A History of Woman Suffrage
Lucretia Mott (1793-1880)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (18151902), with daughter Harriet c.
July 1848: Seneca Falls
Led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and
Lucretia Mott
 Abolitionists fought for women’s rights
 Declaration of Sentiments written
“We hold these truths
to be self-evident:
that all men and
women are created
from the Declaration
of Sentiments, 1848
• "He has endeavored, in every way
that he could, to destroy her
confidence in her own powers, to
lessen her self-respect, and to make
her willing to lead a dependent and
abject life.“
Susan B. Anthony (18201906)
• Quaker temperance activist
and abolitionist who was
silenced in both movements
because of her sex.
• Joined Stanton in the late
1850s and focused work on
women’s rights.
• Never married so that she
could focus life work on
reform activism.
The Negroes’ Hour
• Many in the abolitionist and “Equal Rights”
movements put civil rights of African-American males
ahead of those of women regardless of race.
– African American men’s civil rights more attainable
– Public not ready for women’s equality
• Suffragists had hoped that women and blacks would
gain the vote at the same time and felt betrayed by
those abolitionists who chose to support the concept
of the "Negroes' Hour.“
• Stanton and Anthony
form the National
Woman Suffrage
Association (NWSA),
for the single
purpose of
advancing the
political cause of
their own sex, in
NWSA Executive Committee, 1869
Lucy Stone (18151903), suffrage
• Reformer, lecturer,
editor, women's
rights advocate,
• Opposed Stanton
and Anthony on the
15th Amendment
• Headed the
American Woman
Suffrage Association
• From 1869, movement
for woman's rights
went forward along
several paths:
– the narrowing focus
on suffrage,
– the byways of racism
and nativism, and
– an increasing recourse
to domestic and
feminine rhetoric.
1872: Susan B. Anthony votes
 Arrested for illegal voting
 Supreme Court decides
states can deny women
the vote
“Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”
Susan B. Anthony after her arrest for illegal voting, 1872
1874: WCTU formed
Women’s Christian
Temperance Union
 Fought for temperance
and suffrage
 Wanted vote to protect
1890: NAWSA formed
• Led by Stanton
and Anthony
• State by state
• Some Western
states give
women the vote
From Arizona, 1912
Mrs. Henry M. Youmans of Waukesha, WI, president
of Wisconsin Women's Suffrage Association
“Social Housekeeping”
• Women could be counted upon to use
their votes to do the civic work that they
did in their own households
• If allowed to vote, they would:
– teach children
– clean up urban messes
– care for the sick and elderly
– create a more humane and less corrupt
Jane Addams & Social Housekeeping
“[Life in] the modern city is ... going badly
[because] the quickly-congregated
population has not yet learned to arrange
its affairs satisfactorily. Unsanitary
housing, poisonous sewage,
contaminated water, infant mortality, the
spread of contagion, adulterated food,
impure milk, smoke-laden air, ill ventilated
factories, dangerous occupations, juvenile crime,
unwholesome crowding, prostitution and
drunkenness are the enemies which the
modem cities must face and overcome,
would they survive. Logically their
electorate should be made up of those
who can bear a valiant part in this
arduous context, those who in the past
have at least attempted to care for
children, to clean houses, to prepare
foods, to isolate the family from moral
Jane Addams, 1860-1935
Racism and Ethnocentricity
• Olympia Brown's comments to the NWSA
Convention in Washington D.C. in January
"The last census shows, I think, that
there are in the United States three
times as many American-born women
as the whole foreign population, men
and women together, so that the votes
of women will eventually be the only
means of overcoming this foreign
influence and maintaining our free
institutions. There is no possible safety
for our free school, our free church or
our republican government, unless
women are given the suffrage and that
right speedily....
Olympia Brown, 1835-1926
Olympia Brown’s comments, continued:
“…Our American women are property holders and pay large taxes; but the
foreigner who has lived only one year in the State, and ten days in the precinct,
who does not own a foot of land, may vote away their property in the form of
taxes in the most reckless manner, regardless of their interests and their
rights. Women are well-educated; they are graduating from our colleges; they
are reading and thinking and writing; and yet they are the political inferiors of all
the riff-raff of Europe that is poured upon our shores. It is unbearable, there is no
language that can express the enormous injustice done to women. . . .
. . .We are in danger in this country of Catholic domination, not because the
Catholics are more numerous than we are, but because the Catholic church is
represented at the polls and the Protestant church is not. The foreigners
are Catholic – the greater portion of them; the foreigners are men – the
greater part of them, and members of the Catholic Church, and they work for it and
vote for it. The Protestant church is composed of women. Men for the most
part do not belong to it; they do not care much for it except as something to
interest the women of their household. The consequence is the Protestant
church is comparatively unrepresented at the ballotbox."
