Between 1910 and 1914, the NAWSA intensified its lobbying efforts and additional states extended the franchise to women: Washington, California, Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon. In Illinois, future Congresswoman of Illinois helped lead the fight for suffrage as a lobbyist in Springfield when the state legislature granted women the right to vote in 1913. This marked the first such victory for women in a state east of the Mississippi River. A year later Montana granted women the right to vote, thanks in part to the efforts of another future Congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin.
Athenian women had limited right to property and therefore were not considered full citizens, as citizenship and the entitlement to civil and political rights was defined in relation to property and the means to life.
Friends and fellow citizens, I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen's rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.
It is commonly believed that female suffrage was desired and fought for only in England and the United States. Yet dynamic struggles for womens basic democratic right appeared in many countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though these movements differed in their reasons and tactics, the fight for female suffrage, along with other womens rights concerns, cut across many national boundaries. By exploring the following topics, this essay attempts to help rectify the narrow and unexamined view of female suffrage.
The beginning of the fight for women’s suffrage in the United States, which predates entry into Congress by nearly 70 years, grew out of a larger women’s rights movement. That reform effort evolved during the 19th century, initially emphasizing a broad spectrum of goals before focusing solely on securing the franchise for women. Women’s suffrage leaders, moreover, often disagreed about the tactics and whether to prioritize federal or state reforms. Ultimately, the suffrage movement provided political training for some of the early women pioneers in Congress, but its internal divisions foreshadowed the persistent disagreements among women in Congress and among women’s rights activists after the passage of the 19th Amendment.
For the next two decades the NAWSA worked as a nonpartisan organization focused on gaining the vote in states, although managerial problems and a lack of coordination initially limited its success. The first state to grant women complete voting rights was Wyoming in 1869. Three other western states—Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), and Idaho (1896)—followed shortly after NAWSA was founded. But before 1910 only these four states allowed women to vote. “Why the West first?” remains a contested question. Some scholars suggest that the West proved to be more progressive in extending the vote to women, in part, because there were so few of them on the frontier. Granting women political rights was intended to bring more women westward and to boost the population. Others suggest that women had long played nontraditional roles on the hardscrabble frontier and were accorded a more equal status by men. Still others find that political expediency by territorial officials played a role. They do, however, agree that western women also organized themselves effectively to win the right.7
And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people--women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government--the ballot.
Despite the new momentum, however, some reformers were impatient with the pace of change. In 1913 Alice Paul, a young Quaker activist who had experience in the English suffrage movement, formed the rival Congressional Union, later named the National Woman’s Party.8 Paul’s group freely adopted the more militant tactics of its English counterparts, picketing and conducting mass rallies and marches to raise public awareness and support. Embracing a more confrontational style, Paul drew a younger generation of women to her movement, helped resuscitate the push for a federal equal rights amendment, and relentlessly attacked the Democratic administration of President Woodrow Wilson for obstructing the extension of the vote to women.
In the wake of the Civil War, however, reformers sought to avoid marginalization as “social issues” zealots by focusing their message exclusively on the right to vote.3 In 1869 two distinct factions of the suffrage movement emerged. Stanton and Anthony created the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which directed its efforts toward changing federal law and opposed the 15th Amendment on the basis that it excluded women. Lucy Stone, a one-time Massachusetts antislavery advocate and a prominent lobbyist for women’s rights, formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).4 Leaders of the AWSA rejected the NWSA’s agenda as racially divisive and organized with the aim to continue a national reform effort at the state level. Although California Senator Aaron Sargent introduced in Congress a women’s suffrage amendment in 1878, the overall campaign stalled. Eventually, the NWSA also shifted its efforts to the individual states where reformers hoped to start a ripple effect to win voting rights at the federal level.
In 1915 Carrie Chapman Catt, a veteran suffragist since the mid-1880s and a former president of the NAWSA, again secured the organization’s top leadership post. Catt proved to be an adept administrator and organizer whose “Winning Plan” strategy called for disciplined and relentless efforts to achieve state referenda on the vote, especially in nonwestern states.9 Key victories—the first in the South and East—followed in 1917, when Arkansas and New York granted partial and full voting rights, respectively. Beginning in 1917, President Wilson (a convert to the suffrage cause) urged Congress to pass a voting rights amendment. Another crowning achievement also was reached that year when Montana’s Jeannette Rankin was sworn into the 65th Congress (1917–1919) on April 2. Elected two years after her state enfranchised women, Rankin became the first woman to serve in the national legislature.
The Seneca Falls Convention, in 1848, "stated the injustices suffered by women." These injustices included " the denial of the right to vote, the fact that a married woman gave control of her property to her husband, the exclusion of women from the professions, andthe nearly absolute legal control of women by men.
The sometimes-fractious suffrage movement that grew out of the Seneca Falls meeting proceeded in successive waves. Initially, women reformers addressed social and institutional barriers that limited women’s rights, including family responsibilities, a lack of educational and economic opportunities, and the absence of a voice in political debates. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, a Massachusetts teacher, met in 1850 and forged a lifetime alliance as women’s rights activists. Like many other women reformers of the era, they both had been active in the abolitionist movement. For much of the 1850s they agitated against the denial of basic economic freedoms to women. Later they unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to include women in the provisions of the 14th and 15th Amendments (extending citizenship rights and granting voting rights to African-American men, respectively).