National American Woman Suffrage Association

In 1869 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed a new organisation, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). The organisation condemned the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments as blatant injustices to women. The NWSA also advocated easier divorce and an end to discrimination in employment and pay.

Another group, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) was formed in the same year in Boston. Leading members of the AWSA included Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe. Less militant that the National Woman Suffrage Association, the AWSA was only concerned with obtaining the vote and did not campaign on other issues.

In 1870 the AWSA founded its own magazine, the Women's Journal. The journal was edited by Lucy Stone, Mary Livermore, and Julia Ward Howe. The journal featured articles by members of the organisations and cartoons by Blanche Ames, Lou Rogers, Mary Sigsbee, Fredrikke Palmer and Rollin Kirby. Some of the regional groups also produced journals, most notably, the Women Voter (New York City) Maryland Suffrage News (Baltimore) and the Western Woman Voter (Seattle).

In the 1880s it became clear that it was not a good idea to have two rival groups campaigning for votes for women. After several years of negotiations, the AWSA and the NWSA merged in 1890 to form the NationalAmerican 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.

Primary Sources

(1) Editorial, Time and Tide (9th July, 1926)

Feminism, like any other great movement, proceeds at varying paces and in varying forms in different countries. Few things are more enlightening than a study of the inter-reactions of the feminist movement in the two great English speaking peoples during the past seventy or eighty years. It is curious how closely related have been the movements on the two sides of the Atlantic. Each has continually learnt from the other. Beginning with Mary Wollstonecraft in the late 18th century, the feminist movement owed its next big impetus (in the eighteen forties and fifties) to Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony, of New England. It was Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth C. Stanton who organised the first Equal Rights Convention which was held in New York in 1848; and it was Lucretia Mott who laid. down the definite proposition which American women are still struggling to implement today: 'Men and Women shall have Equal Rights throughout the United States.' A few years later Susan B. Anthony, the pioneer Suffragist, came into the American movement.

It was not till the eighteen sixties that the political feminist movement came alive in Great Britain. Dame Millicent Fawcett was even in those early days one of the leading names connected with it. The British suffragists pushed forward enthusiastically for some twenty years, but the failure to achieve success in 1885, when the third Reform Bill was passed giving the agricultural labourer the vote, seemed to take the heart out of our early suffragists, and the movement died down again. Meanwhile, in the nineties the American women were full of life and enthusiasm, winning victory after victory in State after State.'

In 1902 Susan B. Anthony came to England and stayed with Mrs. Pankhurst in Manchester. The result of that visit was far-reaching. All unwittingly the old pioneer handed back the torch to the British suffragists. 'It is unendurable,' declared Christabel Pankhurst after her departure, 'to think of another generation of women wasting their lives begging for the vote. We must not lose any more time. We must act.' Those words heralded the birth of the British militant movement. From that moment onwards British feminists went forward without pause till the outbreak of war in 1914 and when that time came (although the actual Bill was not passed until 1918) the first instalment of victory was virtually won.

Meanwhile in America by 1912 things had died down to very much the same state as the English movement has been in since 1918. Votes had been achieved in a considerable number of States, the feeling was widespread that a partial victory was good enough for the moment and that complete victory would ' come all in good time without much further trouble. And then in 1912 Alice Paul, lit by the fire of the English militant movement, returned to America - and America woke up. It took the Americans just eight years from that date to achieve complete political equality; but they were under wise leadership (Alice Paul will surely go down to history as one of the great leaders of the world), and when they did achieve political equality they did not make the mistake of supposing that that was the end. They turned back to the 'declaration of sentiments' laid down by Lucretia Mott in 1848 and they realised that political equality was only the first step on the path which they had chosen and that there could be neither halting nor relaxing their pace until they had come to the end of that path.

(2) In 1840 Lydia Drake of Ohio wrote down a list of reasons why women in the United States should not have the vote.

1. Her mind is inferior to that of man, and we know that it requires the strongest of minds to become a good politician.

2. It is beneath her dignity.

3. She has no right to vote and there is no use in her being prepared to do intelligently what she is not permitted to do at all.

4. She has not sufficient stability of character. She would always follow the opinions other father, brother or husband and this might do more hurt than good.

5. We should soon see ladies mounted on the public stage addressing her listening audience on the subject of politics and that would not look very well.

