Congressional Union for Women Suffrage

Congressional Union for Women Suffrage

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In 1890 the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) merged in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The leaders of this new organisation include Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Frances Willard, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Anna Howard Shaw.

Some younger members of the NAWSA became impatient about the progress the organisation was making. While studying at the School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in London, Alice Paul, joined the militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Like other members of the WSPU, Paul's activities resulted in her being arrested and imprisoned three times. Like other suffragettes she went on hunger strike and was forced-fed.

When Alice Paul returned home to the United States and in 1913 she joined with Lucy Burns, Mabel Vernon, Olympia Brown, Mary Ritter Beard, Belle LaFollette, Doris Stevens, Helen Keller, Maria Montessori, Dorothy Day and Crystal Eastman to form the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage (CUWS) and attempted to introduce the militant methods used by the Women's Social and Political Union in Britain. This included organizing huge demonstrations and the daily picketing of the White House. Over the next couple of years the police arrested nearly 500 women for loitering and 168 were jailed for "obstructing traffic". Alice Paul was sentenced to seven months imprisonment but after going on hunger strike she was released.

By 1914 the CUWS had a membership of 4,500 and had raised more than $50,000 for its campaign. The CUWS also had its own magazine, the Suffragist and published articles by leading members such as Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and Inez Milholland. Its main cartoonist was the outstanding artist, Nina Allender. The journal also published cartoons produced by Cornelia Barns, Boardman Robinson and Marrietta Andrews.

In 1916 the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage became the National Woman's Party. This new organization was criticised by pressure groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People for not supporting voting rights of black women. At one demonstration outside of the White House leaders of the party asked the black suffragist, Ida Wells-Barnett, not to march with other members. It was feared that identification with black civil rights would lose the support of white women in the South. Despite pressure from people like Mary White Ovington, leaders of the CUWS such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns refused to publicly state that she endorsed black female suffrage.

In January, 1918, Woodrow Wilson announced that women's suffrage was urgently needed as a "war measure". The House of Representatives passed the federal woman suffrage amendment 274 to 136 but it was opposed in the Senate and was defeated in September 1918. Another attempt in February 1919 also ended in failure.

In May 1919 the House of Representatives again passed the amendment (304 to 89) and on 4th June 1919 the Senate finally gave in and passed it by 66 to 30. On 26th August 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment was certified by the Secretary of State, when Tennessee, the thirty-sixth and final state needed, signed for ratification.

Finding that a suffrage committee in the House and a report in the Senate had not silenced our banners, the administration cast about for another plan by which to stop the picketing. This time they turned desperately to longer terms of imprisonment. They were, indeed, hard pressed when they could choose such a cruel and stupid course.

Our answer to this policy was more women on the picket line on the outside, and a protest on the inside of prison. We decided, in the face 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.

It fell to Lucy Burns, vice-chairman of the organization, to be the leader of the new protest. Miss Burns is in appearance the very symbol of woman in revolt. Her abundant and glorious red hair burns and is not consumed - a flaming torch. Her body is strong and vital. It is said that Lucy Stone had the "voice" of the pioneers. Lucy Burns without doubt possessed the "voice" of the modern suffrage movement. Musical, appealing, persuading - she could move the most resistant person. Her talent as an orator is of the kind that makes for instant intimacy with her audience. Her emotional quality is so powerful that her intellectual capacity, which is quite as great, is not always at once perceived.

She had no sooner begun to organize her comrades for protest than the officials sensed a "plot" and removed her at once to solitary confinement. But they were too late. Taking the leader only hastened the rebellion. A forlorn piece of paper was discovered on which was written their initial demand. It was then passed from prisoner to prisoner through holes in the wall surrounding leaden pipes, until a finished document had been perfected and signed by all the prisoners.

President Wilson and Envoy Root are deceiving Russia. They say "We are a democracy. Help us to win the war so that democracies may survive." We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy. Twenty million women are denied the right to vote. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement. Help us make this nation really free. Tell our government that it must liberate its people before it can claim free Russia as an ally.

At night, in the early morning, all through the day there were cries and shrieks and moans from the patients. It was terrifying. One particularly meloncholy moan used to keep up hour after hour with the regularity of a heart beat. I said to myself, "Now I have to endure this. I have got to live through this somehow. I pretend these moans are the noise of an elevated train, beginning faintly in the distance and getting louder as it comes nearer." Such childish devices were helpful to me.

Yesterday was a bad day for me in feeding. I was vomiting continuously during the process. The tube has developed an irritation somewhere that is painful. Don't let them tell you we take this well. Miss Paul vomits much. I do, too, except when I'm not nervous, as I have been every time against my will. We think of the coming feeding all day. It is horrible.

Many feminists are socialists, many are communists, not a few are active leaders in these movements. But the true feminist, no matter how far to the left she may be in the revolutionary movement, sees the woman's battle as distinct in its objects and different in its methods from the workers' battle for industrial freedom. She knows, of course, that the vast majority of women as well as men are without property, and are of necessity bread and butter slaves under a system of society which allows the very sources of life to be privately owned by a few, and she counts herself a loyal soldier in the working-class army that is marching to overthrow that system. But as a feminist she also knows that the whole of woman's slavery is not summed up in the profit system, nor her complete emancipation assured by the downfall of capitalism.

Woman's freedom, in the feminist sense, can be fought for and conceivably won before the gates open into industrial democracy. On the other hand, woman's freedom, in the feminist sense, is not inherent in the communist ideal. All feminists are familiar with the revolutionary leader who "can't see" the woman's movement. "What's the matter with the women? My wife's all right," he says. And his wife, one usually finds, is raising his children in a Bronx flat or a dreary suburb, to which he returns occasionally for food and sleep when all possible excitement and stimulus have been wrung from the fight. If we should graduate into communism tomorrow this man's attitude to his wife would not be changed. The proletarian dictatorship may or may not free women. We must begin now to enlighten the future dictators.