• Suffrage leaders reflected the racial attitudes which
characterized a large segment of the white middleclass.
• Many suffragists described the female vote as a
way of maintaining white supremacy
–white, educated women would outnumber black
• This became a very popular argument in the South
– where women called for white women's vote
– and talked about 4 million "semibarbaric
exslaves“ who had to be overcome.
Suffrage leaders reflected the racial attitudes which
characterized a large segment of the white middle-class.
Many suffragists described the female vote as a way of
maintaining white supremacy
– white, educated women would outnumber black votes
• This became a very popular argument in the South
– where women called for white women's vote
– and talked about 4 million "semibarbaric exslaves“ who
had to be overcome.
Belle Kearney, "The South and Woman
Suffrage," NWSA Convention, New
Orleans, March 1903:
“The enfranchisement of women would
insure immediate and durable white
supremacy, honestly attained, for upon
unquestioned authority it is stated that
in every southern State but one there
are more educated women than all the
illiterate voters, white and black, native
and foreign, combined. As you probably
know, of all the women in the South
who can read and write, ten out of
every eleven are white. When it comes
to the proportion of property between
the races, that of the white outweighs
that of the black immeasurably. The
South is slow to grasp the great fact
that the enfranchisement of women
would settle the race question in
Belle Kearney, 1863-1939
“…The civilization of the North is threatened
by the influx of foreigners with their imported
customs; by the greed of monopolistic
wealth and the unrest among the working
classes; by the strength of the liquor traffic
and encroachments upon religious belief.
Some day the North will be compelled to
look to the South for redemption from those
evils on account of the purity of its AngloSaxon blood, the simplicity of its social and
economic structure, the great advance in
prohibitory law and the maintenance of the
sanctity of its faith, which has been kept
inviolate. Just as surely as the North will be
forced to turn to the South for the nation's
salvation, just so surely will the South be
compelled to look to its Anglo-Saxon women
as the medium through which to retain the
supremacy of the white race over the
African-American Women and Suffrage
• In 1896, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. WellsBarnett, Margaret Murray Washington, Fanny
Jackson Coppin, Frances Ellen Watkins
Harper, Charlotte Forten Grimké, and former
slave Harriet Tubman met in Washington,
D.C., to form the National Association of
Colored Women (NACW)
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Mary Church Terrell
“A white woman has only one
handicap to overcome, a great
one, true, her sex; a colored
woman faces two-her sex and
her race.” -- Mary Church Terrell
Charlotte Forten Grimké
Margaret Murray Washington
Final Stage, 1890-1920
• Mass movement made up of mostly young women
who identify as “New Women”
• Explicitly feminist:
– Women deserve the vote as a basic human right
– Women assume equality in their methods and arguments
• Willingness to be “unladylike” in the fight
• Carrie Chapman Catt and the National American
Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), Alice Paul
and the National Women’s Party (NWP)
Carrie Lane Chapman Catt (1859-1947), women's
suffrage leader c. 1896
Carrie Chapman Catt and the National
American Woman Suffrage Association
Alice Paul and the
Congressional Union
Alice Paul joined in the suffragists
movement in Great Britain and is
imprisoned three times.
With fellow American Lucy Burns Paul
went on hunger strikes and was forcefed.
Alice Paul and Lucy Burns gave a new
direction to the women’s rights
movement in the United States.
In 1916, Paul and Burns organized the
National Woman’s Party (NWP)
adopted the radical tactics of the
British suffragettes
campaigned for the first Equal
Rights Amendment.
Alice Paul (1885-1977),
women's suffrage leader c.
Importance of Publicity in Building a Mass
• Congressional Union, under the leadership of Alice Paul,
split off from NAWSA in 1913 and had special
appreciation use of publicity and means planting material
in press.
– Created own paper (The Suffragist), and sent press releases and
photos to newspapers.
• NAWSA had own publicity apparatus including a
publishing company.
• By WWI even state suffrage organizations had publicity
departments which furnished material to newspapers
and magazines.
Also copied advertising, particularly
publicity stunts.
• In 1909 Massachusetts suffragists began
crisscrossing the commonwealth in cars,
trolleys, and trains.
• One went up in balloon, circus manager
agreed to put “Votes for Women” banner
on elephant, suffrage float appeared in July
4th parades.
• In California, suffragists put on plays,
pageants, concerts and social functions,
hung huge electric signs, spoke at vaudeville
shows and got Hollywood's attention in
• Began to hold large rallies, street meetings,
parades, and marches.
Headquarters of an Anti-Suffrage Group
Opposition to the goal of women’s suffrage came from many arenas. Some
objected because they believed that women would only duplicate the voting of
their husbands, while others believed that women were unable to exert the
rational thought that voting required.
