusion of the Congressional Committee with the NAWSA and unable to
come to terms with Paul, expels the militants. Catt admits: “Although the
militant movement had divided opinion in that country as in all others, it
taught many suffragists the world around that spectacular events carried
suffrage message to the masses of the people as suffrage appeals to reason never
could, and immediately such features, shorn of militant character, were
introduced into State campaigns in America.” The Congressional Committee of
the National American Woman Suffrage Association was a standing committee and
thereafter the work went on with renewed energy under a new chairman.
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Great War (World War I) 1914-1918 intervenes to slow down the suffrage campaign in
both Britain and the U.S. 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. By 1914, 11 states and Alaska had approved
suffrage for women, but not New York State. It would be three more years before
New York, the birthplace of the women's rights movement in the 19th century and
home of women's rights icons Stanton and Anthony, would pass legislation for
On March 10, the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, having been introduced in Congress
every year since 1878, is finally introduced on the floor of Congress. The
Senate defeats it 35 to 34. Grueling and costly suffrage campaigns are lost in
South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, and once again Ohio. Alice Paul
and her militant Congressional Union work against Woodrow Wilson and Democrats
during mid-term elections because of their inaction on introducing Susan B.
Anthony Amendment. Carrie Chapman Catt disapproves of Paul's tactics, believing
such a campaign will only drive Wilson further away from suffragists.
On June 9, a parade is held in Buffalo, New
York a city that has 25,000 registered suffragists. Paul’s CUWS now has a
membership of 4,500 and has raised more than $50,000 for its campaign (In 1913
the average annual wage was $621). The CUWS also has its own magazine, The
Paul and NAWSA president Catt share
the goal of universal suffrage, but their political strategies are different and
incompatible. NAWSA prefers to concentrate on state campaigns, while Paul wants
to focus all energy and funding upon a national amendment. The more conservative
NAWSA regards more aggressive and militant tactics as distasteful, preferring
the image of reasonable, nice ladies who are not threatening the very
fabric of American family life, a safe haven for female and male supporters.
NAWSA endorses President Wilson and looks to members of the Democratic Party as
allies, while Alice Paul holds Wilson and his party responsible for women's
continued disenfranchisement (a tactic of British Suffragettes).
In 1914, Paul
and her followers sever all ties to NAWSA in an acrimonious split and, in 1916,
form the “radical” National Woman's Party (NWP). The
National Federation of Women's Clubs -- which by this time includes more than two
million white women and women of color throughout the United States -- formally
endorses the suffrage campaign. In September,
a bequest from Miriam Florence Follin Leslie (Mrs. Frank), publisher of Leslie's
Weekly, puts some $1,000,000 at the disposal of Carrie Chapman Catt for
"the furtherance of the cause of woman suffrage."
The NWP’s first important campaign is the
mid-term Congressional elections in 1914. They succeed in ousting approximately
twenty Democrats (the party in power) from their seats, some of them,
suffrage-friendly. The NWP has only around 50,000 members compared to the
two million claimed by the NAWSA but the NWP proves creative and very effective
at commanding attention of both the public, the media and politicians through its
relentless agitation, lobbying, creative publicity, acts of nonviolent
confrontation and civil disobedience. The NWP influences the more moderate NAWSA
toward greater initiatives. Both groups, in addition to other suffrage
organizations, will rightly declare victory on August 26, 1920.
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House of Representatives votes on the federal woman suffrage amendment on
January 12 and defeats the measure by a 204 to 174 vote. This year woman
suffrage measures are defeated in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and
Massachusetts, but 40,000 march in a New York City
suffrage parade, the largest parade ever held in that city.
Miller (1874-1942)m a writer and poet, who had become known as a campaigner for
women's suffrage, publishes a brilliant series of satirical poems in the New
York Tribune. These are published subsequently as Are Women People? A
Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times. These words became a catchphrase of the
suffrage movement. She follows this collection with Women are People!