I am writing to you as an advisory member of the National Woman's Party asking if you will arrange that at the meeting, February fifteenth, a colored woman be invited to speak. I would suggest as the speaker, Mrs. Mary B. Talbert, until last June president of the Federation of Colored Women, and this summer one of the ten official members of the International Council of Women which met at Christiana. Mrs. Talbert is able, liberal in thought, and perhaps the best known colored woman in the United States today.

There was little voting and much terrorizing of Negroes in the South during the past elections and at Ocoee, Florida, there was a massacre. But equally sinister was the refusing to register women at such a place as Hampton, Virginia, where Hampton Institute has through many years endeavored to maintain kindly feelings between the two races, and yet where colored women were so insulted when they attempted to register that one woman said: "I could kill the clerk who questioned me; I could kill his wife and children."

If the South means to awaken a spirit like this it will eventually have war to face. But I believe that the Negro woman can win her right to vote if she is upheld by the rest of the country. The thinking southern woman is generally more fairminded than the southern man, but she cannot secure justice for the colored woman without she has the backing of all of us.

Will you not therefore, endeavor to have a committee appointed out of your great meeting in February which shall investigate and take some action regarding the status of the colored woman? The Woman's Party must have in its membership, South as well as North, women of broad enough vision and deep enough purpose to attack this problem. And if the women attack it, it will be solved.

Not being a member of the National Woman's Party, I wrote to the members of the National Advisory Council whom I knew asking them if they would interest themselves in having a colored woman appear on the program of the Woman's Party Conference in Washington in February. Brannan wrote me enthusiastically that the New York State Branch of the Woman's Party unanimously decided in favor of a colored speaker upon the program, but she telephoned me yesterday that you did not find this possible and asked me to address my communication directly to you.

The difficulty, as I understand it, seems to be that it has been necessary for the Woman's Party to restrict its program to representatives from organizations which have undertaken a more or less distinct feminist program and that Mrs. Talbert, whose name I suggested as today the most distinguished colored woman speaker in the country and as an ex-President of the National Association of Colored Women, would not be able to speak at your session because she does not represent a feminist organization.

May I point out, however, that Mrs. Talbert does represent the colored women of the United States and that no white woman can today represent the colored women of this country. Owing to our caste system, these women are little known by white women and carry on their organization largely distinct from the organizations of your and my race. This being the case, it is surely eminently proper that a meeting which has as one of its objects the honoring of the great feminists of the nineteenth century should have on its program a representative colored woman. Indeed, I think when your statue of Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is unveiled and it is realized that no colored woman has been given any part in your great session, the omission will be keenly felt by thousands of people throughout the country.

They (members of the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage) found that the police while constantly arresting them for minute technical offences, would not interfere when they were assaulted by hooligans, and later on led Government-organised crowds of uniformed soldiers and sailors against them. They went to prison and, in an interesting penal institution called the Occoguan workhouse, were fed on worm-crawling food and exposed in insanitary conditions and when they denounced this state of affairs, not only on their own account but (as has always been the gentlemanly suffragist way), on behalf of the ordinary offenders, the administration called to mind a penitentiary in a swamp, which had been declared unfit for human habitation nine years before, and put them there. All this they endured and thereby, without any doubt at all, acquired the vote. With extraordinary naivety the United States Government failed to cover up its tracks and left it patent that it gave women the franchise not because of any consideration of justice, but because they were a nuisance. There was no such magnificent exhibition of the art of climbing down in the grand manner (with classical quotation from Mr. Asquith) as our Parliamentary debate on the passing of the Act. A crude, new country America; but no doubt it will learn.

National Woman's Party

The National Woman's Party (NWP) is an American women's political organization formed in 1916 to fight for women's suffrage. After achieving this goal with the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the NWP advocated for other issues including the Equal Rights Amendment. The most prominent leader of the National Woman's Party was Alice Paul, and its most notable event was the 1917–1919 Silent Sentinels vigil outside the gates of the White House.

Alice Paul was a well-educated Quaker woman working and studying in England in 1907 when she became interested in the issue of women’s suffrage. She met Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, who were causing controversy throughout England with their militant tactics to secure the vote for women. Paul’s participation in meetings, demonstrations and depositions to Parliament led to multiple arrests, hunger strikes, and force-feedings.

She returned to the United States in 1910 and after completing a Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1912, turned her attention to the American suffrage movement. After the deaths of the two great icons of the movement—Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1902 and Susan B. Anthony in 1906—the suffrage movement was languishing, lacking focus and support under conservative suffrage organizations that were concentrating only on state suffrage. Paul believed that the movement needed to focus on the passage of a federal suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After joining the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and assuming leadership of its Congressional Committee in Washington, DC, Paul created a larger organization, the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. Paul’s tactics were seen as too extreme for NAWSA’s leadership and the Congressional Union split from NAWSA in 1914.

In 1916, the Congressional Union formed the Woman’s Party, comprised of the enfranchised members of the Congressional Union. In 1917, the two organizations formally merged to form the National Woman’s Party (NWP). From the Pankhursts, Paul adopted the philosophy to “hold the party in power responsible.” The NWP would withhold its support from the existing political parties until women had gained the right to vote and “punish” those parties in power who did not support suffrage. Under her leadership, the NWP targeted Congress and the White House through a revolutionary strategy of sustained dramatic, nonviolent protest. The colorful, spirited suffrage marches, the suffrage songs, the violence the women faced (they were physically attacked and their banners were torn from their hands), the daily pickets and arrests at the White House, the hunger strikes and brutal prison conditions, the national speaking tours and newspaper headlines—all created enormous public support for suffrage.

