Women`s Suffrage

Women`s Suffrage

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Women`s suffrage may be defined as women`s right to vote in political circumstances.Backdrop to a drama"In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors." Abigail Adams in a letter to her husband, March 31, 1776.Treated as chattel in patriarchal societies from time immemorial, women nonetheless helped well beyond childbearing and menial labor to make those cultures flourish. They often exerted unofficial influence over their menfolk and occasionally were monarchs.In emerging democracies, women had no voting rights, but many in congenial circumstances enjoyed social and family connections that accorded them more influence than some men who had the franchise.In America, women worked shoulder to shoulder with men to build the country. Many were influential, such as Lady Deborah Moody (1586-1659) a respected community leader who brought settlers seeking religious freedom to Gravesend at New Amsterdam (later New York); Pocahontas (1595-1617), who purportedly saved the life of Captain John Smith at the hands of her father, Chief Powhatan, later married John Rolfe and met royalty in England; and Abigail Adams (1744-1818), who wrote lucidly about her life and time in letters, and exerted political influence over her president husband, John, and son, John Quincy.During colonial times, some women paid taxes and were thus able to vote—except in New York and Virginia. The New Jersey Constitution accorded the vote to women, but in 1807 it was rescinded.Conditions in the 1830s provoked women to press for suffrage; they were increasingly in the factory labor force, but were not treated equally. Progressive men who struggled for such causes as temperance, abolition and educational reform realized they needed women`s support. In return, they were accorded more of a voice in public matters.A prairie fireIn 1840, the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London may have been the spark of a blaze, when two American delegates, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, were refused permission to speak. Stanton said later, "We resolved to hold a convention as soon as we returned home, and form a society to advocate the rights of women." Eight years later, Stanton and Mott organized the first women`s suffrage convention in the United States at Seneca Falls, New York; the proceedings provoked much public discussion. The meeting`s Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the Declaration of Independence, spelled out many demands for equality.That declaration spread the fire of a revolution that would reach every facet of society. In 1850, Lucy Stone organized the Women`s Rights Convention at Worcester, Massachusetts; its distinction lay in being a national assembly of women and men.Although most men were deeply opposed to letting women vote, a few reformers, notably in Massachusetts, supported women on this issue. In 1853, the Massachusetts legislature received a petition, drafted by a group that included Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison, which began:

We deem the extension to woman of all civil rights a measure of vital importance to the welfare and progress of the state. On every principle of natural justice, as well as by the nature of our institutions, she is as fully entitled as man to vote and to be eligible to office. In governments based on force, it might be pretended with some plausibility that woman being supposed physically weaker than man should be excluded from the state. But ours is a government professedly resting on the consent of the governed. Woman is surely as competent to give that consent as man.

Susan B. Anthony and Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in May 1869. These women had reacted to the 15th Amendment, passed that year, which accorded emancipated black men the vote—but not women. The NWSA chose to agitate for another Constitutional amendment. A similar, but more moderate organization, the American Woman Suffrage Association, approached the state legislatures, rather than the federal government, to win women the vote.*VictoryResistance began to burn down when the territorial legislature of Wyoming granted women the vote in 1869; it was the first permanent suffrage law in U.S. history. By the 1890s, several states had granted suffrage. When by 1913 there were 12 states, the National Woman`s Party, led by Alice Paul, decided to harness the voting power of women in those states to push a suffrage resolution through Congress. They were part of a confederacy of suffragists, temperance groups, other women`s organizations and reform-prone lawmakers.When suffragettes were jailed for their protests, they embraced the fact. Doris Stevens, writing in 1917, explained the position:

We decided, in the fact of extended imprisonment, to demand to be treated as political prisoners. We felt that, as a matter of principle, this was the dignified and self-respecting thing to do, since we had offended politically, not criminally. We believed further that a determined, organized effort to make clear to a wider public the political nature of the offense would intensify the administration`s embarrassment and so accelerate their final surrender.

The country`s involvement in World War I required the support of women; this provided the suffragists their decisive fire power. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, a woman suffrage amendment was submitted in the House of Representatives. By 1919, it had passed both houses of Congress and was soon ratified by the necessary 36 states. The 19th Amendment, also called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, became law in August 1920.

*The two would merge in 1890 as the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
See Important and Famous Women in America.

19th Amendment

Women in America first collectively organized in 1848 at the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY to fight for suffrage (or voting rights). Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the convention sparked the women’s suffrage movement. Not everyone followed the same path in fighting for women's equal access to the vote, and the history of the suffrage movement is one of disagreements as well as cooperation.

While women were not always united in their goals, and the fight for women’s suffrage was complex and interwoven with issues of civil and political rights for all Americans, the efforts of women like Ida B. Wells and Alice Paul led to the passage of the 19th Amendment. Signed into law on August 26, 1920, the passage of the 19th Amendment was the result of decades of work by tens of thousands across the country who worked for change.

Use this site to discover some of the stories of women and men who fought for women’s suffrage rights. You’ll also find resources for children and adults, including essays on suffrage, storymaps, and lesson plans.

Women's Access to the Vote Across the US

This series of 14 articles gives a comprehensive history of woman suffrage and the 19th Amendment across America.

Explore Suffrage Stories and Connections

Use this crowd-sourced tool to view connections between suffrage activists, explore associated historic sites, and read archival documents.