6. She is too capricious and full of new-tangled notions.

7. Women would soon enough occupy the Presidential chair and the legislative halls of our country, and we do not know what the consequences of that might be.

8. There is no need of it. There are men enough who have nothing else to do who can transact all necessary business.

(3) Sojourner Truth, speech at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio (1851)

I want women to have their rights. In the courts women have no right, no voice; nobody speaks for them. I wish woman to have her voice there among the pettifoggers. If it is not a fit place for women, it is unfit for men to be there.

I am above eighty years old; it is about time for me to be going. I have been forty years a slave and forty years free, and would be here forty years more to have equal rights for all. I suppose I am kept here because something remains for me to do; I suppose I am yet to help to break the chain. I have done a great deal of work; as much as a man, but did not get so much pay. I used to work in the field and bind grain, keeping up with the cradler; but men doing no more, got twice as much pay. We do as much, we eat as much, we want as much. I suppose I am about the only colored woman that goes about to speak for the rights of the colored women. I want to keep the thing stirring, now that the ice is cracked. What we want is a little money. You men know that you get as much again as women, when you write, or for what you do. When we get our rights, we shall not have to come to you for money, for then we shall have money enough in our own pockets; and maybe you will ask us for money. But help us now until we get it. It is a good consolation to know that when we have got this battle once fought we shall not be coming to you any more.

I am glad to see that men are getting their rights, but I want women to get theirs, and while the water is stirring I will step into the pool. Now that there is a great stir about colored men's getting their rights is the time for women to step in and have theirs. I am sometimes told that "Women ain't fit to vote. What, don't you know that a woman had seven devils in her: and do you suppose a woman is fit to rule the nation?" Seven devils ain't no account; a man had a legion in him. The devils didn't know where to go; and so they asked that they might go into the swine. They thought that was as good a place as they came out from. They didn't ask to go into the sheep - no, into the hog; that was the selfish beast; and man is so selfish that he has got women's rights and his own too, and yet he won't give women their rights. He keeps them all to himself.

(4) Mary Livermore joined the American Woman Suffrage Association after the American Civil War. She wrote about it in her autobiography, My Story of the War.

In January, 1869, at my own cost and risk, I established a woman suffrage paper, The Agitator, which, from the start, espoused the temperance cause, as well as that of woman suffrage. I conducted the paper for a year, and with the help of my husband, who took charge of the business, made it a success, and lost no money. In January, 1870, the Woman's Journal of Boston was founded by Mrs. Lucy Stone, and a joint stock company was formed for its weekly publication. I was invited to merge my paper in this new and promising advocate of the suffrage reform, and to become its editor-in-chief. I accepted the invitation with much hesitation. For there were associated with me as "editorial contributors," Mrs. Lucy Stone, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, Colonel Thomas W. Higginson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Henry B. Blackwell, - so brilliant a coterie of men and women, as caused me to doubt my fitness for the editorship, notwithstanding my large experience in newspaper work.

(5) Victoria Woodhull, Lecture on Constitutional Equality (20th February, 1872)

That the framers of the Constitution had Woman's Rights clearly in their minds is borne out by its whole structure. Nowhere is the word man used in contradistinction to woman. They avoided both terms and used the word "persons" for the same reason as they avoided the word "slavery," namely, to prevent an untimely contest over rights which might prematurely be discussed to the injury of the infant republic.

The issue upon the question of female suffrage being thus definitely settled, and its rights inalienably secured to woman, a brighter future dawns upon the country. Woman can now unite in purifying the elements of political strife in restoring the government to pristine integrity, strength and vigor. To do this, many reforms become of absolute necessity. Prominent in these are:

A complete reform in the Congressional and Legislative work, by which all political discussion shall be banished from legislative halls, and debate be limited to the actual business of the people.

A complete reform in Executive and Departmental conduct, by which the President and the Secretaries of the United States, and the Governors and State officers, shall be forced to recognize that they are the servants of the people, appointed to attend to the business of the people, and not for the purpose of perpetuating their official positions, or of securing the plunder of public trusts for the enrichment of their political adherents and supporters.

A reform in the tenure of office, by which the Presidency shall be limited to one term, with a retiring life pension, and a permanent seat in the Federal Senate, where his Presidential experience may become serviceable to the nation, and on the dignity and life emolument of Presidential Senator he shall be placed above all other political positions, and be excluded from all professional pursuits.

