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Teaching Women’s Rights

From Past to Present

Women’s Suffrage:

A World Wide Movement


Introduction: Today the world is enthralled with images of women lining up to vote for the first time, or for the first time in a long while. Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and South Africa, in recent decades have all held elections allowing women to vote.

In spite of this recognition of the fundamental importance of women achieving the vote, attention paid to the history of its long struggle has been marginalized. And, the reasons for the depth of its opposition ignored. Why, for example, did it take until May, 2005, for women in Kuwait to finally achieve their full voting rights in their national elections?

It is commonly believed that female suffrage was desired and fought for only in England and the United States. Yet dynamic struggles for women’s basic democratic right appeared in many countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though these movements differed in their reasons and tactics, the fight for female suffrage, along with other women’s rights concerns, cut across many national boundaries. By exploring the following topics, this essay attempts to help rectify the narrow and unexamined view of female suffrage.

Worldwide Alliances and Influences:  

By the turn of the twentieth century women’s reform was truly an international movement, one in which ideas and tactics used in one country served as models for use in another.

The strength of the 19th/early 20th century struggle for women’s suffrage was its transnational nature. Cooperation between women of various nations gave each the resources they needed to overcome their marginalisation in the politics of their own nations. In the later decades of the 19th century, the expansion of the telegraph and growth of women’s press allowed the discussion about women’s status and roles to be communicated from country to country. Improvements in transportation facilitated like-minded women and men to attend international gathering where they met and organized. The momentum of women’s suffrage was bolstered by such international movements as:

The International Woman Suffrage Association: The International Woman Suffrage Association, established between 1899 and 1902, held its first meeting in Berlin in 1904. A series of Congresses followed, each with the aim of improving women’s rights, and each providing a stimulus for similar transforming movements throughout the world. At the Alliances’ seventh meeting in Budapest in 1913, euphoria about success was in the air, causing American Carrie Chapman Catt to claim: “Our movement has reached the last stage….Parliaments have stopped laughing at woman suffrage, and politicians have begun to dodge!”

World-Wide Temperance Movement: Perhaps no other cause helped the women suffrage movement as much as temperance. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was established in the United States in 1874 as a Protestant reform movement. In 1884, its powerful, influential leader, Frances Willard, formed the World’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which was spearheaded mostly by missionaries working in non-western and southern countries. When Willard saw the link between women voting and temperance, and encouraged her membership to work for the vote, the WCTU leadership skills and organizational resources everywhere provided an enormous boast to sometimes flagging suffrage causes.

International Socialism: In 1907 international socialism decided to support women’s suffrage. Socialists were bent on organizing working class women. Since bans against female party membership existed within most traditional political parties, Socialists, having to organize women separately from men, managed to create successful female oriented movements in some countries.

Most Socialists went beyond civic issues to link suffrage to a fundamental challenge to gender relations. German Socialists, for example, demanded sexual emancipation and more control for women within their families as well as the vote. Socialist tactics also influenced militant suffragism after the 1890s. Most effective was a section within the British movement, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which used aggressive tactics of political confrontation to bring attention to the suffrage cause. Groups in other nations imitated the British, such as the suffragettes in Argentina and the United States. And, in 1912 in Nanking, the Chinese Woman Suffrage Alliance broke windows and stormed the parliament building demanding equality of the sexes and women’s right to vote.

The League of Nations and United Nations: The establishment of these international bodies significantly forwarded the goal of universal female suffrage. In 1946 a Commission on Women was established, and the Convention of the Political Rights for Women was adopted in 1952.

Inter-regional and Pan-national Organizations: Region specific coalitions also strengthened individual movements. Although Latin American women participated in several inter-American and European conferences, they had more success when they formed supportive alliances within the South American continent. The first South American International Feminine Congress took place in Buenos Aires in 1910. And, although the 1928 founded Inter-American Commission of Women at first was driven by North American issues, it increasingly geared itself to the needs of Latin American women. By the 1940s, the Commission had become an almost exclusively Latin American organization.

Pan-Pacific women’s networks also became effective advocates of women’s political equality, as did those within countries with great regional diversity. As an example, women in India by the end of the nineteenth century were forming their own organizations. The first all-India organization, the Women’s Indian Association was established in 1917, and by 1918 was holding gatherings all over India in support of women’s franchise.