Suffrage in 60 Seconds

These 1-minute videos highlight suffrage subjects and heroes who made woman suffrage a reality—in 1920 and beyond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wyoming territory is organized with a woman suffrage provision.

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

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

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

The Anti-Suffrage Party is founded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The American Federation of Labor declares support for woman suffrage.

The South Dakota campaign for woman suffrage loses.

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

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

Colorado adopts woman suffrage.

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

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

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

Utah joins the Union with full suffrage for women.

Idaho adopts woman suffrage.

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

Washington State adopts woman suffrage.

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

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

The elaborate California suffrage campaign succeeds by a small margin.

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

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

Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona adopt woman suffrage.

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

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

Nevada and Montana adopt woman suffrage.

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

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

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

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

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

New York women gain suffrage.

Arkansas women are allowed to vote in primary elections.

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan, South Dakota, and Oklahoma adopt woman suffrage.

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

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

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

August 26, 1920

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

This Day in History: The 1913 Women's Suffrage Parade

On this day 103 years ago, thousands of women gathered in Washington, D.C. to call for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. While women had been fighting hard for suffrage for over 60 years, this marked the first major national event for the movement.

The huge parade, which was spearheaded by Alice Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, was held on March 3, 1913. Riding atop a white horse, lawyer and activist Inez Milholland led over five thousand suffragettes up Pennsylvania Avenue, along with over 20 parade floats, nine bands, and four mounted brigades.

Women suffragists marching on Pennsylvania Avenue led by Mrs. Richard Coke Burleson (center on horseback) U.S. Capitol in background. (Library of Congress)

The organizers of the parade also maximized attention on the event by strategically hosting it just one day before the inauguration of President-elect Woodrow Wilson. This tactic worked. As the women marched from the U.S. Capitol toward the Treasury Building, they were met by thousands of spectators, many in town for the inauguration.

Not all spectators were kind. Some marchers were jostled, tripped, and violently attacked, while police on the parade route did little to help. By the end of the day, over 100 women had to be hospitalized for injuries. However, the women did not give up they finished the parade. Their experiences led to major news stories and even congressional hearings. Historians later credited the 1913 parade for giving the suffrage movement a new wave of inspiration and purpose.

While it took another seven years for the Nineteenth Amendment to be ratified on August 18, 1920, the women who marched on this day in history accomplished their goal of reinvigorating the suffrage movement. As the official parade pamphlet read, they gave “expression to the nation-wide demand for an amendment to the United States Constitution enfranchising women.”

Alice Paul, Inez Milholland, and the others who marched in 1913 are just some of the women who made a more just and prosperous future possible for all Americans. While these women paved the way for equality at the ballot box, the Obama Administration is still fighting every day to increase equality for women and girls. From creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, to appointing two women to the Supreme Court and a strong team of women leaders to his Cabinet and White House staff, President Obama has taken concrete steps to ensure that women’s voices are heard in government and society.

Throughout Women’s History Month, we’ll update you on the important work the Obama Administration is taking to support women in the workplace, expand women’s access to quality and affordable health care, increase opportunities for girls pursuing STEM education, protect women from violence, support women in the military and female veterans, and much more.

During #WomensHistoryMonth, we remember the trailblazers who opened doors for women today → https://t.co/kgDEpU4IJn pic.twitter.com/rJcyuNtI6i

&mdash White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) March 1, 2016

Danielle Cohen is an intern in the Office of Digital Strategy

A History of United States Woman Suffrage

Crusade for the Vote is a comprehensive resource for students and teachers that examines the full history of the woman's suffrage movement in the United States.

Generously Sponsored by Toni Ko

Elizabeth Cady Stanton--one of the Seneca Falls convention leaders--reminisced, "We were but a handful. " recalling the supporters of woman suffrage at the convention, where the right to vote was their most radical demand. Between this first convention advocating the rights of women and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women's right to vote in 1920 lay a long and arduous journey. Victory was never assured until the final moments. In the intervening years, the drive for women's voting rights encompassed the lives of several generations of women. Suffrage supporters survived a series of dramatic transformations in their movement that included: fifty years of educating the public to establish the legitimacy of woman suffrage approximately twenty years of direct lobbying as well as dramatic militant action to press their claim to the vote the division of each generation into moderate and radical camps and the creation of a distinct female political culture and imagery to promote "votes for women."


Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, leaders of National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), initiated the project of writing a history of the women's suffrage movement in 1876. The project dominated their lives for much of the next decade, although Anthony in particular also maintained a busy schedule of lecturing and other women's suffrage activities. Originally envisioned as a modest publication that would take only four months to write, [1] it evolved into a work of more than 5700 pages written over a period of 41 years. It was completed in 1922, long after the deaths of Stanton and Anthony in 1902 and 1906 respectively.

In the introduction the authors wrote: "We hope the contribution we have made may enable some other hand in the future to write a more complete history of 'the most momentous reform that has yet been launched on the world—the first organized protest against the injustice which has brooded over the character and destiny of one-half the human race.'" [2] The first volume is dedicated to the memory of pioneering women in the movement, with Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), prominently listed first.