A reform between the relations of the employer and employed, by which shall be secured the practice of the great natural law, of one-third of time to labor, one-third to recreation and one-third to rest, that by this intellectual improvement and physical development may go on to that perfection which the Almighty Creator designed.

A reform in the system of crime punishment, by which the death penalty shall no longer be inflicted - by which the hardened criminal shall have no human chance of being let loose to harass society until the term of the sentence, whatever that may be, shall have expired, and by which, during that term, the entire prison employment shall be for - and the product thereof be faithfully paid over to - the support of the criminal's family, instead of being absorbed by the legal thieves to whom, in most cases, the administration of prison discipline has been entrusted, and by whom atrocities are perpetrated in the secrecy of the prison enclosure, which, were they revealed, would shock the moral sense of all mankind.

In the broadest sense, I claim to be the friend of equal rights, a faithful worker in the cause of human advancement; and more especially the friend, supporter, co-laborer with those who strive to encourage the poor and the friendless.

If I obtain the position of President of the United States, I promise that woman's strength and woman's will with God's support, if he vouchsafe it, shall open to them, and to this country, a new career of greatness in the race of nations.

In accordance with the above, we shall assume the new position that the rights of women under the Constitution are complete, and hereafter we shall contend, I not for a Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, but that the Constitution already recognizes women as citizens, and that they are justly entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens.

It will therefore be our duty to call on women everywhere to come boldly forward and exercise the right they are thus guaranteed. It is not to be expected that men who assume that they alone, as citizens of the United States, are entitled to all the immunities and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution, will consent that women may exercise the right of suffrage until they are compelled. We will never cease the struggle until they are recognized, and we see women established in their true position of equality with the rest of the citizens of the United States.

(6) Victoria Woodhull, speech, (20th February, 1872)

These privileged classes of the people have an enduring hatred for me, and I am glad they have. I am a friend not only of freedom in all things, and in every form, but also for equality and justice as well. These cannot be inaugurated except through revolution. I am denounced as desiring to precipitate revolution. I acknowledge it. I am for revolution, if to get equality and justice it is required.

(7) Elizabeth Cady Stanton, speech (20th February, 1894)

The point I wish plainly to bring before you on this occasion is the individuality of each human soul - our Protestant idea, the right of individual conscience and judgment - our republican idea, individual citizenship. In discussing the rights of woman, we are to consider, first, what belongs to her as an individual, in a world other own, the arbiter other own destiny, an imaginary Robinson Crusoe with her woman Friday on a solitary island. Her rights under such circumstances are to use all her faculties for her own safety and happiness.

Secondly, if we consider her as a citizen, as a member of a great nation, she must have the same rights as all other members, according to the fundamental principles of our Government.

Thirdly, viewed as a woman, an equal factor in civilization, her rights and duties are still the same - individual happiness and development.

Fourthly, it is only the incidental relations of life, such as mother, wife, sister, daughter, which may involve some special duties and training. In the usual discussion in regard to woman's sphere, such men as Herbert Spencer, Frederick Harrison and Grant Alien uniformly subordinate her rights and duties as an individual, as a citizen, as a woman, to the necessities of these incidental relations, some of which a large class of women never assume. In discussing the sphere of man we do not decide his rights as an individual, as a citizen, as a man, by his duties as a father, a husband, a brother or a son, some of which he may never undertake. Moreover he would be better fitted for these very relations, and whatever special work he might choose to do to earn his bread, by the complete development of all his faculties as an individual. Just so with woman. The education which will fit her to discharge the duties in the largest sphere of human usefulness, will best fit her for whatever special work she may be compelled to do.

The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear - is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself.

To throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property is like cutting off the hands. To refuse political equality is like robbing the ostracized of all self-respect, of credit in the market place, of recompense in the world of work, of a voice in choosing those who make and administer the law, a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment. Shakespeare's play of Titus and Andronicus contains a terrible satire on woman's position in the nineteenth century - "Rude men seized the king's daughter, cut out her tongue, cut off her hands, and then bade her go call for water and wash her hands." What a picture of woman's position! Robbed other natural rights, handicapped by law and custom at every turn, yet compelled to fight her own battles, and in the emergencies of life fall back on herself for protection.