Between April and December, the CU, despite
objections from NAWSA, sends organizers to all states to plan conventions and
establish state branches. The NAWSA had become badly divided. Catt is asked to
resume leadership for a second term.
CU organizes the
first Women Voters Convention attended by 1,000, September 14-16, in San
Francisco. Their most daring initiative is to organize an historic cross-country
auto trip to promote women’s voting rights following the convention (the first
cross-country trip had been made in May of 1903 when there were less than 150
miles of paved roads between coasts). Carrying a 19,000 foot petition for a
woman’s suffrage amendment to the Constitution, three women: suffrage envoy
Sara Bard Field, her driver Ingeborg Kinstedt and machinist Maria Kindberg,
drive from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., a daring and risky trip of almost
three months and 5,000 miles. Never before has a group of women driven across
the country. Mabel Vernon, also of CU,
travels ahead of the convoy by train to organize parades, rallies and receptions
for Field’s arrival. In 1915, cars are still a luxury item that few
could afford. Not until the 1920s would the use of the automobile boom.
Most roads are little more than dusty, poorly marked two-lane byways and
few are passable during the winter, and gas stations and restaurants are rare.
The nation’s highway system will not even be laid out until 1925-1926. Field
collects 500,000 signatures along the way during a trip that causes a sensation.
She will later say: "The women were the worst opposers."
The three women reach Washington, D.C. on
December 6. The courageous group is accompanied by a
procession of 2,000 who escort them to the U.S. Capitol to be received by a
large delegation of members of Congress on the Capitol steps. The
procession of cars then proceeded to The White House. Field and her traveling
companions and 300 other invited guests were ushered into the enormous East Room
to be greeted by a still suffrage-resistant President Woodrow Wilson who had
told the suffragists repeatedly that he felt it was for each state to decide.
The war in Europe now in its second year, and the issue of whether the U.S.
should enter it is a serious distraction for Wilson.
Jane Addams publishes
the suffragist pamphlet: “Why Women Should Vote.” In December, Carrie
Chapman Catt, is named president of NAWSA for a second term 1915-1920. Tensions
between the more aggressive CU and the conservative NAWSA increase. On Dec.
17, the CU and NAWSA make a last attempt to reconcile but it fails.
- 1920 -- Home Stretch, Running the Gauntlet
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to top of Chronology
pivotal year for women suffrage
The NAWSA is revitalized under the
leadership of Catt, and the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage becomes the
National Woman’s Party (NWP) led by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. Catt
immediately sets a goal to have a woman suffrage plank in the platforms of both
the Republican and Democratic parties at their conventions in June 1916. At the
September NAWSA convention in Atlantic City, Catt presents her address entitled
“The Crisis.” She unveils her “Winning Plan” for suffrage victory that
requires coordination by a vast cadre of suffrage workers in both state and
local associations. The strategies of the NAWSA and the NWP are now
compatible: achieving the federal amendment. The styles and tactics, however,
are not compatible and the ties between the two organizations remained severed.
The militant NWP continues its preference for aggressive pamphlet distribution,
demonstrations, parades, mass meetings, picketing, suffrage watch fires and
hunger strikes (all duly reported in its weekly Suffragist), civil
disobedience tactics with which the more conservative NAWSA are still not
Having had a successful campaign in the
1914 mid-term Congressional elections, the NWP follows the latter up with an
equally intensive anti-Democratic campaign in 1916 causing President Wilson an
embarrassingly small margin of reelection victory. The NWP sends a powerful
message that politicians who do not support a federal women’s suffrage
amendment are at risk of losing their support and their office. The NWP also
opposes WWI, which the U.S. will enter the following year. On December 2,
suffragists fly over President Wilson’s yacht and drop suffrage amendment
petitions. While the NAWSA did not want to be associated with “radicals” and
radical tactics, it was benefiting from their contribution to the rise of
the movement in American consciousness. By the same token, the NWP owes much of
its success in 1914 and 1916 to NAWSA’s previous state-by-state efforts. By
1914, twelve states had passed women’s suffrage.