Anti-Suffrage Pamphlet (c.1910)
You do not need a ballot to clean out your
sink spout. A handful of potash and some
boiling water is quicker and cheaper…
Why vote for pure food laws, when your
husband does that, while you can purify
your Ice-box with saleratus water?”
“Vote NO on Woman Suffrage
BECAUSE 90% of the women either do not
want it, or do not care.
BECAUSE it means competition of women
with men instead of co-operation.
BECAUSE 80% of the women eligible to
vote are married and can only double or
annul their husband’s votes…
BECAUSE in some States more voting
women than voting men will place the
Government under petticoat rule.
BECAUSE it is unwise to risk the good we
already have for the evil which may occur.
Opposition to Women’s Suffrage:
•Liquor Lobby feared it would
lead to Prohibition
•Industrialists feared women
would support labor reforms
•Belief that women belong in
the home
Poster warns: "Danger! Woman's Suffrage Would
Double the Irresponsible Vote“ c. 1912
Parading for Suffrage
"I saw the possibilities in a
suffrage parade. What
could be more stirring than
hundreds of women,
carrying banners, marching-marching--marching! The
public would be aroused,
the press would spread the
story far and wide, and the
interest of our own workers
would be stirred.”
Harriot Stanton Blatch
Suffrage parade, New York City, May 6, 1912
Head of suffrage parade, Washington, D.C.,
March 3, 1913
Inez Milholland
Some suffragists explored more radical tactics
• There were some politics of
confrontation -- largely by
Congressional Union and the
National Woman’s Party, which
picketed White House, heckled
president, climbed statues, burned
Wilson's words and were
• Many of the women engaged in
such activities were working class,
hardened by labor strikes and
• Some were immigrants with
backgrounds in the harsher,
bloodier politics of Europe.
NWP’s “Silent Sentinals”
Virginia Arnold holding Kaiser
Wilson banner, August 1917
Protests Lead to Arrest
• Picketers were arrested
for “obstructing traffic.”
• Many including Alice Paul
were convicted,
incarcerated, and tortured
at Occoquan Workhouse
in Virginia.
• In protest of conditions
Alice Paul commenced a
hunger strike with others
later joining her. She and
other were force-fed with
"The Stomach Tube."
NWP Marchers
about to be
Abby Scott Baker in
prison dress, 1917
Lucy Burns, Vice Chairman Congressional
Union, in Occoquan Workhouse, November
Mary Winsor (PA) holding Suffrage
Prisoners banner, October 1917.jpg
• Passed in 1919
• Finally, on Aug. 20, 1920,
the 19th Amendment
became part of the
United States
Constitution when
Tennessee became the
36th state to ratify it.
• “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 sex.”
Victory – 1919-20
• Wilson, appalled by the
spectacle of NWP arrests
and facing a rough
political environment (and
growing pressure from his
own party), agrees to
negotiate with NAWSA
(but NOT the NWP)
• But it was the NWP’s
radical actions which
forced Wilson to
• Wilson and NAWSA’s
Carrie Chapman Catt
sponsor the 19th
Amendment, signed into
law in 1920.
The Woman’s Party was one of the first groups in the United States
to employ the techniques of classic non-violent protest. These
techniques included tactics such as: information warfare, picketing,
and leafleting.
Crowd gathers in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 1913 to witness a parade
for women's suffrage
Alice Miller: Why We Don't Want Men to
Vote (1915)
Alice Miller was a prominent writer who
often expounded on topics relevant to
women. Here she satirizes the viewpoints of
many men who wanted to deny women the
right to vote.
“Why We Don't Want Men to Vote
– Because man's place is in the army.
– Because no really manly man wants to settle
any question otherwise than by fighting
about it.
– Because if men should adopt peaceable
methods women will no longer look up to
– Because men will lose their charm if they
step out of their natural sphere and interest
themselves in other matters than feats of
arms, uniforms, and drums.
– Because men are too emotional to vote.
Their conduct at baseball games and political
conventions shows this, while their innate
tendency to appeal to force renders them
unfit for government.”
Jan. 10, 1917: The NWP began to picket
the White House.
"Kaiser Wilson"
• During World War I, militant
suffragists, demanding that
President Wilson reverse his
opposition to a federal
amendment, stood vigil at the
White House and carried
banners such as this one
comparing the President to
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.
• In the heated patriotic climate
of wartime, such tactics met
with hostility and sometimes
violence and arrest.
Passage of the 19th Amendment
• Passed in 1919
• “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 sex.”
1920: 19th Amendment passed
 NAWSA and NWP joined forces
 Prohibition already passed
Women helped in war effort, so many
Congressmen supported it
Women’s Suffrage Map