The first three volumes, which cover the history of the movement from its beginnings to 1885, were written and edited by Stanton, Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Volume 1 (1848–1861) appeared in 1881, Volume 2 (1861–1876) in 1882 and Volume 3 (1876–1885) in 1886. [3] Some early chapters first appeared in Gage's newspaper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box. [4]

Anthony had for years saved letters, newspapers clippings, and similar materials of historical value to the women's suffrage movement. In 1876 she shipped several trunks and boxes of these materials to the Stanton house in New Jersey and moved into that household herself to begin working on the project with Stanton. [5] Anthony hated this type of work. In her letters, she said the project "makes me feel growly all the time. No warhorse ever panted for the rush of battle more than I for outside work. I love to make history but hate to write it." [6] The work inevitably led to disagreements. Stanton's daughter Margaret reported that "Sometimes these disputes run so high that down go the pens, one sails out of one door and one out of the other, walking in opposite directions around the estate, and just as I have made up my mind that this beautiful friendship of forty years has at last terminated, I see them walking down the hill, arm in arm." [7]

When Stanton was ill for several months in 1881, her daughter Harriet completed her editorial work for volume 2. Dismayed to learn that Anthony and Stanton had no plan for covering the history of the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), a rival to their NWSA, Harriet Stanton also wrote that 107-page chapter herself with information gathered primarily from the Woman's Journal, a periodical published by the AWSA. [8] [9]

According to Ellen Carol DuBois, a historian of the women's movement, "The initial volumes are very broadly conceived, a combination of Stanton's broad philosophical range, Anthony's organizational energies and Gage's historical sensibilities." [10] Anthony was the business manager. Stanton wrote much of the text, providing it with her distinct historical interpretation. Gage wrote several historical essays, including a long one that critically assesses Christianity's attitude toward women throughout history. [10] Gage also provided a significant number of historical documents to the project and was adept at tracking down additional documentation in libraries. [11]

In addition to chronicling the movement's activities, the initial volumes include reminiscences of movement leaders and analyses of the historical causes of the condition of women. They also contain a variety of primary materials, including letters, newspaper clippings, speeches, court transcripts and decisions, and conference reports. Volume three includes essays by local women's rights activists who provided details about the history of the movement at the state level. At Anthony's insistence, the volumes were indexed by a professional indexer and include many expensive steel engravings of women's rights leaders. [12]

A bequest of $24,000 from Eliza Jackson Eddy to Anthony in 1885 provided financial assistance for the completion of these volumes. [13] [14] Recognizing that there was little chance of the project showing a profit, Anthony paid Stanton and Gage for their shares of the rights to the books. She issued Volume 3 in 1886, listing herself as publisher. She also bought the plates of Volumes 1 and 2, which had already been published, from Fowler and Wells, the publisher, and reprinted them in 1887, again listing herself as publisher. Anthony gave away over 1000 copies at her own expense, mailing them to political leaders and libraries in the U.S. and Europe. Publishing the first three volumes cost Anthony about $20,000. [15]

Volume 4, which covers the period from 1883 to 1900, was published by Anthony in 1902, when she was 82 years old. Its editors are listed as Anthony and her younger protégé Ida Husted Harper, but Harper did most of the work." [16] (Anthony also chose Harper to write her biography.) In an indication of the increased acceptance of the women's suffrage movement, Harvard University sent in an order for Volume 4. Less than twenty years earlier, when Anthony sent the school free copies of the first three volumes, Harvard had declined the gift and returned the books. [17]

Publishing the volumes herself presented a variety of problems for Anthony, including finding space for the inventory. She was forced to limit the large number of books she was storing in the attic of the house she shared with sister because the weight was threatening to collapse the structure. [18]

Volumes 5 and 6 were published in 1922 by the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), long after Anthony's death in 1906. Written edited by Harper, they are a pair of volumes that cover different aspects of the period from 1900 to 1920, the year that the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. That amendment, popularly known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, prevents the denial of voting rights on the basis of sex. [19]

The last three volumes include detailed information about the NAWSA, documenting its conventions, officers, committee reports and activities on both a national and state-by-state basis. The NAWSA was formed in 1890 by a merger of the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. The former was led by Anthony and Stanton, while the latter was for twenty years its rival under the leadership of Lucy Stone. Anthony was the dominant figure in the merged organization. [20] The last three volumes avoid discussion of conflicts within the women's movement during the period they cover. On the contrary, the narrative has a tone of the inevitability of the movement's victory under the leadership of a few talented leaders. [21]

In her will, Anthony bequeathed the plates for the History of Woman Suffrage together with the existing inventory to the National American Woman Suffrage Association. [22]

In 1978 Mari Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle condensed the most important parts of the massive History of Woman Suffrage into The Concise History of Woman Suffrage and published it as a single volume of fewer than 500 pages.

The History of Woman Suffrage provides only limited coverage to groups and individuals who competed with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for leadership of the women's suffrage movement. It only partially portrays the role of Lucy Stone, a pioneering women's rights advocate and a leader of the AWSA, a rival to the NWSA led by Stanton and Anthony. Stanton urged Stone to assist with the history project by writing an account of her own role in the movement, but Stone refused, saying the project should be left to a later generation because none of the leaders of the two rival groups would be able to write an impartial history. Stone accordingly provided Stanton with only minimal information about her activities and asked Stanton not to write a biographical sketch of her for inclusion in the history. [23] [24] A 107-page chapter on the history of the AWSA was included, however, compiled by Stanton's daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch in 1882. [25] The History of Woman Suffrage provides only minimal coverage of the activities of the militant National Woman's Party, founded in 1913 by Alice Paul and other activists who were formerly members of the NAWSA. [26]