In November, Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973)
of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives,
and the first woman elected to a national legislature in any western democracy.
She is formally seated April 2, 1917.
Woodrow Wilson is narrowly re-elected in 1916. He bases his campaign around the
slogan: “He kept us out of war.” Suffragists retort: “He kept us out of
suffrage.” Wilson won reelection on a platform that included a federal
1917 Militancy Increases; So Does
Violent Reaction Back
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the major differences between NAWSA and NWP are their attitudes toward World War
I, which the U.S. enters April 6, 1917 when it declares war on Germany.
NAWSA is against suffrage actions that would be perceived as unpatriotic. Many
Americans view the suffrage efforts during the war period as such. But the NWP
makes the commitment to carry on their campaign. It is impatient with
delegations to the White House, the stonewalling, the tying up of the amendment
in various committees, and the lobbying of recalcitrant Congressmen. It decides
to increase its militancy.
For the first time in U.S. history, the White House
is picketed when on January 10 the NWP begins picketing the White House gates in
an attempt to pressure President Wilson. Silent “Sentinels of Liberty”
remain stationed at the gates regardless of weather or violent public response,
with hourly changes of shift. More than a thousand women picket every day and
night for two and a half years until the 19th Amendment passes both the House
and the Senate in June 1919. Picketers are accompanied by a series of purple,
white and gold banners that include such statements as: “Mr. President, What
Will You Do For Woman Suffrage? “How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?”
“Democracy Should Begin at Home.” The NAWSA chose to participate in
patriotic services and efforts that would demonstrate “responsible
citizenship” such as the Red Cross and the War Saving Stamps campaign.
In the spring of 1917, when the country
enters the war, the anti-protesters turn more abusive and violent. Unlike the
Pankhurst approach in England, Paul and Burns do not incorporate violence in
their campaigns and react to the “antis” accordingly. At first Wilson
ignores the protesters and the police do nothing to protect the protesters when
they were assaulted both verbally and physically. But in June, the police begin
to arrest picketers, charging them with traffic obstruction, even though they
remain on the sidewalks; the arrests, fines and sentences increase over the
summer and fall. A total of approximately 500 protesters are arrested of which
168 are imprisoned between June and late November when all the protesters are
Arrested protesters were incarcerated at
the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. As the suffragists keep protesting, the jail
terms grow longer, from three-day sentences in June to six-day sentences in July
and some are 60 days. Paul is arrested October 20 and sentenced to seven months
and placed in solitary confinement for two weeks with nothing to eat except
bread and water. When she becomes weak, she is taken to the prison hospital. In
protest of the brutal treatment, Paul begins a hunger strike, to which the
response is to take her to a psychiatric ward and threaten her with transference
to an insane asylum. They force feed her through a plastic tube with raw eggs
mixed with milk. During the imprisonment, the other imprisoned women join Paul
in hunger strikes. Under the probable direction of President Wilson, the warden
responds with violent forced feedings, worm-infested food, beatings, and a cover
up of the harsh punishment. The conditions at the Occoquan Workhouse (now the
Lorton Correctional Complex) were shocking. Virginia Bovee, an officer at the
Workhouse, stated in an affidavit after her discharge:
"The beans, hominy, rice, corn meal ... and cereal have all had worms in
them. Sometimes the worms float to the top of the soup. Often they are found in
the corn bread.”
On the night of November 15, which became
known as the Night of Terror, the Workhouse superintendent order the nearly
forty guards to brutalize the suffragists who are grabbed, beaten, choked, and
kicked. They beat Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head then
leave her there for the night.