International Council of Women, Berlin, 1904

When and Where:  

Women’s struggle for suffrage was long and sometimes bitter. In most cases women won the right to vote in uneven stages.

Full suffrage occurs when all groups of women are included in national voting and can run for any political office. In most cases women won the right to vote in uneven stages. New Zealand in 1893 was first. Liberalism was a strong force in this pioneering land which increasingly rejected what it viewed as archaic attitudes from the “Old World.” The support of social reform issues, including temperance, gave New Zealand suffragists the edge they needed. The now famous “Women’s Suffrage Petition” is credited with being a major force for this success. Signed by close to one quarter of the female adult population, the petition was the largest of its kind in New Zealand and other western countries. It is comprised of 546 sheets of paper, all glued together to form one continuous roll 274 metres long, with the signatures of over 10,000 adult women. A few Maori women signed, but at this time they mainly were concerned with achieving political participation rights for the whole tribe.

The New Zealand breakthrough sent ripples throughout the world. New Zealand women suffrage supporters were invited to many countries to visit, lecture, and even join in demonstrations.

Contingent of New Zealanders

Supporting British Suffragists in a Parade
London, 1910

In Europe, Finland, Norway and Iceland were among the first to grant female suffrage. Most other western governments only extended suffrage to women during or just after WWI, even though women’s rights had been widely debated in their societies for many decades.

Even though suffrage movements in the United States were large and vigorous in the early twentieth century, it took women there seventy-two years from first claiming the franchise in 1848 to achieving it in 1920. It was an equally long process in Britain where women’s important work in WWI provided an opportunity for the government to act on suffrage without seeming to capitulate to the tactics of the more militant arm of England’s “suffragette” movement. France was one of the last in Europe to enfranchise women, even though the demand for women’s rights was first voiced by Olympe de Gouge during the French Revolution, and it was in France that the most radical critique of women’s subordination was developed. French suffragists, however, throughout the early part of the 20th century faced opposition from politicians, many of whom were Socialists who feared women would support Catholicism and right-wing political conservatism. French women won the vote as late as 1944.

French women, nonetheless, fared better than the Swiss. It took efforts of the Swiss Federation for Women’s Suffrage from 1909 to 1971 before women in Switzerland were allowed to vote in national elections, and not until 1989 could women in the Appenzell Interiour Rhodes canton vote in their local elections.

In colonized countries, women demanded the right to vote not just from stable republics, but from colonial powers. Anti-colonial nationalist movements in some cases encompassed women’s suffrage. For example, in India in 1919, poet and political activist Sarojini Naidu headed a small deputation of women to England to present the case for female suffrage before a select committee set up to create a proposal for constitution reforms aimed at the inclusion of some Indians in government. Although the British committee found the proposition preposterous, they allowed future Indian provincial legislatures to grant or refuse the franchise to women. To the British surprise, many did, making it possible within a short span of time for women to be represented, however limited, on a par with men. Universal suffrage for all adults over 21 was not achieved, however, until it became part of India’s 1950 Constitution.

Women in newly independent states in Africa typically won the vote around the year 1960. On winning national independence, most of the ex-colonized countries created constitutions which guaranteed the franchise to both men and women. In other countries, like South Africa where only whites were allowed to vote for members of the central government, white women gained the right to vote for central government in 1930, while black and colored women voted for the first time in 1994.

Today only a few countries do not extend suffrage to women, or extend only limited suffrage. In Bhutan there is only one vote per family in village-level elections. In Lebanon women have to have proof of education before they vote. In Oman, only 175 people chosen by the government, mostly male, vote, and Kuwait only in 2005 granted women the right to vote in the 2007 elections. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, which have denied the vote to men as well as women, recently opened the vote in provisional elections to men.

Women in Bahrain Voting for the First Time

May 22, 2003

The Case for Suffrage:

Reasons for granting female suffrage have varied. Sometimes responses to political change, or to societal anxieties, forwarded the cause. In Sweden, for example, women’s suffrage seems to have been an attempt to ward off more radical changes. In Germany, the ending of imperial rule in 1918 opened the door for women to push for the vote. In Canada, the federal government used female suffrage as a political tool, enfranchising army nurses and female relatives of soldiers serving overseas in order to secure an election victory.