In 1920, the 72-year struggle ended with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the “Susan B. Anthony” Amendment, granting women the vote. Paul believed that the vote was just the first step in women’s quest for full equality. In 1922, she reorganized the NWP with the goal of eliminating all discrimination against women. In 1923 Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), also known as the Lucretia Mott Amendment, and launched what would be for her a life-long campaign to win full equality for women.

The current version of the ERA reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States on account of sex.” Congress passed the ERA in 1972, but set a deadline for states to ratify the amendment. The original deadline was 1979, which was later extended to 1982. By the time the deadline arrived, the ERA was three states shy of ratification. For over fifty years, the ERA has been introduced in every session of Congress, and – despite the deadline passing decades ago – states continue to consider ratifying the original amendment. Nevada ratified the ERA in 2017, and Illinois ratified in 2018.

In addition to working on issues affecting American women, the NWP was extensively involved in the international women’s rights movement beginning in the early 1920s. In 1928, the NWP assisted in the establishment of the Inter-American Commission of Women (IACW), which served as an advisory and policy-planning unit on women’s issues for what is now the Organization of American States. The NWP sought equality measures for women at the League of Nations through Equal Rights International and the International Labor Organization. The Party also provided assistance to Puerto Rican and Cuban women in their suffrage campaigns. In 1938, Alice Paul founded the World Woman’s Party, which, until 1954, served as the NWP’s international organization. In 1945, Paul was instrumental in the incorporation of language regarding women’s equality in the United Nations Charter and in the establishment of a permanent UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in New Jersey

As we near a presidential election, reminders, messages, and encouragement to get out and vote make its way into every conversation and crevice of social media and the Internet – for good reason! But imagine this scenario: over 100 years ago, women weren’t allowed to hit the polls because it was illegal for females to vote in any capacity. This was the insane reality that women in the United State faced prior to the passing of women’s suffrage in 1920 – which took place 100 years ago on August 18, 2020. Here’s a bit of history around the movement, specifically in New Jersey.

New Jersey women have a unique history with the women’s suffrage movement. Under the first New Jersey Constitution, which was created in 1776, prior to the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787, women were allowed to vote. In 1807, this was amended to only “free, white males,” and continued in 1844 a newly written New Jersey Constitution revoked voting and property rights from females. This denial of rights previously granted lit a hotter fire in New Jersey suffragettes, particularly.

After learning more about the organizations they founded, tactics they implemented, stories of their general commitment, and for some, commitment to becoming elected officials, one point becomes quite clear – Jersey girls know how to make things happen.

A Tiresome Timeline

Before we jump into the details, here’s a quick overview of the road to the right to vote.

1776: New Jersey constitution allows women to vote, under certain conditions.

1790: New Jersey passes the “Acts of the Fifteenth General Assembly” which distinguishes voters as both “he” and “she.”

1797: Black women and white women in New Jersey were voting in the state if they met residency and property requirements. More info here.

1800: According to Washington Post, “A ll inhabitants [in New Jersey] who are worth at least 50 pounds and have lived in New Jersey for a year, “they” shall have the right to vote,” which created an ‘accidental loophole’ for women to vote.

1807: New Jersey’s Constitution amended voting laws to limit voting to “free, white males” per

1844: A new, second New Jersey constitution limits voting to “free, white males,” as well.

1848: The first-ever women’s rights convention is held in the United States in Seneca Falls, New York at a small chapel with

200 women. The event was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who had met previously at an anti-slavery convention in London.

1857: A woman named Lucy Stone makes a move that shakes history for the better – she refuses to pay her property taxes on a home she purchased in Orange, NJ, claiming “taxation without representation.” She felt it was against the principles of America to expect women to pay taxes while denying them voting and property rights.

1867: Antoinette Brown Blackwell of Elizabeth, NJ and Lucy Stone create the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association and hold the organization’s first convention .

1868: This is a pivotal year of petition and protest for women’s voting rights, specifically for the women of New Jersey. The eventful year includes:

    • New Jersey women officially petition the state legislature for voting and property rights. According to a report on the hearings by the Paterson Daily Press, the New Jersey Senate is said to have actually mocked the suffrage position submitted by the NJWSA.
    • Lucy Stone publishes a letter titled Reasons Why the Women of New Jersey Should Vote.
    • Soon-to-become suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony both attend a NJWSA meeting in Vineland, NJ.
    • Portia Gage tries to vote in a municipal election in Vineland, NJ, but fails.

    1869: Black men gain the right to vote via the ratification of the 15th Amendment, prompting suffragettes to fight harder for women’s voting rights on both the state and national levels. The American Woman Suffrage Association is founded by Lucy Stone and the National Woman Suffrage Association .

    1873: Women in New Jersey are eligible to serve as school trustees, but are not given voting rights on school elections and matters.

    1880: Elizabeth Cady Stanton attempts to vote in Tenafly, NJ.

    1884: Once again, as they did in 1868, New Jersey women petition the state legislature for full voting rights. It is declined.

    1887: Women gain the right to vote in school elections in New Jersey.

    1894: A Supreme Court decision rules that it is unconstitutional for women to vote in school elections, superseding the New Jersey decision made in 1887.

    1897: School election voting rights for women is put to a national vote, but is defeated.

    1910: Florence Peshine Eagleton is the first woman to serve as a trustee of Rutgers University.

    1912: A resolution for the passing of women’s suffrage is introduced in the New Jersey Senate. The NJ courts see through a case arguing that it was unconstitutional for the second New Jersey Constitution to take away women’s voting rights. The courts do not agree.

    1913: Politicians in both the Republican and Democratic parties publicly endorse women’s suffrage and hold meetings with then-President Woodrow Wilson.