Wilson, who receives criticism for not
providing protection for the protesters, alternately ignores, pardons, and
cracks down harder on the protesters. Rather than break their spirit as he had
hoped, the harsh treatment strengthens the suffragists’ resolve. The public
becomes sympathetic to the prisoners as they learn of their brutal treatment --
largely due to Rose Winslow’s accounts of prison conditions that
are smuggled out and made public. A cover up of the outrageous treatment of
prisoners is no longer possible, and Wilson’s predicament becomes more dire
when the imprisoned protesters demand political prisoner status. All the
while, new picketers continue to take the place of the arrested ones, and well-to-do, prominent grandmothers are landing in jail. The public outcry of the
suffragists inhuman treatment and the jailers’ inability to stop the hunger
strikes work to the protestors' benefit.
On November 27, 1917, Alice Paul receives
an unusual visitor, David Lawrence, a reporter and close friend of Wilson’s,
pays a private visit well after visiting hours -- Lawrence claims to be speaking
only for himself, but he states that Paul and the NWP have put the
Administration in a bind with their demand for political prisoner status.
Lawrence implies that it would be easier for Wilson to support the amendment
than grant this status, an amazing declaration. The clear implication is that if
the NWP will end the protests, Wilson will promise to put the amendment through
both houses of Congress within a year. Within days, all of the suffragist
prisoners are released without explanation or conditions. White House protests,
while not eliminated, slow to a crawl, with sporadic arrests and minimal, symbolic
sentences. The Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals will later overturn all the
It has been suggested that Wilson was
cornered because of a series of court appeals filed on behalf of the imprisoned
protesters and because the mood of the country was shifting in favor of suffrage
(in October, 20,000 women marched for suffrage in New York City). Wilson risked
being embarrassed if the appeals succeeded and being out of step with the
national mood. However, the President could not be perceived as caving in
to radical NWP pressure.
NAWSA never protested the harsh treatment
of the protesters and, in fact, regularly berated them as “the enemy with
banners” and “those wild women at the [White House] gates.” Wilson was
comfortable with the conservative approach of NAWSA and found opportunities to
too, is that back in September, on the 7th, Dudley Field Malone
(1882-1950) had resigned from Wilson’s administration in protest of its
failure to advocate a Woman’s Suffrage Amendment. In the western states, Malone
campaigned to the women on the issue of a federal suffrage amendment. He
promised women that if they voted for Wilson, he would see to it, at whatever
personal cost, that the current Democratic administration would win all the
women of the U.S. a suffrage guarantee in the form of a federal amendment.
By 1917, women were voting in 12 western states and the tide begins to turn in
November when North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, Rhode Island, Nebraska, New York and
Arkansas finally pass statewide woman’s suffrage. By November, the momentum in
Congress is sufficient to bring the Susan B. Anthony Amendment up for another
Senators Campaigned Against in Midterms
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Woodrow Wilson delivers his Fourteen Points speech on January 8, intended to
assure the country that the Great War “was being fought for a moral cause and
for postwar peace,” to a joint session of a Congress. On the following day,
January 9, a Congressional committee releases a public statement that the
“President would not force his hand in Congress on the suffrage amendment
issue. What he would do was advise anyone who sought his counsel to vote for the
amendment on the grounds of democracy and justice.” The President meets
privately with 10 members of Congress to encourage their vote for amendment.
Wilson has held for years the position that
women’s suffrage was a states’ rights issue, but his 1916 campaign promise
“was hanging over his head.” It has been suggested that not only did
Wilson have to accede to the pressure following the public outcry and the
scandal against the brutality done to the imprisoned protesters of the previous
year but he was trying to build an international reputation for himself and the
nation as human rights leaders. It has been suggested also that he saw the
mutual benefits of a federal suffrage amendment -- that endorsing the amendment as
an emergency measure could work to his advantage by providing a powerful
political lobby indebted to him, and get the pickets off his lawn. In five
months, he would begin taking an active role by writing Senators directly to
influence their votes on the matter.
On January 10, Rep. Jeannette Rankin
introduces the suffrage amendment on the floor of the House. The House of
Representatives, voting for the second time on the federal women suffrage
amendment, narrowly passes the amendment, voting 274 to 136 (exactly the 2/3
majority needed for a constitutional amendment). The vote is accompanied by
intense drama -- four Congressmen with deciding votes are forced to leave sick
beds and hospitals to vote for the amendment, one member rushes to House
chambers from the death bed of his wife, who makes him promise with her dying
breath to vote in favor of suffrage.
