The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States

Nineteenth Amendment: women casting their votes in New York City, c. 1920’s, Photograph, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online

By: Colleen Mahany

Introduction

This is a preliminary research guide to women’s suffrage.  The primary timeframe of this guide is from the mid-1800s to 1920.  The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States campaigned for and helped with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  The Amendment was passed in 1919 and ratified in 1920. It prohibits any United States citizen being denied the right to vote based on sex.  Women’s suffrage is often studied alongside the Women’s Rights Movement and various feminist movements.

This guide is broken up into sections.  It begins with the “Background” of the Movement, including books, an encyclopedia, and films that provide an overview of the key events, documents, people, and ideas of the Movement. See this section for the major sources on the topic.  The next section, “Specific Writings,” includes a journal and scholarly articles that focus in on a specific aspect of the Movement.  The guide continues with a section titled “Opposing Forces: The Anti-Suffrage Movement.”  This section holds information about the Movement’s opposition.  This section is followed by “Primary Sources,” a section that includes various authentic documents and photographs from the Movement.  The following section includes a few “Important Women” of the Movement, including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, Lucretia Mott, and Lucy Stone.  Finally, the guide concludes with a library that houses many important sources regarding women’s suffrage and a suggestion for a helpful, related research guide.

Background

  • Books
  • Gurko, Miriam. The Ladies of Seneca Falls; The Birth of the Woman’s Rights Movement. New York: Pantheon Books, 1974.

Miriam Gurko follows the Women’s Rights Movement from the Seneca Falls Convention to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. She dives into the underlying feminist foundations of the Movement as she writes on the ideas and actions of the founders of the Movement.  Gurko describes what each important figure added to the Movement.

  • Kraditor, Aileen S. Ideas of the Women Suffrage Movement, 1890-1920. New York: Columbia University Press, 1965.

Aileen S. Kraditor, professor of history at Boston University, focuses on the ideas and thinking of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  She confronts the problem that the effort for suffrage was not united under an “official ideology.”  Kraditor investigates the beliefs of leaders in the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  She explores what these women’s thoughts were on many topics, such as religion, marriage, home, politics, immigrants, etc.  She concludes that as a whole, the female leaders of the Movement all believed in a shared vision of democracy.  She also briefly explores the beliefs and rationale of anti-suffragism.

  • Scott, Anne Firor, and Andrew Mackay Scott. One Half the People: The Fight for Woman Suffrage. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1982.

Anne Firor Scott, known as a premier historian of American women, and her husband, Andrew MacKay Scott, also a notable historian, write a brief yet detailed overview of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  The book traces the beginnings of the Movement, the emergence of leaders, the political developments, the organizational changes and internal changes of the Movement, and the eventual ratification of the 19th amendment.  The second part of this book also offers a collection of important primary source documents that were an integral part of the Women’s Suffrage Movement—for example, the Seneca Falls Convention’s Declaration of Sentiments and Its Resolutions.

  • Encyclopedias
  • Auchterlonie, Mitzi, June Hannam, and Katherine Holden, eds. International Encyclopedia of Women’s Suffrage. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2000.

This encyclopedia gives a history of women’s suffrage movements across the globe.  The encyclopedia includes biographies of specific activists as well as other thematic sections.

  • Films
  • How We Got the Vote: The Exciting Story of the Struggle for Female Equality. Directed by Nancy Gager. 1986. Los Angeles, CA. Republic Pictures Home Video, Video, 1991, VHS.

This documentary explores the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  It focuses on how the women of the twentieth century fought for and obtained the right to vote.  This documentary uses a variety of sources to portray this rich history.  It includes excerpts from films, photographs, cartoons, and interviews of surviving women who were suffragettes in the Movement.

  • Not For Ourselves Alone. Directed by Ken Burns. 1999. Public Broadcasting Service, Video, 1999, DVD.

This film gives an overview of the Women’s Suffrage Movement as well as the lives of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.  The film focuses on key events of the Movement and important documents and texts.  In particular, the film often uses the words of Stanton and Anthony to illustrate the fight for suffrage from the perspective of these two strong, powerful suffragettes.  The passion and persistence of Cady and Stanton are examined on a political and personal basis.  This source gives insight into the start, struggle, and eventual triumph of the modern women’s movement.

 

Specific Writings

  • Journals
  • Chapman, Mary, and Angela Mills, eds. “Special Issue: Suffrage.” Canadian Review of American Studies 36, no. 1 (2006).

This special issue of the Canadian Review of American Studies focuses on suffrage.  Overall, the special issue aims to challenge accepted beliefs about the suffrage campaign and to raise questions about memory and the memorialization of the suffrage campaign.