According to historian Ellen Carol DuBois, the History of Woman Suffrage established for several decades the consensus view of the history of the women's movement, a "frozen account of the past, a history characterized by celebration, inevitability and canonization". [27] Historian and biographer Lori D. Ginzberg said, "In that story, Stanton alone articulated the demand for woman suffrage, and Anthony led the charge there was only one major organization (theirs) and the differences of principle that led to the division brooked no debate." [28] Historian Lisa Tetrault said that Stanton and Anthony mapped a single, accessible narrative onto what had in fact been "a sprawling, multifaceted campaign". [29] Tetrault said they placed themselves and their allies at the center of the story and minimized or ignored the roles of Stone and others who did not fit into their narrative. [30] Scholarly research into women's history began to break out of this framework with the publication of Eleanor Flexner's Century of Struggle in 1959. [31]

In Woman Suffrage and Women's Rights, historian Ellen Carol DuBois said "There is nothing in the annals of American reform quite like History of Woman Suffrage, a prolonged, deliberate effort on the part of activists to ensure their place in the historical record." [32] The Encyclopedia of Women's History in America described the History of Woman Suffrage as "the fundamental primary source for the women's suffrage campaign". [33] In Elizabeth Cady Stanton: an American Life, Lori D. Ginzberg similarly described it as "the major, if not the definitive, collection of primary source materials on the nineteenth-century movement." [28] Referring to the several volumes of the History, Tetrault said, "More than 125 years after their publication, they remain an indispensable source, having stood for much of that time as the richest repository of published, accessible documentary evidence of nineteenth century suffrage movements." [34]

The History of Woman Suffrage contains more than 80 images of women activists, including these images of its four main contributors: [35]


The work of suffragists in the 1800s and 1900s lives on. In 1972, thanks to the ongoing strong voices from women, Congress passed Title IX, a law that makes it illegal for schools to discriminate based on gender. In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Supreme Court justice, and Nancy Pelosi became the first female speaker of the House. Today, women around the world continue to be inspired by role models of the past as they push for equal pay and equal political representation.


The Alabama Legislature has passed a resolution recognizing the Alabama Centennial of Women’s Suffrage Committee. It states:

WHEREAS, a proposed women’s suffrage amendment was first introduced in the United States Senate in 1878 and was brought to a vote, unsuccessfully, in 1887, 1914, 1918, and 1919 and

WHEREAS, during 1919 and 1920, the Sixty-Sixth Congress debated, and the state legislatures considered, an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to provide suffrage for women and

WHEREAS, on May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives approved a proposed amendment, followed by the United States Senate on June 4 several state legislatures followed within a few days of the approval of the amendment and

WHEREAS, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th State to ratify the amendment, providing the support of three-fouths of states necessary under Article V of the Constitution of the United States and

WHEREAS, Alabama’s celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage offers an opportunity for Alabamians to learn more about, and commemorate, the efforts of the women’s suffrage movement and the role of women in our democracy now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, That we endorse the efforts of the existing Alabama Centennial of Women’s Suffrage Committee for the purpose of leading the state in its centennial commemoration of women’s suffrage, and hereby resolve to support the Alabama Centennial of Women’s Suffrage Committee in promoting, planning, and executing the Committee’s historic, educational, celebratory, and cultural initiatives to observe and commemorate the centennial of women’s suffrage in the State of Alabama.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we encourage the Secretary of State to provide support to the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage Committee, through his position as Alabama’s election official and his efforts to educate Alabamians about20the importance of the right to vote and voter participation.

History of Women’s Suffrage in Olympia

Excerpted in part from Women’s Votes, Women’s Voices: The Campaign for Equal Rights in Washington by Shanna Stevenson, published by the Washington State Historical Society 2009. Copyright Washington State Historical Society—Used by permission, all rights reserved.

As the territorial and state capital of Washington, Olympia was central to women’s suffrage history of Washington.

During the Territorial era, the legislature could define who could vote. In 1854, just six years after the Declaration of Sentiments was signed at the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, Seattle legislator Arthur A. Denny proposed women’s suffrage in the first meeting of the Washington Territorial Legislature in Olympia. Denny proposed to amend a pending bill relating to voting “to allow all white females over the age of 18 years to vote,” but it failed in the house of representatives by a vote of 8–9. [1]

The 1867 territorial voting law clearly stated that “all white American citizens twenty-one years of age” had the right to vote. [2] This territorial law empowering “all white American citizens” to vote became the rallying point for Washington suffragists who also cited the 1868 Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution as defining citizens as “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” In 1869 suffragist Mary Olney Brown tested the 1867 law in White River, but was turned away from the polls.

Undaunted, Brown launched her own suffrage campaign the following year, writing several newspaper editorials urging women to vote. [3] By 1870 she had moved to Olympia, and her sister Charlotte Emily Olney French was living in Grand Mound, in southern Thurston County. With other women in the area, the sisters planned a picnic dinner near Grand Mound at the schoolhouse at Goodell’s Point, where the June 6, 1870, election was to be held. French, like her sister, was well-versed in the arguments for women’s suffrage and spoke at the gathering. After the picnic, the women—seven in all—handed in their ballots. The husband of one of the women was an election inspector for that precinct this may have had something to do with their ballots being accepted. Women of nearby Black River (present-day Littlerock) had stationed a man on a “fleet horse” at the Grand Mound precinct to report whether the women there had been allowed to vote. The man arrived at the polling place waving his hat and yelling, “They’re voting! They’re voting!” Eight Black River women immediately cast their ballots.