Conservative senators, however, stand firm
in opposition to the extension of suffrage. Conservative senators from the South
and the industrial northeast now band together to block a vote on the suffrage
amendment for a year and a half. The Senate refuses to even debate the
issue until October.
The NWP decides to redouble its efforts to
affect the vote in the Senate. In February, the Republican National Committee
passes a resolution supporting passage of a federal suffrage amendment. The
Democratic National Committee’s Executive Committee endorses the measure. In
March, the U.S. federal appeals court declares unconstitutional the arrests and
detainment of all White House suffrage pickets.
Between January and June, the NWP initiates
an intense lobbying campaign to pass federal woman suffrage amendment in the
U.S. Senate. Organizers are dispatched throughout the country to gain supporters
and pressure senators at the state level. During August and September, the NWP
organizes open-air demonstrations in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Park,
protesting Senate inaction. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns and other women are again
arrested then released on bail.
On September 30, 1918 President Wilson finally
addresses the Senate, arguing for woman suffrage at the war’s end (World War
II ends November 11) When the Senate does vote on the amendment in October, the
amendment fails by three votes.
In November, suffragists work during the election to defeat the anti-suffrage
senators. Michigan, South Dakota and Oklahoma pass woman’s suffrage on the state
level. Texas secures primary suffrage. At this point, no states from the Solid
South have passed state referenda for woman’s suffrage. In response, the
NWP urges citizens to vote against anti-suffrage Senators up for reelection in
the 1918 Midterm elections.
1919 Burning Words: A Watchfire for Freedom
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NWP lights and guards an urn directly in line with the White House front door, a
“Watchfire for Freedom, in January. The NWP burns in the urn the words of
every speech on democracy that President Wilson gives that the NWP considers
hypocritical and accompanies the urn with a banner that reads: “President
Wilson is Deceiving the World When He Appears as the Prophet of Democracy.”
When soldiers and sailors rush the women and overturn the urn, the NWP starts a
second watch fire in Lafayette Park. Some 70 Watchfire women are arrested and
respond by refusing to pay bail, and threaten hunger strikes before releases in
February. On Feb.10, the U.S. Senate defeats federal woman suffrage amendment by
one vote, 33 nays to 63 yeas. A different version of the amendment is reintroduced
in Senate on Feb. 17 but is never brought to a vote.
Five days later on the 15, the “Prison
Special” tour begins when a train named the “Democracy Limited” leaves
Union Station in Washington, D.C, and travels across the country. Over the next
three weeks, 26 suffragists who had served jail sentences, often dressed in
prison costumes, speak at mass meetings about their incarceration and distribute
suffragist literature, throwing it from the train between stops.
meet President Wilson in Boston on the 24th upon his return from Europe. They
carry banners reminding him of his pledge to support suffrage amendment and
lobby him to pressure the Senate to pass the amendment before the March 3
recess. Twenty-one demonstrators are arrested and sentenced to the Charles Street
jail. These will be the last women imprisoned for suffrage.
They are not the
last women to be brutally attacked in public. Police, soldiers and onlookers
attack suffrage demonstrators outside the New York Metropolitan Opera House
where Wilson is speaking on March 4. Later that month in St. Louis, on the 24th
of March and the 50th anniversary of NAWSA, president Carrie Chapman Catt
proposes the formation of a league of women voters to “finish the fight.”
On May 21, The
House of Representatives passes the federal woman suffrage amendment, 304 to 89,
a margin of 42 votes over the required two-thirds majority.
Senate opponents block action in the Senate for another two weeks, delaying
ratification as most legislatures have adjourned for the year. On June
4, the Senate passes the 19th Amendment with just two votes to spare, 56 to 25.