  • Scholarly Articles
  • McCammon, Holly J. “‘Out of the Parlors and into the Streets’: The Changing Tactical Repertoire of the U.S. Women’s Suffrage Movements”. Social Forces 81 (2003): 787-818.

Holly J. McCammon assesses the conditions that caused certain state woman suffrage movements to use suffrage parade as a tactic to gain more momentum and recognition.  McCammon concludes that “organizational readiness and political opportunities” did not cause the use of the suffrage parade, as previously accepted.

  • Tutt, Juliana. “‘No taxation without representation’ in the American woman suffrage movement.” Stanford Law Review 62.5 (2010): 1473.

Juliana Tutt explores the problems that suffragists had when they tried to use the “no taxation without representation” argument to further defend their stance.  They found that this phrase made more sense when applied to taxpayer suffrage, not universal suffrage.  Tutt explains why other suffragists did not use the taxation argument in the first place.

Opposing Forces-The Anti-Suffrage Movement

  • Books
  • Marshall, Susan E. Splintered Sisterhood: Gender and Class in the Campaign against Woman Suffrage. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.

When looking at the Women’s Suffrage Movement, it is important and interesting to look at the Anti-Suffrage Movement.  In this source, Susan E. Marshall argues against the idea that the women who fought against women’s suffrage were simply homemakers who wanted to keep the role of women traditional and stagnant.  She explains how the women who were the foundation of the Anti-Suffrage Movement were educated, affluent, and had connections to men of political power.  According to Marshall, the Anti-Suffrage Movement’s goal was to prevent the right to vote from reaching lower-class women so that the more wealthy, already powerful women could retain power.  These women also wanted to ensure that the people who were voting were informed on politics and social issues.  Finally, Marshall explore how the Anti-Suffrage Movement became not passive, but militant.

  • Scholarly Articles
  • Brunn, Stanley D., and Gilmartin, Patricia. “The representation of women in political cartoons of the 1995 world conference on women.” Women’s Studies International Forum 21 (1998): 535-549.

In part, this article discusses the Anti-Suffrage Movement’s treatment of women in political cartoons.  Brunn and Gilmartin compare the pro-suffrage and the anti-suffrage cartoons and the difference in cartoons between male and female artists or newspapers.

  • Maddux, Kristy. “When Patriots Protest: The Anti-Suffrage Discursive Transformation of 1917.”Rhetoric and Public Affairs 7 (2004): 283-310.

In this article, Kristy Maddux describes the evolution of the Anti-Suffrage Movement.  In particular, Maddux takes into account the changes in the anti-suffrage discourse.  Maddux focuses on the anti-suffrage treatment of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s, The Woman’s Bible.  Finally, Maddux discusses how the Movement became linked and evolved into a broader anti-radicalism movement.

  • Palczewski, Catherine H. “The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam: Visual Argument, Icons, and Ideographs in 1909 Anti-Woman Suffrage Postcards.” Quarterly Journal Of Speech 91 (2005): 365-394.

In this article, Catherine Palczewski discusses a set of postcards that was created in 1909 by the Dunston-Weiler Lithograph Company of New York.  These postcards were anti-suffrage in nature and reflect many of the arguments that the anti-suffrage supporters were making.  However, Palczewski points out that the potential “feminization” of men was one of the arguments that the postcards demonstrate that wasn’t spoken about outright at the time.  The photographs adjacent to and below this post are two of the postcards discussed in the article.

Primary Sources

  • Books
  • Buhle, Mari Jo, and Paul Buhle. The Concise History of Woman SuffrageSelections from the Classic Work of Stanton, Anthony, Gage, and Harper. Chicago: University ofIllinois Press, 1978.

Mari Jo Buhle, historian and Brown University professor, and Paul Buhle, historian and retired Brown University Professor, have collected eighty-two documents that are important to the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  The texts of key figures in the Movement are represented.  The documents are separated both chronologically and thematically.  The first part of the book contains documents prior to the Civil War, the second part includes documents from the Civil War to 1885, and the third part includes documents that fall between 1885 and 1920.  Within the chronological sections, the documents are separated by themes.

  • Electronic Resources

 

The Library of Congress includes the website “Chronicling America.”  It offers access to a number of digitized historic newspapers and newspaper pages.  It is a searchable database that can operate by typing in key words or a more advanced search. This database includes many primary source newspaper pages from the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  There are many useful illustrations and cartoons as well.

This website’s main purpose is to give teachers access to documents they can incorporate into their classroom.  The site is not comprehensive, but it does include an eclectic, interesting mix of primary sources, including documents and photographs.

This site offers a wide range of primary sources documents of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  It offers the option of searching by keyword or browsing by subject.  This site is particularly helpful because when browsing by subject, one can view all the documents that the site has from a certain states, such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, etc.