While the southern Thurston County women were successful in having their votes counted, a small Olympia delegation was not. When Brown and two women presented ballots at the Olympia courthouse, they were rejected despite Brown’s legal arguments and threats of prosecution against the election officials. [4] Although those fifteen votes did not constitute a permanent stride toward suffrage in Washington, they provided a significant stepping-stone in the overall history of the movement.

In autumn 1871 women’s rights leaders Susan B. Anthony and Abigail Scott Duniway toured the Northwest, accelerating the women’s suffrage movement in Washington Territory. The women endured a difficult stage trip from Monticello on the Cowlitz River (near present-day Longview) to Olympia, the territorial capital, where Anthony spoke on October 17 to an audience of about one hundred, including some legislators.

Two days later Anthony and Duniway addressed the legislature in session. The day before her legislative speech, Anthony dined at the home of fellow suffragists, Daniel and Ann Elizabeth Bigelow in Olympia, now the Bigelow House Museum at 918 Glass Avenue NE.

On October 19, Anthony spoke before the legislature. The Olympia Transcript said of her speech: “Miss Anthony is a woman of more than ordinary ability, and the able manner in which she handled her subject before the Legislature, was ample warning to the members of that body who oppose woman suffrage to be silent.” [5] Duniway also spoke to the legislature. The house of representatives turned down a proposal to print Anthony’s legislative address, but the Washington Standard published a summary of it. [6]

After a swing around Puget Sound, Anthony returned to Olympia to participate in Washington’s first women’s suffrage convention, which began on November 8, 1871. A committee including Sarah Yesler, Daniel Bigelow, and Anthony drafted the constitution for the Washington Territory Woman Suffrage Association (WTWSA), the principle outcome of the convention. [7] The WTWSA spurred the creation of local suffrage organizations in Olympia and Thurston County.

Throughout the 1870s the WTWSA continued its work and the territorial legislature considered various suffrage measures. In 1873 Territorial Legislator Edward Eldridge introduced a women’s suffrage bill, which lost 12–18 in the house of representatives. In 1875 Olympia legislator Elwood Evans, then speaker of the house, introduced another suffrage bill, which was again defeated—this time 11–15. An effort to repeal a definitive law of 1871 that precluded women’s suffrage until Congress took action also failed. [8]

In 1881 the issue of women’s suffrage was again before the legislature, brought to the forefront with a petition signed by fifty women. [9] Although the bill carried the house 13–11, it lost in council 5–7. [10] (Once Washington achieved statehood in 1889, the council became the state senate.) Saloon owners, and other anti-prohibitionists thwarted the council effort for suffrage legislation.

Building on gains for women during the previous decade, the suffrage movement gathered momentum in Washington after 1881. In 1883, the Territorial Legislature passed women’s suffrage. [11] Only Wyoming and Utah territories had enacted woman’s suffrage after the Civil War before Washington. Washington’s victory was different from those two territories because women in Wyoming and Utah had not solicited the right to vote, while Washington’s women petitioned and campaigned for the ballot. [12]

After the success of the suffrage bill, celebrations erupted around the state, but Olympia was the site of special jubilance. Duniway described the festivities in her newspaper the New Northwest:

It is 4 o’clock p.m. on Monday, November 19, 1883. As we write, church bells are ringing and a grand salute of minute guns sends out its joyful reverberations through the air proclaiming that Governor William A. Newell has formally announced that he will sign the Woman Suffrage bill and thereby make the women of Washington Territory free beyond peradventure…. All the people of Olympia…are rallying around the standard-bearers of liberty and justice, lifting their hearts and voices in unison with theirs to swell the glad anthem of rejoicing that ascend to heaven through the mingling hallelujahs of the guns and bells. [13]

In her account of the victory, Duniway recognized the many women of Olympia who supported the cause of suffrage, including sisters Emily Olney French and Mary Olney Brown, and Clara Sylvester, Ella Stork, and Janet Moore. It is no coincidence that many of these same women had been charter members of the first women’s club on the West Coast, the Woman’s Club of Olympia, which began meeting in 1883 at Clara Sylvester’s home. By one account, the club’s purpose was to promote suffrage principles. [14]

Women’s right to vote aroused strong opponents. Made legal householders by the legislature in 1881 and voters under the 1883 suffrage law, women became qualified jurors. This spurred legal challenges which came before the Territorial Supreme Court.

In 1887, the Territorial Supreme Court focused on the legality of women’s suffrage. The court decided that the title of the 1883 law did not describe the content of the legislative act, making it invalid along with the provisions of a1886 amendment. The justices ruled that because the 1883 act was invalid, women were not qualified electors and thus not legal jurors.

After the judicial decision overturning women’s right to vote, suffragists descended on the legislature once again, and on January 18, 1888, legislators reenacted a women’s suffrage law with the appropriate title. However, this version of the law excluded women from jury service.