    1914: NJ native Grace Baxter Fenderson becomes a founder of the NAACP, which joins the fight for women’s suffrage.

    1915: President Woodrow Wilson shares his support of suffrage for “private citizens” two weeks before the women’s suffrage decision was being put to a vote. The NJ referendum to ratify the amendment denying women the right to vote was defeated. NJWSA membership reaches 50,000 women.

    1915: Reverend Florence Spearing Randolph founded the New Jersey chapter of the National Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. She presided over its first convention, consisting of over 30 clubs from across the state, held in Englewood, NJ.

    1917: The National Women’s Party creates a chapter in New Jersey, led by Alison Hopkins.

    1918: New Jersey women are among many arrested at mass protests in Washington DC. The NJWSA becomes an organization of 120,000 women strong after smaller organizations decided to merge with them or become fierce allies.

    1919: Mayor Frank Hague of Jersey City begins consulting the New Jersey State Suffrage Association as the time was now for them to build and grow upon their already strong momentum.

    1920: The 19th Amendment is passed in the United States — meaning the suffrage amendment is ratified in New Jersey, making it the 29th state to allow women to vote. Voting becomes legal for women across the United States of America. But, there was still much work to be done. Read an article here on the continued history of women’s voting rights, specifically Black women of color, here.

    Under the passing of the 19th Amendment, Black women should be able to vote but were not always able to in actuality. They were often wrongly told by elected officials that they were in the wrong voting place, didn’t possess proper literary skills required to vote, or filled out their application incorrectly, according to

    1921: Margaret Laird and Jennie Van Ness became the inaugural women to earn an elected position in the New Jersey Assembly.

    1925: Rebecca Estelle Bourgeois Winston of Estell Manor is elected New Jersey’s first female mayor.

    1965: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, overcoming legal barriers at both the local and state levels that prevented People of Color from voting.

    This article highlights the culmination of this law passing, which happened right after the march from Selma to Montgomery and MLK’s famous speech.

    Suffragette Strategies

    Women across the nation, and particularly in New Jersey, spent years devising different strategies and tactics to help gain momentum and influence both politicians and individuals to join in on their cause. There were 3 main ways they were able to work and gather support effectively:

    Meetings and Publications

    New Jersey women turned to lectures, meetings, and conventions to keep themselves informed and effective as a group. As the timeline shows, varying organizations were formed to ensure the fight for suffrage was powerful and continuous. In the 1910s, a Hudson County newspaper began a recurring column titled “Women’s Suffrage Forum” that shared information about local women’s suffrage events and news. This was the primary way that female residents of Hudson County could find out whether individual states voted to allow female residents of their respective states to vote.


    In order to raise money to support the work of suffragists, women held concerts, performances, baseball games and automobile parades. It helped that much of these events sparked the interest of male voters – New Jersey women were thinking strategically.

    Publicity Stunts

    In New Jersey, it was common for women to attempt to vote as a protest for women’s suffrage. Women would often bring signs and friends to support their performance act. One famous publicity stunt that occurred in 1914-1915 was known as the “passing of the suffrage torch” and pulled off by women from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The stunt involved a wooden-carved, bronze-plated “Torch of Liberty” passing from town-to-town and used as a campaigning tool to drive conversation and demonstration for women’s suffrage. The torch made its way to the Hudson River in 1915 and passed from New York to New Jersey via a tugboat transfer between Mina Van Winkle and Louisine Havemeyer .

    Famous New Jersey Suffragettes

    As evidenced by the timeline, New Jersey women played a particularly important role in the women’s suffrage movement. From attempting to vote as an act of protest to organizing petitions, the below women are some of the most well-known and well-achieved suffragettes in history, not just in the state.

    • Antoinette Brown Blackwell was born in 1825 in NY, but lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey for most of her teenage and adult life. With her sister-in-law Lucy Stone, she founded the New Jersey Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869. Antoinette was the first ordained minister in the United States and was one of the early suffragettes who had the opportunity to vote in the 1920 presidential election, at the age of 95.
    • Alice Paul was born in 1885 in Mount Laurel, NJ to progressive parents who believed in gender equality and education for women. Alice’s mother was a suffragette who brought her daughter along to meetings. Alice was a highly educated woman and in her adult life, became a major organization of meetings, protests, petitions, and acts in favor of the women’s suffrage movement. Paul moved to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress for change and soon became a nationally known name in the fight for women’s voting rights.
    • Lillian Feickert was born in 1887 in Plainfield, New Jersey. She held the title of president of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association for eight years <1912 – 1920>during the height of the women’s suffrage movement until the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. Lillian was an active member of the Republic Party, holding the title of vice-chairmen of the Republican State Committee at one point. In 1928, she ran for U.S. Senate but did not win.
    • Clara Schlee Laddey emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1888 and became immediately involved in the women’s suffrage movement. She acted as president of the NJWSA between 1908 through 1912. Clara was especially passionate about advancing women’s ability to join school boards. Clara was the NJ delegate chosen to march in the first ever suffrage parade held in New York City.
    • Allison Turnbull Hopkins was born in 1880 and lived most of her life in Moorestown, NJ. Allison was a suffragette set on making changes at the national level and in 1915, became chair of the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage.
    • Harriet Frances Carpenter, known for her court case Carpenter vs. Cornish, was a teacher and author from Millington, N.J. Like Lucy Stone, Harriet felt strongly against taxation without representation. are other Black female suffragettes from New Jersey. Although not as much has been documented about the role women of color played in the suffrage movement, there were many important public Black female leaders including Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Mary Talbert, and Nannie Burroughs who fought for social justice in their communities and especially advocated for women.

    Local Commemorations

    For more on the women’s suffrage movement in New Jersey and beyond, consider checking out the local events below!