From the time the Susan B. Anthony
Amendment was introduced in 1878 until June 4, 1919: “lie
forty years and six months, During that period the amendment was continuously
pending, having been introduced in the same form in every succeeding Congress.
In the Senate it was reported with a favorable majority in 1884, 1886, 1889 and
1893, and without recommendation in 1890 and 1896, and with a favorable majority
again in 1913, 1914 and 1916. The House Committee gave favorable reports in 1883
and 1890, and adverse reports in 1884, 1886 and 1894, reported without
recommendation in 1914, 1916 and 1917, and favorably in 1918, the Senate
Committees making six reports only and the House Committees five in the
thirty-five years between 1878 and 1913.”
– Carrie Chapman Catt
The 19th Amendment, with the same wording
as drafted by S. Anthony, reintroduced in Congress every year, is now sent to the
states for ratification. The NWP and the NAWSA campaign for ratification.
Between July and September, NWP members travel throughout the states. One June
8, the NWP sends a delegation to the Republican National Convention in Chicago
to lobby for suffrage in states that did not ratify the 19th Amendment and to
encourage insertion of a suffrage plank in the platform. The plank was rejected.
NWP members picket as a result but no arrests are made. Republicans decline to
take action to help secure ratification in a 36th state.
On June 22, 25
NWP members meet with presidential candidate Senator Warren G. Harding, who shows
some willingness to work for ratification. On June 28, the Democratic National
Convention opens in San Francisco. NWP members attend the convention and obtain
the Democratic Party’s support for ratification and suffrage plank in their
platform. NWP keeps the pressure on in several ways, including informing both
presidential nominees of ratification status.
Put the 'Rat' in Ratification!
When thirty-five of the necessary
thirty-six states (out of 48) had ratified the amendment, the battle comes to
Nashville, Tennessee. Anti-suffrage and pro-suffrage forces from around the
nation descend on the town. The final vote is scheduled for August 18. One young
legislator, 24-year-old Harry T. Burn of Niota, had voted with the anti-suffrage
forces up to that time and plans to vote “Nay.” When Burn sees that the vote
was very close and that his anti-suffrage vote would result in a tie: 48 to 48,
a letter from his mother urging that he vote for the amendment and suffrage
changes his mind.
Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep
them in doubt. I notice some of the speeches against. They were
bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed
anything yet. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the
“rat” in ratification.
mother – Phoebe (Febb)
And so Tennessee became the 36th and deciding state to ratify
the 19th Amendment.
of the 19th Amendment was completed on August 18, 1920 when the 36th state
requirement was met by Tennessee, preceded by:
(June 10, 1919, reaffirmed on June 17)
Michigan (June 10, 1919)
Kansas (June 16, 1919)
New York (June 16, 1919)
Ohio (June 16, 1919)
Pennsylvania (June 24, 1919)
Massachusetts (June 25, 1919)
Texas (June 28, 1919)
Iowa (July 2, 1919)
Missouri (July 3, 1919)
Arkansas (July 28, 1919)
(August 2, 1919)
Nebraska (August 2, 1919)
Minnesota (September 8, 1919)
Hampshire (September 10, 1919)
Utah (October 2, 1919)
California (November 1,
Maine (November 5, 1919)
North Dakota (December 1, 1919)
(December 4, 1919)
Colorado (December 15, 1919)
Kentucky (January 6, 1920)
Island (January 6, 1920)
Oregon (January 13, 1920)
Indiana (January 16, 1920)
Wyoming (January 27, 1920)
Nevada (February 7, 1920)
New Jersey (February 9,
Idaho (February 11, 1920)
Arizona (February 12, 1920)
New Mexico (February
Oklahoma (February 28, 1920)
West Virginia (March 10, 1920, confirmed
on September 21, 1920)
Washington (March 22, 1920)
Tennessee (August 18, 1920.)