The suffrage victory was short-lived. Another case came before the court in 1888 and the court decided that when the Washington Territorial Organic Act passed Congress, “the word ‘citizen’ was used as a qualification for voting and holding office and, in our judgment, the word then meant and still signifies male citizenship and must be so construed.” [15]

Only male voters selected the members of Washington’s second Constitutional Convention, (the first was an unsuccessful try at statehood in 1878) which began in Olympia on July 4, 1889, and the suffrage cause was weakened correspondingly, although suffragists “flooded” the convention with petitions. [16]

Despite these efforts, the constitutional convention delegates decided that women’s suffrage would be a separate issue on the statewide ballot, along with adoption of the proposed constitution itself and separate tallies on the location of the capital and enactment of prohibition. While the state constitution was ratified on October 1, 1889, by a territory-wide vote, the separate suffrage proposal lost by 19,000 votes, 16,521–35,913. Prohibition also failed, 19,546–31,487.

Washington joined the union on November 11, 1889. The next year, the state legislature authorized women to vote for local school trustees and directors but not for county or state school superintendents.

While the (male) voters of the state did not believe that women should have the franchise except in school elections, women alone voted for the state flower. The issue arose when Washington was invited to participate in the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition and part of each state’s exposition display was to be a flower representing the state. Washington did not have an official flower, and the Washington State Fair Committee left the matter to its female members.

Polling places for women voting in the flower election included post offices and even a drugstore in downtown Olympia, which encouraged women to choose their preference of the state flower. Balloting closed August 1, 1892, and the rhododendron won over clover 7,704–5,720 out of 14,419 votes cast. The Washington State Senate confirmed the rhododendron on February 10, 1893. [17] In 1959 the legislature further defined the state flower as Rhododendron macrophyllum, native to western North America, which continues to represent Washington today.

The Fusion Party (Silver Republicans, Democrats, and Populists) gained legislative seats in 1896, providing a positive political climate for women’s suffrage in the legislature which passed a suffrage constitutional amendment in 1897. The amendment ratification lost on November 8, 1898, by a vote of 30,540–20,658, which was a gain of 9,510 pro-suffrage votes over the 1889 tally. From 1906 to 1908 suffrage leaders focused on organization, and from 1908 forward their emphasis was on campaigning.

At the Washington Equal Suffrage Association State Convention in 1908 the executive committee authorized DeVoe to take charge of the effort to introduce women’s suffrage legislation in the 1909 legislature that would amend the Washington constitution. [18]

By 1909, the political climate favored the suffragists’ efforts in the legislature. For its Olympia headquarters WESA rented a large house near the capitol. Suffragists, using persistent but low-key lobbying, are generally credited with the passage of the suffrage-enabling legislation in the house of representatives on January 29, 1909.

The legislative journey through the senate proved much more arduous. The senate eventually voted for the legislation on February 23, 1909, by a margin of 30–9, Acting Governor Marion Hay [19] signed the bill on February 25, 1909, authorizing a statewide vote for ratification of the amendment in November 1910. At that time, statewide elections were held only in even-numbered years.

In addition to general support, Olympia and Thurston County suffragists Lena Meyer, Clara Lord, and Libbie Lord spearheaded the effort to secure a straw ballot at the State Grange Convention in 1910. Members of the state Grange voted in favor of women’s right to vote in their September straw poll—foreshadowing victory in November 1910.

Leaders Emma Smith DeVoe, May Arkwright Hutton, and other Washington suffragists generally conducted a “womanly” campaign. The Washington Women’s Cook Book was one of the campaign’s primary fundraising projects. They also published a newspaper, put up posters and used grass roots organizing.

The vote result on November 8, 1910 was 52,299–29,676 in favor of ratification of the women’s suffrage amendment—a margin of nearly two to one. [20] Washington joined the four western states where women had already won the vote—Wyoming (1890), Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), and Idaho (1896). Governor Hay officially signed the proclamation of adoption on November 28, 1910. Twenty-two years had passed since the Territorial Supreme Court had last taken away Washington women’s right to vote. [21]

The stunningly decisive victory in 1910 is widely credited with reinvigorating the national movement. When Washington joined her western sisters in 1910, it had been fourteen years since a state had enacted irrevocable women’s suffrage.

Women started voting in the same proportion as men. The period between 1911 and 1920 was a period of significant legislative changes regarding women’s issues abetted by coalitions forged during the suffrage movement among women’s clubs and working-class women. Mothers’ pensions, the eight-hour workday for women, and Prohibition were part of the Progressive agenda adopted after women attained the ballot.

In June 1919, after intense pressure from both the National Women’s Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and sent it to the states for ratification. Washington was the penultimate of thirty-six states needed to ratify the amendment and the last enfranchised state to take action. Leaders Emma Smith DeVoe and Carrie Chapman Catt pressured a reluctant Governor Louis Hart to call a special legislative session. Hart eventually agreed to call the legislators together in March 1920. PPierce County representative Frances Haskell, the fourth woman elected to the Washington legislature, introduced the resolution, stating:

This is a very important hour in the history of our state and nation, for we have met here in special session the 22nd day of March, in the year of our Lord 1920, to ratify the federal suffrage amendment and to prove to the world the greatness of our Evergreen state, which is not determined by the number of acres that it contains nor by the number of its population, but by the character of its men and women who today are extending to all the women of America the privilege of the ballot. [22]