    • – NJPAC will be hosting a virtual event titled Pioneers of Protest – Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Voting on August 17th, at 7:00PM
    • – Newark Public Library is presenting a special exhibition, Radical Women: Fighting For Power And The Vote In NJ , until August 31st.
    • – The New Jersey Division of Women and Thomas Edison State University are co-hosting a virtual NJ Women Vote’s Equality Day celebration featuring panel discussions, performances, and more. The event will take place from 10:00AM-12:00PM on August 26th.Register here .
    • – The Mile Square Theater Launches “Community Resilience” Program. The introductory panel discussion will be a special event celebrating the centennial of Women’s Suffrage in the U.S and will be held on August 26th from 7PM to 8PM. The panelists are Noelle Lorraine Williams, Ekow Yankah, and Annette Chaparro with Thaler Pekar moderating. To register for this free event, click here.

    For the month of August, the NJ Women Vote organization invites people to partake in the “ Suffrage Solo Slow Roll” campaign, encouraging New Jersey residents to walk and experience the New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail . Register here .

    Written by: Nicole Gittleman

    Nicole is a born and bred Jersey girl. Originally from Bergen County, she's called Jersey City home since 2016. After years of working in NYC at marketing agencies for big brands, her entrepreneurial spirit led her to turn her side hustle into her day job. An all-around champion for small businesses, Nicole loves to shop, eat, drink, and share all things local to New Jersey on her Instagram page, @heynicoleraye. When she isn't curating content or networking, she can be found exploring NJ neighborhoods with her college sweetheart, whipping up a home-cooked meal, planning a get-together for her friends, redecorating her apartment, rooting for her favorite teams (go NJ Devils!), or plotting her next adventure.


    At first, the American Woman Suffrage Association’s strategy seemed promising as women started to win the right to vote state by state. The earliest suffrage victories were in the west. The territory of Wyoming granted women the vote in 1869, the same year as the founding of the two national suffrage organizations. When Wyoming became a state in 1890, the new government continued to allow women to vote. Three years later, Colorado became the next woman suffrage state. Utah and Idaho followed in 1896.

    Suffragists from all over the country traveled to states considering new suffrage laws to advocate for their cause. They joined locals in their campaign to win the vote. In the 1890s, the rise of the Populist Party—a national political party that supported women’s rights—increased local support for woman suffrage in these states.

    No new states granted woman suffrage between 1896 and 1910, but suffrage wins in Washington (1910) and California (1911) sparked new life in the suffrage movement’s state campaigns.

    Research Guides

    Start your research on women's suffrage with this guide highlighting the Schlesinger Library's archival collections as well as periodicals, photographs, posters, and memorabilia. Some materials may also be available in digital format and links are included where available.

    Use the navigation menu to view additional material related to this topic.

    To learn more about suffrage at Radcliffe College, please see the Radcliffe College Suffrage research guide.

    In the summer of 2020, supported by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Schlesinger Library launched two new tools: the Long 19th Amendment Project Portal and the Suffrage School. The Portal is an open-access digital portal that facilitates interdisciplinary, transnational scholarship and innovative teaching around the history of gender and voting rights in the United States. The Suffrage School is a platform where a broad array of researchers, writers, and teachers have been invited to create a series of digital teaching modules. Each lesson in the Suffrage School connects in rich and unpredictable ways to the Library&rsquos Long 19th Amendment Project, which tackles the tangled history of gender and American citizenship.

    Please Take Note: Many of our collections are stored offsite and/or have access restrictions. Be sure to contact us in advance of your visit.

    Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

    As a tribute to her lifelong pursuit of women’s suffrage, the Nineteenth Amendment is nicknamed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. An ardent abolitionist, Anthony was angered when African American men were granted the vote before educated white women, causing a racially-based schism in the movement that lasted for decades. Anthony had well-documented relationships with Anna Dickinson, whom she called her “Anna Dicky Darly,” and later with Emily Gross, a woman she often referred to as her lover. These two traveled regularly together, and when Anthony passed away, Gross was reportedly inconsolable, according to documents found by Lillian Faderman.

    Picketing the White House

    In the second half of the nineteenth century Americans headed west to seek greater opportunities for themselves and their families. As settlements and territories emerged, new residents actively participated in creating the political systems they lived under. In fact, it was in these sparsely populated areas that the women’s suffrage movement quickly gained momentum. Near the turn of the century, the territories of Wyoming, Utah, Washington, and Montana granted full voting rights to women. There were also a number of states that allowed women to vote prior to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, Arizona, Kansas, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Others such as Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri permitted women to vote only for president before 1919. Needless to say, voting rights for women varied widely across the country. As more state legislatures granted these rights to female residents, suffragists launched a national campaign to persuade Congress to pass a constitutional amendment. 1

    Suffrage picketers marching along Pennsylvania Avenue on March 4, 1917.

    Library of Congress/Records of the National Woman's Party

    The national struggle for women’s suffrage mobilized on March 3, 1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), in collaboration with activists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, organized a suffrage parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. The march began at the Peace Monument near the Capitol, passed alongside the White House, and ended with a rally at Memorial Continental Hall. 2 Over 5,000 women marched for suffrage but their peaceful procession was disrupted by a “surging mass of humanity that completely defied the Washington police.” Army cavalry stationed at nearby Fort Myer restored order for the parading women. The suffragists were led by Grand Marshal of the procession May Jane Walker Burleson, “General” Rosalie Jones, Inez Milholland, and Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, president of NAWSA. 3 The chaos prompted a Senate inquiry into the mishandling of the crowds. Legislators questioned policemen and their tactics, as wells as dozens of women who testified that they were insulted or injured by the throngs of people. 4