This webpage from the Library of Congress includes a searchable archive of 448 photographs from the National Woman’s Party, a more militant and aggressive subset of the Movement.  Specifically, a gallery of suffrage prisoners is featured.  The site also has a brief timeline of National Women’s Party between the years 1912 and 1997.

Important Women

Susan B. Anthony-An important figure in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1892-1900

Anthony, Susan B, Photograph, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online

  • Books

Ida Husted Harper, was an American author and journalist who wrote on and supported the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  In these two books, she details the work of Susan B. Anthony.  She writes about important events in Anthony’s life and career.  Harper also provides speeches and writings of Anthony.

  • Electronic Resources

This website allows access to important documents written by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Click here to view the Declaration of Sentiments and Its Resolutions.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton-A leader in the Women’s Rights Movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement and devised the first organized demand for woman suffrage in the United States, the Seneca Falls Convention

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Photograph, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online

  • Books
  • Blatch, Harriot S. and Theordore Stanton, eds.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Volume 1 of 2): As revealed in her letters, diary, and reminiscences. Harper & Brothers Publishing: New York, 1922.
  • Blatch, Harriot S., and Theordore Stanton, eds.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Volume 2 of 2): As revealed in her letters, diary, and reminiscences. Harper & Brothers Publishing: New York, 1922.

These books offer a comprehensive look at Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s life through her personal writings.  These sources are an excellent source of primary sources.

First published in 1895, The Woman’s Bible is a legendary feminist work.  It is written as a challenge to traditional religious beliefs that women should be of a lower social rank than men are.  Stanton provides commentary on biblical passages.

Carrie Chapman Catt-A feminist leader who was an important figure in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and succeeded Susan B. Anthony as the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association

Catt, Carrie Chapman, Photograph, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online

  • Books
  • Peck, Mary Gray. Carrie Chapman Catt: A Biography. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1944.

This book offers a chronological look at Carrie Chapman Catt’s life and work.

  • Articles
  • Amidon, Kevin S. “Carrie Chapman Catt and the Evolutionary Politics of Sex and Race, 1885-1940.” Journal of the History of Ideas 68 (2007): 305-328.

Keven S. Amidon applies the importance of evolutionary thought to the notions and philosophies of Carrie Chapman Catt.  Amidon discusses how Catt developed her ideas based on two distinct understandings of political and social change. Catt believed in “evolutionary progress” and the “evolutionary development of human diversity.”  These two ideas formed the foundations of her arguments in response to different viewpoints or claims.

  • Click here to listen to an audio clip of Carrie Chapman Catt speaking on women’s suffrage.

Lucretia Mott-Important reform figure in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and called for the Seneca Falls Convention with Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Mott, Lucretia, Photograph, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online

  • Books
  • Greene, Dana, eds. Lucretia Mott: Her Complete Speeches and Sermons. New York: Mellen Press, 1980.

This book offers easy access to Lucretia Mott’s speeches and sermons, and therefore access to her personal beliefs and goals.

  • Palmer, Beverly Wilson. Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

This book offers an even more personal view of Mott’s life through many of her letters.  It offers reliable primary source documents.

Lucy Stone-A pioneer in the Women’s Rights Movement and formed the American Woman Suffrage Association

Stone, Lucy, Photograph, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online

  • Books
  • Kerr, Andrea M. Lucy Stone: Speaking Out for Equality. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

This biography of Lucy Stone gives an overview of the major relationships and events in her life.  Kerr explains how Stone began her life dedicated to reform with lectures on anti-slavery and then gradually transitioned her focus to women’s suffrage.  She also discusses Stone’s marriage and her husband at length.

Libraries

The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women offers a multitude of sources on women’s history.  The Schlesinger Library documents the lives of past and present women.  The library boasts a particularly large amount of resources in a few topics.  These topics include, women’s rights and feminism, health and sexuality, work and family life, education and professions, and culinary history and etiquette.  The library hosts events and houses many collections and exhibits about women’s history.  The Schlesinger library holds more than 100,000 volumes of books, subscribes to more than 250 current periodicals, and has more than 150,000 photographs.  The library also has audiovisual materials and an expanding collection of digital resources.  There website is also helpful and includes many photographs, documents, and resources.

Related Research Guides

  • Middleton, Ken, comp. Middle Tennessee State University Library, “Suffrage.” Last modified 2007.

The suffrage section of this research guide on American women’s history provides sources to find relevant information and documents on the topic.  The research guide lists existing annotated bibliographies, encyclopedias, historical overviews, archives, digital collections, microform collections of primary sources, books, and interviews of contemporary women that discuss women’s history.