The amendment was subsequently ratified by:
Connecticut (September 14, 1920,
reaffirmed on September 21, 1920)
Vermont (February 8, 1921)
Delaware (March 6,
1923, after being rejected on June 2, 1920)
Maryland (March 29, 1941 after being
rejected on February 24, 1920; not certified until February 25, 1958)
(February 21, 1952, after being rejected on February 12, 1920)
(September 8, 1953, after being rejected on September 22, 1919)
Florida (May 13,
South Carolina (July 1, 1969, after being rejected on January 28, 1920;
not certified until August 22, 1973)
Georgia (February 20, 1970, after being
rejected on July 24, 1919)
Louisiana (June 11, 1970, after being rejected on
July 1, 1920)
North Carolina (May 6, 1971)
Mississippi (March 22, 1984, after
being rejected on March 29, 1920).
Anti-suffragists try to overturn the
Tennessee vote, but after six more days of legal maneuvering, the Tennessee
governor signs the certificate of ratification and mails it to Washington, D.C.
on August 24. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certifies the
ratification on August 26. Anti-suffragists continue to mount legal challenges
to validity of ratification certificates passed in several states.
August 26, Catt is received at the White House by President and Mrs.
Wilson. During its last meeting, the NAWSA is dissolved, and the
nonpartisan political organization The League of Women Voters of the U.S.
is founded by Catt. In that same year, Catt runs as the presidential
candidate for the Commonwealth Land Party. The Women's Bureau of the
Department of Labor is established to gather information about the
situation of women at work, and to advocate for needed changes. Many
suffragists become actively involved with lobbying for legislation to
protect women workers from abuse and unsafe conditions.
On November 2, 1920 women across the entire
United States vote for the first time.
At 7 a.m. in
Hannibal, Missouri, Mrs. Marie Ruoff Byrum becomes the 1st woman to vote under
the 19th Amendment.
-- A Monument to Unfinished Business Back
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group portrait monument known formally as the Portrait Monument to Lucretia
Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, women’s suffrage
pioneers, is presented to the Capitol as a gift from the women of the United
States by the National Women’s Party. The 26,000-pound, three-part monument,
sculpted by Adelaide Johnson (1859-1955), is
accepted on behalf of Congress on February 15, 1921, the 101st anniversary of
the birth of Susan B. Anthony.
Reportedly, the sculpture was “banished” to the large, circular room located
under the Rotunda, called the Crypt, within two days. While there may well
have been anti-feminist thoughts demonstrated by the location decision, there
was also concern about whether the Rotunda floor could safely accommodate the
weight of the original three pieces.
The monument’s original lengthy
inscription included: "Woman, first denied a soul, then called mindless,
now arisen, declared herself an entity to be reckoned." The inscription
engendered such a strong negative reaction that members of Congress had it
covered with whitewash. The sculpture remained in the Crypt and basically unseen
until the renovation of the underground room in 1963. Organizers of the 75th
Anniversary of Suffrage celebration and the Woman Suffrage Statue Campaign
worked to have the monument moved to a prominent place in the Capitol Rotunda.
After three prior resolutions failed, the monument with its original marble base
slabs replaced with lighter structures, was relocated to the Rotunda in May
Paul drafts an Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Such a federal law, it is argued, would ensure that "Men and women have
equal rights throughout the United States." A constitutional amendment
would apply uniformly, regardless of where a person lived. Representative Daniel
Anthony, nephew of Susan B. Anthony introduces the amendment for equal rights in
Congress. In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment will pass Congress, but only 32
states of the 38 needed approve the amendment before the 1982 deadline.
Therefore, it has never been ratified and is not part of the Constitution.
The chronology was based on many sources,
including but not limited to:
“American Suffragists.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:American_suffragists
University of Maryland, Women’s Studies. “75 Suffragists.” Terborg-Penn,
African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850--1920
(Blacks in the Diaspora). Indiana University Press (May 1, 1998).
National Women’s History Museum. “Rights for Women: The Suffrage
Movement and Its Leaders.”
Women Who Led the Suffrage Movement. http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/rightsforwomen/listofleaders.html
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