    On March 3, 1913, a women’s suffrage march was held in Washington D.C. Crowds gathered to watch but soon began to obstruct and stop the suffragists parading down Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Afterwards suffrage leaders prepared the next phase of their campaign: persuade the president and secure his support for a constitutional amendment. Suffragists wasted little time, meeting with President Wilson just two weeks after he was sworn into office. Five women—Alice Paul, Anna Wiley, Edith Hooker, Ida Harper, and Genevieve Stone—gave the president a variety of reasons to back their cause. Harper even referenced Wilson’s 1912 campaign promise of “The New Freedom,” reasoning that a “perfect new freedom cannot come until women as well as men are given the right to vote.” 5 The president, however, declined to commit, informing the women that the focus of his domestic policies would be tariff, banking, and business reforms. Undeterred, the suffragists continued to schedule meetings with President Wilson to discuss the right to vote over the next two years. 6 Some were more spontaneous in nature, such as the delegation of 71 New Jersey women who marched on the White House and demanded an audience with the president in November 1913. The women insisted that the president publicly support a committee on women’s suffrage Wilson assured his uninvited guests that such a committee was “under consideration,” but again refused to promise anything. After their exit the women marched on the United States Capitol to lobby New Jersey representatives for their cause. They even chased down Senator William Hughes, riding in an automobile on Pennsylvania Avenue, with “a parade of taxis.” 7 At the NAWSA convention later that month, leaders unveiled a new “White House Campaign” strategy. Women were asked to join state committees and schedule frequent visits to the White House to remind the president of their mission. 8

    Men stopping to read anti-suffrage materials outside the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage Headquarters.

    In his first annual message to Congress, President Wilson failed to even mention the issue of women’s suffrage. 9 A week later, Dr. Anna Shaw and her NAWSA delegation visited the White House again, pleading with Wilson to reconsider his priorities. The president demurred, explaining that his reluctance stemmed from his political belief that all three branches of government should remain independent and autonomous. While he expressed his support for a Congressional committee on women’s suffrage, Wilson explained that his private opinions were irrelevant to the legislative process. 10 Without the president’s full support the suffragists faced political obstruction and denigration from anti-suffragist groups. During a suffrage parade on May 9, 1914, the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage encouraged its members to wear red roses on their clothing, hoping that these red flowers would ruin the color scheme of the suffrage banners and the appearance of female solidarity. Despite the rosy resistance, more than 5,000 women marched from the White House to the Capitol, demanding that Congress take up the issue of women’s suffrage. This time, local police authorities were prepared for the protest, ensuring that the women participating would “not be subjected to the indignities” they experienced during the 1913 march. 11

    Women protesting President Woodrow Wilson's position on suffrage in Chicago, Illinois in 1916.

    Library of Congress/Records of the National Woman's Party

    Later that summer “five hundred members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs” called on President Wilson and were ushered into the East Room. When the president entered the room “there was no applause” to greet him, a gesture of dissent that many commentators later decried as disrespectful. Wilson permitted the leaders to air their grievances and afterwards he answered several questions raised by the suffragists. Wilson privately opposed women’s suffrage but evaded answering the question publicly. The suffragists pressed him to elaborate more on his private opinions with no other recourse at hand, Wilson admitted that he believed women’s suffrage “is a matter for settlement by the States and not by the Federal government.” The public rebukes made by women leaders were quite extraordinary for their time. Lucy Burns, Vice Chairman of the Congressional Union, noted the irony: “For a disfranchised class seeking political freedom to be informed that they may not question the views of the ruler of their country on the matter of their own political status is really difficult to comprehend.” Alice Paul, Chairman of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, responded by reminding women that Wilson had “put his party on record as refusing help to the suffrage cause. The several million enfranchised women cannot fail to remember this fact in deciding upon their party affiliations next November.” 12 The confrontation between the president and the members of the women’s clubs also sparked conflict between suffragist groups as well. Dr. Anna Shaw of the NAWSA sent President Wilson a letter of apology, denouncing “any act in the name of woman suffrage which mars the record of dignity, lawfulness, and patriotism.” 13 Disagreements over strategy grew over time, as the leaders of NAWSA continued to embrace a more moderate approach to suffrage while avoiding other contentious issues. The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (later the National Woman's Party) favored public actions that would draw attention to the movement while taking positions on other political and social issues.

    Cameron House, ca. 1910. Situated on the east side of Lafayette Square, Cameron House served as the headquarters for the National Woman's Party until 1917. The party then moved across the park to 14 Jackson Place.

    When meeting with the president failed to deliver concrete results, suffragists attempted another strategy: obtain closer proximity to the White House to protest and garner public support. NAWSA moved into its new national headquarters at 1626 Rhode Island Avenue, just six blocks north of the White House. 14 Alice Paul and Lucy Burns’ Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (now the National Woman’s Party) set up shop at Cameron House on the east side of Lafayette Square, a stone’s throw from the Executive Mansion. Inspired by the more extreme tactics of Emmeline Pankhurst and the British suffragette movement, members of the NWP attended President Wilson’s 1916 address to Congress. Sitting in the gallery of the House of Representatives, the women patiently waited until the president was speaking about the political rights of Puerto Rican citizens. On cue the women unfurled a suffragette banner inscribed with “great black letters: Mr. President, What Will You Do For Woman Suffrage?” The president gave a “suspicion of a smile” as he read their words, but quickly returned to his address. 15

    "Silent Sentinel" Alison Turnbull Hopkins stands guard near the White House on January 30, 1917.