Governor Hart, Speaker Fred Adams, and Emma Smith DeVoe shared the dais in the house of representatives, and by special resolution, DeVoe expressed her thanks to the legislature. In the senate, veteran suffragist Carrie Hill shared the podium with President of the Senate Philip H. Carlyon of Olympia. Both houses cast a unanimous vote to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment—the twelfth state in which no one voted against the amendment. [23] Tennessee was the final state needed to ratify the amendment which codified that “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.” The amendment became official on August 26, 1920. [24]

Not all women in the United States could vote after passage of Washington’s suffrage act or the Nineteenth Amendment, since many groups were restricted from becoming U.S. citizens, a qualification for voting. Native American women, who were excluded from voting in even after passage of the suffrage amendments in 1910 and 1920, finally achieved the right to vote in 1924 when Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which extended U.S. citizenship to Native Americans. Asian women faced other citizenship restrictions. By national law, native-born Asian residents were considered citizens by 1898. Immigrant Asians, however, were denied citizenship well into the mid-twentieth century. By 1943 Chinese immigrants could be naturalized and vote immigrants from India received the same rights starting in 1946 and Japanese and other Asians in 1952. [25]

Some voters faced racist barriers. Although black women achieved the right to vote in 1910 in Washington and in 1920 nationally, barriers remained. Most significant was passage in 1965 of the Voting Rights Act, which ended practices that disenfranchised black voters and broadened and guaranteed voting rights specifically to minorities. The Twenty-sixth Amendment lowered the voting age to eighteen in 1971. In later years, the Legislature has enacted other measures to ensure voter equality including the Washington Voting Rights Act in 2018.

After the state enacted women’s suffrage in 1910, Washington women began to run for office in ever-increasing numbers. Elected in 1912 and serving in the 1913 state house of representatives, Frances C. Axtell from Bellingham and Nena J. Croake from Tacoma were the first two women to serve in the Washington State Legislature. Reba Hurn from Spokane was in 1923 the first woman elected to the state senate. Josephine Corliss Preston, elected in 1912 as superintendent of public instruction, was the first woman to serve in a statewide office. Washington has consistently been a leader in electing women to the state legislature. From 1993 to 2004 Washington led the nation in the percentage of female state legislators. In 1999 and 2000 Washington boasted the highest percentage of female legislators in the nation’s history, with women making up 41 percent of its legislators. In 2019, women comprised approximately 41 percent of the state’s legislators, the second highest in the country. [26]

Washington women have served on the Washington Supreme Court and as superintendent of public instruction, secretary of state, attorney general, commissioner of public lands, and insurance commissioner. Washington women have also held elected positions on local school boards, local courts, special purpose districts, city councils, county commissions and councils, and as county executives throughout the state’s history.

Olympia has had three women mayors—Amanda Benek Smith, Holly Gadbaw and Cheryl Selby and 19 women city council members.[27]

[1] Washington Territory, House Journal, 1854, 98.

[2] Laws of Washington Territory, Olympia, Public Printer T. F McElroy, 1867, 5.

[4] “Mrs. Brown’s Argument,” Elizabeth Cady Santon, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Josleyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, ed. History of Woman Suffrage, 6 vols. (Rochester: J. J. Little & Co., 1881-1922) Hereafter cited HWS, 3:784-85.

[5] “Miss Anthony’s Speech,” Olympia Transcript, October 21, 1871.

[6] “Woman Suffrage,” Washington Standard, October 21, 1871.

[7] “Woman Suffrage Convention,” Washington Standard, November 11, 1871, 2 and Simmons, “History of Woman Suffrage in the State of Washington,” 22. Anti-suffragists were James H. Lasater of Walla Walla and Mrs. J. B. Frost, and pro-suffragists were Father (likely A. A.) Denny, Alfred Elder, John Denny, and Abigail Scott Duniway.

[9] Clyde B. Simmons, “History of Woman Suffrage in the State of Washington,” (master’s thesis, University of Washington, 1903) 24.

[10] William H. White (aka “Warhorse Bill”) was a prominent Washington jurist. He served in several capacities, including prosecuting attorney, legislator from King County, U.S. attorney, and Washington State Supreme Court justice. In 1912 he helped his wife, Emma McRedmond White, in her bid for King County clerk. She also organized the Woman’s Democratic Club in King County. “Justice William Henry White,” http://www.redmondwashington.org/biography/white/white-william-henry.htm.

[11] The bill was introduced in the Washington House by Representative Copley, and was supported in speeches by Messrs. Copley, Besserer, Miles, Clark, and Stitzel, while Messrs. Landrum and Kincaid spoke against it. The vote was: Ayes—Besserer, Brooks, Clark, Copley, Foster, Goodell, Hungate, Kuhn, Lloyd, Martin Miles, Shaw, Stitzel and Speaker Ferguson-14. Noes—Barlow, Brining, Landrum, Pin, Kincaid, Shoudy and Young—7. Absent—Blackwell, Turpin, and Warner—3. The bill was favorably reported in the Council, November 15, by Chairman Burk of the Judiciary Committee. No one offered to speak on it. The vote stood: Ayes—Burk, Edmiston, Hale, Harper, Kerr, Power and Smith—7. Noes—Caton, Collins, Houghton, Whitehouse and President Ruax—5. Governor W. A. Newell Approved the bill November 23, 1883.

[12] T. Alfred Larson, “The Woman Suffrage Movement in Washington,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 67, no. 2 (April1976) 53.

[13] Abigail Scott Duniway, “The Ratification,” New Northwest, November 22, 1883.

