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2020 Women's Vote Centennial

Woman Suffrage vs. Women's Suffrage

The term suffrage means having the right to vote. Suffragists are people who advocate for enfranchisement, which also means the right to vote. In the United States, the battle for woman's suffrage was referred to as "Woman Suffrage" and those who were fighting for that right were known as "Suffragists". While in Britain, the same fight was known as "Women's Suffrage" and those fighting for women's right to vote were called "Suffragettes". 

National Park Service, 2018

Woman Suffrage Timeline

National Women's History Museum's Woman Suffrage Timeline

1840 Lucretia Mott & 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. 
1848 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. 
1849 The first state constitution in California extends property rights to women. 
1850 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 Clarina 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. 

1853 Women delegates, Antoinette Brown and Susan B. Anthony are not allowed to speak at The World's Temperance Convention held in New York City. 
1861-1865 During the Civil War, efforts for the suffrage movement come to a halt. Women put their energies toward the war effort. 
1866 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 RevolutionThis 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. 

1874 The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded by Annie Wittenmyer. With Frances Willard at its head (1876), the WCTU became an important 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. 
1876 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. 
1878 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. 
1887 The first vote on woman suffrage is taken in the Senate and is defeated.
1888 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. 

1890-1925 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. 
1892 Olympia Brown founds the Federal Suffrage Association to campaign for woman's suffrage. 
1893 Colorado adopts woman suffrage. 
1894 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. 
1895 Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Woman's BibleAfter 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 National Association of Colored Women's Clubs

Utah joins the Union with full suffrage for women. 

Idaho adopts woman suffrage. 

1903 Mary Dreier, Rheta Childe Dorr, Leonora O'Reilly, and others form the Women's Trade Union League of New York, an organization of middle- and working-class women dedicated to unionization for working women and to woman suffrage. 

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 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 as 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 an 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. 

1919 The Senate finally passes the Nineteenth Amendment and the ratification process begins.

On August 26 three quarters of the state legislatures ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. 


National Women's History Museum, 2020

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