    Suffragists began their next campaign on January 10, 1917, when twelve "Silent Sentinels" picketed the White House gates to confront and shame the president for his inaction. This strategy continued even as the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917. As part of the mobilization for war, government officials promoted national unity and industry they also identified possible agitators and accused them of undermining the American war effort. The suffragists were no different. When asked whether her party followers were anarchists, Alice Paul replied, “It makes no difference to us what a woman’s political tendencies may be…We are working for a common cause—that of equal suffrage for women—and when we get the vote it is immaterial to us whether the women are Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, Socialists or anarchists. We have nothing to do with their politics.” 16 NAWSA’s president Dr. Anna Howard Shaw was brought before the House committee on suffrage to answer allegations that the suffragists were “pro-German” and pacifists who “would welcome peace at any price.” Shaw pointed out that American women, including suffragists, were aiding the war effort both at home and abroad. When her colleague Mrs. Travis Whitney was asked about recent suffrage legislation passed in New York, one committee member insinuated that Socialist and pro-German sentiment made its success possible. Whitney retorted, “No political party, no class, no ‘isms,’ can lay exclusive claim to the suffrage victory. It was the people’s victory.” 17

    On October 20, 1917, the day after police announced that future picketers would receive a sentence of six months for unlawful protest, Alice Paul led the picket line. The banner reads, "The time has come to conquer or submit for there is but one choice—we have made it." This group would receive six months at Occoquan Workhouse for their protest.

    As the country prepared for war, tensions and conflict emerged between different groups of Americans. Many government officials and citizens interpreted wartime protests as public acts of disloyalty as such, both authorities and crowds directed their anger toward any dissidents. As the “Silent Sentinels” picketed the White House during the summer of 1917, White House policemen continuously arrested the suffragists on charges of unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct, and disrupting traffic. Suffragists were fined but they generally refused to pay out of protest. As their actions became more disruptive, authorities levied harsher sentences, sending the picketers to Occoquan Workhouse and Penitentiary in Lorton, Virginia. Masses appeared to watch the women demonstrate, though these spectators were not always peaceful themselves. Some incited violence by accosting the women and destroying their banners. In one instance, a group vandalized the NWP headquarters with “eggs, tomatoes, missiles of various sorts.” 18

    As this neighborhood melee unfolded, President Wilson began to soften his stance on women’s suffrage. Perhaps it was the president’s daughter, Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre, who persuaded her father to soften his stance - though the more likely explanation was that Wilson realized this anti-suffrage position would cost the Democratic Party seats in Congress. 19 That fall he expressed verbal support for the suffrage campaign in New York, but ultimately the reports of how suffragists were mistreated in Occoquan convinced Wilson to intervene on moral grounds. One Washington Post story described how Alice Paul, recently sentenced to six months in a workhouse for picketing, was subjected to physical and mental examinations by five physicians against her will. When Paul started a hunger strike out of protest at the District workhouse she was “forcibly fed twice…through a tube.” 20 Several days after the printing of Paul’s experience, the "Night of Terror" took place on November 14. The 33 suffragists imprisoned at Occoquan were “brutally handled by the guards and subjected to indignities” for refusing to work or eat. In obtaining a writ of habeas corpus for the women, NWP counsel Dudley Field Malone argued that the women “were being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment,” citing Lucy Burns’ diary and their injuries as proof. 21 The reports of abuse appalled President Wilson, prompting him to immediately pardon the prisoners and join the suffrage crusade.

    The least tribute we can pay them is to make them the equals of men in political rights as they have proved themselves their equals in every field of practical work they have entered, whether for themselves or for their country.

    — President Woodrow Wilson

    In December 1917 the president forcefully advocated for women’s suffrage in his sixth annual address to Congress, arguing that women had earned the right to vote by performing traditional duties while bearing the burden of new wartime responsibilities. “The least tribute we can pay them is to make them the equals of men in political rights as they have proved themselves their equals in every field of practical work they have entered, whether for themselves or for their country,” articulated Wilson. “These great days of completed achievement would be sadly marred were we to omit that act of justice.” 22 Nearly a month later, President Wilson delivered his famous “Fourteen Points” speech to Congress on January 8, 1918. The president outlined his vision for a new world order built on the American ideals of democracy and freedom. At a White House conference the next day, Wilson stunned everyone by publicly declaring his support for a women’s suffrage constitutional amendment. 23 In November, the news of an armistice sparked celebration for many Americans. The influx of U.S. troops, war materials, and monetary credit gave the Allied Powers much needed momentum to break the stalemate. American mobilization efforts had saved Western Europe and established the United States as a formidable global power.

    Alice Paul, Chairman of the National Woman's Party, unfurls the ratification banner at the 14 Jackson Place headquarters on August 18, 1920. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, reaching the 3/4 threshold to officially make the 19th Amendment part of the United States Constitution.

    National Woman's Party at the Belmont-Paul Womens Equality National Monument

    Wilson’s policy reversal did little to appease suffragists. They continued to picket the Executive Mansion and hold public burnings of any speech where Wilson mentioned the words ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom.’ After the Senate initially failed to pass the amendment in early 1919, suffrage supporters ramped up public protests and demonstrations. Their persistent pressure on the president and the incoming Congress produced political results later that spring. On May 21, 1919 the Susan B. Anthony Amendment passed 304-89 in the House of Representatives on June 4 it cleared the Senate by a vote of 56-25. 24 In order for the amendment to become law, three-fourths of the states needed to ratify it. Suffragists shifted attention back to their respective states, petitioning their representatives relentlessly for the next year. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. 25 Alice Paul, who suffered appalling treatment at Occoquan, celebrated the news by unfurling a massive ratification banner at 14 Jackson Place. The banner, decorated with 36 stars, each representing a state that had approved the Nineteenth Amendment, symbolized the national and state-level successes achieved by the suffragists. While some of their tactics were considered radical for the time, suffragists persevered by demonstrating their willingness to fight for equality. Their struggles—with members of Congress, angry crowds, policemen and guards, anti-suffragists, and President Wilson himself—gave momentum to the movement, drawing more supporters to their cause. The gross mistreatment of suffragists gave them a moral high ground, one that President Wilson eventually felt compelled to join. As the United States projected the merits of democracy abroad, its representatives now answered to citizens, both male and female, at home.