[14] Rebecca Mead, How the Vote Was Won, (New York: New York University Press, 2004) 99.

[15] Bloomer v. Todd, 3 Wash. Terr. 599 (1888).

[16] Beverly Paulik Rosenow, ed., The Journal of the Washington State Constitutional Convention (1889 reprint, Seattle: Book Publishing Company, 1962), 642-43. Petitioners: P.G. Hendricks, 394 other men and 414 women William West and others Francis Miner of St. Louis A. M. Sweeney, Jennie Aukney and others of Walla Walla H. J. Beeks and others Mr. Giliam and others Marty T. Jones and others G. C. Barron and others W. V. Anders and others Lucinda King and others L. W. Studgall and others W. P. Stewart and others P. J. Flint and others Zerelda. McCoy and 26 teachers Dr. A. K. Bush and 94 others S.M. Ballard and 151 others George E. Cline and 163 others L. M. Lord and 82 others C. F. Woodcock and 120 others ninety-three voters of Buckley and Zerelda McCoy, a taxpaying woman.

[17] Lucile McDonald, “The Battle over the State Flower,” Seattle Times Magazine, January 31, 1965, 2 Ruth Fry Epperson, “Rhododendron, Our State Flower: Talk Given by Mrs. Ruth Fry Epperson at the May Breakfast, 1944 of the Women’s Century Club, Seattle, Wash,” unpublished manuscript, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle, Washington (MOHAI) Accession No. 1964.3359.

[18] C. H. Baily, “How Washington Women Regained the Ballot,” Pacific Monthly 26 (July 1911): 1-11, 8. See also ”Women Play Game of Politics,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 4, 1908.

[19] Governor Samuel Cosgrove was ill and Lieutenant Governor Hay was Acting Governor at this time. Governor Cosgrove died on March 28, 1909.

[20] Only 59.3 percent of those casting ballots in the general election voted on the suffrage issue. The reason for this anomaly is unknown, but the ballot wording may have confused some voters.

[21] “Women Are to Give Special Thanks.” November 13, 1910, DeVoe Scrapbooks, DeVoe Papers.

[22] “Suffrage Amendment Ratified Unanimously,” Washington Standard, March 23, 1920, 1.

[23] Dr. Cora Smith Eaton King et al., “Washington,” HWS, 6:685-86.

[25] Jill Severn, The State We’re In: Washington, Your guide to state, tribal and local government, (Seattle: The League of Women Voters Education Fund, 2004), 36.

Women's Suffrage in the Progressive Era

Immediately after the Civil War, Susan B. Anthony, a strong and outspoken advocate of women's rights, demanded that the Fourteenth Amendment include a guarantee of the vote for women as well as for African-American males. In 1869, Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. Later that year, Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and others formed the American Woman Suffrage Association. However, not until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919 did women throughout the nation gain the right to vote.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, women and women's organizations not only worked to gain the right to vote, they also worked for broad-based economic and political equality and for social reforms. Between 1880 and 1910, the number of women employed in the United States increased from 2.6 million to 7.8 million. Although women began to be employed in business and industry, the majority of better paying positions continued to go to men. At the turn of the century, 60 percent of all working women were employed as domestic servants. In the area of politics, women gained the right to control their earnings, own property, and, in the case of divorce, take custody of their children. By 1896, women had gained the right to vote in four states (Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah). Women and women's organizations also worked on behalf of many social and reform issues. By the beginning of the new century, women's clubs in towns and cities across the nation were working to promote suffrage, better schools, the regulation of child labor, women in unions, and liquor prohibition.

Not all women believed in equality for the sexes. Women who upheld traditional gender roles argued that politics were improper for women. Some even insisted that voting might cause some women to "grow beards." The challenge to traditional roles represented by the struggle for political, economic, and social equality was as threatening to some women as it was to most men.

History of Woman Suffrage

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History of Woman Suffrage, publication that appeared, over the course of some 40 years, in six volumes and nearly 6,000 pages chronicling the American woman suffrage movement in great, but incomplete, detail. It consists of speeches and other primary documents, letters, and reminiscences, as well as impassioned feminist commentary. The project was conceived in 1876 by American suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage as a brief pamphlet that could be assembled in about two months.

Gage, Stanton, and Anthony, members of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), wrote and edited the first three volumes. Although they solicited contributions from Lucy Stone, a founder of the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), little information about the latter organization was provided. As a result, the first three volumes are somewhat weighted and thus an incomplete history of the beginnings of the suffrage movement. The final three volumes, edited by Anthony’s close associate, Ida Husted Harper, reflect the conservative turn taken by the woman suffrage movement during the years after the publication of Volume III. Harper was a highly selective reporter, excluding references to important people and ideas that did not conform to her assessment of the movement’s objectives. Nevertheless, the History of Woman Suffrage remains the major primary source for information on the suffrage movement.

The first volume, which appeared in 1881, recounts women’s earliest attempts to achieve equality with men. Volume II (1882) charts the suffragist movement from 1861 to 1876, focusing on the social role of women during the Civil War. Volume III (1887) summarizes laws, including the enfranchisement of women in Wyoming territory, that were indicative of the movement’s victories. Volume IV (1902) and Volumes V and VI (both 1922) lack the fervour of the first three volumes, presenting rather methodical accounts of national and international conventions and the passage and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Watch the video: The 19th Amendment. History