    1869 | Split among the Suffragist Movement over the 15th Amendment

    Split among the Suffragist Movement over the 15th Amendment proposing to grant rights and the vote to newly emancipated slaves under the 13th Amendment. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), led by Lucy Stone, supports the 15th Amendment. The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, rejects the Amendment as it denies their rights and the vote to women.

    Detail of the 15th Amendment

    French Union for Women’s Suffrage (Union Française Pour Le Suffrage Des Femmes, UFSF) (1908-1940)

    While French Republican parliamentary leaders refused women the right to vote, arguing that women are already represented by the male head of the household and family they lived, and increasing number of French women disagreed. One of the organizations that gave these women a voice was the French Union for Women’s Suffrage (Union Française Pour Le Suffrage Des Femmes, UFSF), which was founded by a French national congress of women organizations in Paris on 1908. Shortly after its creation, the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWFA), created in 1904, recognized the UFSF as the representative of the women’s suffrage movement in France. Officially the UFSF dissolved itself in 1945 after the introduction of women’s suffrage in liberated France in 1944, but it had to stop its work already in 1940, when Nazi occupied France.

    In order to comprehend the motive and existence of the UFSF, one must understand the history of suffrage in France. Universal manhood suffrage existed in wake of the French Revolution of 1848-49, allowing all men the right to vote. Liberal, democratic, socialist women believed that, as citizens of the state, the same rights that men sought during this Revolution should be obtained for the female sex. They demanded the same civil and social rights like men, included the right to vote. However, their demands were rejected by the French parliament again and again. Until the first decade of the 20th century French women’s struggle for suffrage rights was compared to Britain and Germany relatively weak. Small groups worked next to each other. The Paris national congress of 1908 should change this, which was mainly attended by representatives of middle- and upper-class women’s associations. The conference supported a moderate approach in the struggle for women’s suffrage and opposed to the militant strategy of the British suffragists.

    The UFSF provided a less militant and more widely acceptable alternative to the Suffrage des femmes organization of Hubertine Auclert (1848–1914). The sole objective, according to an programmatic article published in the UFSF journal La Française early in 1909, was to obtain women’s suffrage through legal approaches. The founding meeting of the UFSF was held with 300 women in Paris in February 1909. Cécile Brunschvicg (1877–1946) was made secretary-general. Eliska Vincent (1841-1914) accepted the position of honorary vice-president. Jeanne Schmahl (1846-1915) was another of its influential leaders. The UFSF was formally recognized by the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWFA) congress in London in April 1909 as representing the French suffrage movement.

    The UFSF argued for women’s right to vote mainly based on a maternal feminist ideology. While some of its members demanded that only women with certain educational and occupational qualifications should be allowed to vote, Jeanne Schmahl and others advocated that all women deserved the right to vote. They requested the extension of the universal suffrage for men to all women independent of their social class and level of education. Women whose livelihood revolved around work or the domestic realm, they argued, should be allowed to participate in voting on unionization laws just as a man within the same occupational realm could. Businesswomen should be able to represent themselves instead of being represented by a man in the Chambers of Commerce.

    After the beginning of World War I, the UFSF majority, like the middle and upper-class women’s suffrage organization in other European countries, supported France’s war effort with war charity, military medical care and war work und suspended the struggle for women’s suffrage. These women hoped that the government would inevitably provide them the right to vote in recognition of their patriotism and contributions to the war effort.

    After the war it was assumed that the French government would give women the vote in recognition of their wartime contributions, and in fact the Chamber of Deputies passed a women’s suffrage bill by 329 to 95 on 20 May 1919. However, the Senate blocked the bill, and continued to block the bill each time it was reintroduced in the 1920s and 1930s. This lead to a further growth of the UFSF in the Interwar period. In response to this Senate resistance the UFSF became more militant in its strategies. Brunschwicg continued to lead the UFSF, which expanded to 100,000 members in 1928. In 1936 the sociliast Premier Léon Blum appointed Brunschwicg undersecretary for national education. Blum introduced a suffrage bill in 1936, again blocked by the Senate. All UFSF activities ended with the German occupation in 1940. After the liberation and the end of the Second World War, the UFSF was never officially reinstated, but French women too finally got universal suffrage.

    The present-day relevance of the Union Française Pour Le Suffrage Des Femmes is unquestionable. While the UFSF mainly functioned in France, the ideology aligned with other international organizations towards universal suffrage. The group’s impressive expansion and constant retaliation against the French government demonstrates to historians and the international community an instance when determination and unity resulted in a social movement’s success.

    Francisco Nguyen, Psychology, Class of 2018


    Literature and Websites

    • Hause, Steven C., with Anne R. Kenney. Women’s Suffrage and Social Politics in the French Third Republic. Princeton, NJ: 1984.
    • Schmahl, Jeanne. “The French Union for Women’s Suffrage ‘The Question of the Vote for Women’,” 1913, in Lives and Voices: Sources in European Women’s History, ed. Lisa Caprio and Merry E. Wiesner, 385-386. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
    • “French Union for Women’s Suffrage.” Wikipedia, at: (Accesses 18 April 2018)


    Cécile Brunschvicg (1877 – 1946), founder of the French Union for Women’s Suffrage (Union Française Pour Le Suffrage Des Femmes or UFSF). French Union for Women’s Suffrage (Union Française Pour Le Suffrage Des Femmes or UFSF) Poster: “French women want to vote – against alcohol, slums and war”, 1909. Women’s suffrage demonstration in Paris. 1914, July 5.