A “nativist” argument also influenced the opinion of some in Canada, and in other parts of the world with large non-Northern European immigrant ethnic and racial minorities. One pro-suffrage argument in Canada was that white British Canadian women deserved the vote because the franchise had already been entrusted to naturalized male immigrants from Central Europe. In the United States the same argument was used, as was the fact that African American males had already won the vote before white women. The same reasoning was used by some white settlers in New Zealand, anxious about indigenous peoples’ access to political rights when it was denied to white women.

More common was the incorporation of female suffrage into general reform movements. The push for female political power sometimes occurred when it was clear that without political power little would change for women, even with the passage of substantive reforms. Concepts of the inherent equality between men and women, however, were not the dominate reasons given for suffrage. Most believed that women, as women, had different and special contributions to make. Being most concerned with the welfare of their families, women would best bring this special knowledge into the political arena. A principle temperance argument was that women were more likely to vote for prohibition as a way to safeguard the family.

Economic reasons for female suffrage were utilized as well. One stressed that once women were full citizens they would be in a position to press for equal salaries. Also, women’s economic independence depended on their ability to have a say in laws regarding their right to work and improvement in their working conditions.

In the colonized states, the colonizers used the “woman question” to justify their dominance, claiming that women in their subject nations were “backward” and in need of “uplifting.” Ignoring the demands of women in their own countries, they were sometimes more willing to push for women’s reforms abroad. On the other hand, nationalistic movements in colonized and other non-western nations began to link attempts at modernization with an improvement in the status of women. In many instances, liberal nationalists, many of them male, needed the active support of women to help fulfill their dream of an independent, modern state.

Kimura Komako in New York City studying

methods of American women suffragists.


Obstacles to Overcome:

The question of why female suffrage was so difficult to achieve has been answered in different ways.

•  Suffrage Challenged the Existing Order:  Custom and laws in many countries had placed men as supreme in public sphere and within the family. Deep cultural beliefs in male/female differences in altitudes and abilities supported this situation, and giving the women the vote posed a direct threat to male powers and privileges. Changes in women’s reforms, such as access to education or property rights, were justified because they were viewed as an improvement in women’s social position. Suffrage, on the other hand, challenged the existing order by threatening the basis of women’s subordination in society. Granting suffrage was a revolutionary act.

Conservative Kuwait lawmakers recently blocked women’s vote by arguing that giving women would essentially double women’s power. Citing claims that Islam and Kuwaiti custom bar women from holding office, the head of the Parliament’s human rights committee in May, 2005, said that men “are technically the head of the nation here.”

•  Many Women didn’t Want it. This rationale swayed many a male legislator. It is true that at times even well educated women in countries with high percentages of female illiteracy joined men who claimed that as long as the majority of women were still illiterate and ignorant, it would be dangerous to extend them the vote. The anti-suffrage groups in the U.S., for example, were mainly led by women.

New York City, 1920

•  Fear of a Lose of Female rights. Some women and men worried that if the concept of male “protection” of women were broken, women would be forced to compete with men in areas which they were not prepared to. Giving women political independence would even change male/female roles in the family structure, severely damaging it.

•  Women’s Essential Femininity would be Sacrificed. Most women did not want to give up what they saw as essential characteristics of their female nature if voting meant that they would have to enter the rough and disorderly realm of politics. There were fears that when women entered the public arena their “natural” roles of wife and mother would be undermined. In South America, feminists were most successful when they developed ideas for improving women’s condition that did not challenge some basic social values. Suffrage became only one part of the process of social change which recognized the need first to address women’s problems associated with their health and work.

Feminist and suffrage supporters in non-western regions tended to be accused of blindly imitating Western women, who were perceived as aggressive and shameless. Japanese women’s internationalism was attacked using this very argument. In the years leading up to World War II, members of the Japanese Diet increasingly portrayed women’s suffrage as immoral and as running counter to Japanese customs.

•  National Needs Come First: In countries fighting for their independence from colonial rule there was pressure on women to wait their turn. Even Gandhi, who had brought women into the public struggle for self sufficiency from Great Britain, stated that although he wanted women to take their proper place by the side of men, the timing was wrong for a “votes for women” campaign; women instead should use their energies “helping their men against the common foe.” Women suffrage supporters, too, tended to be more nationalistic than feminist, arguing that votes for women were necessary so that they could imbue their children with ideas of nationalism.

•  Resistance of Liberal/Left Politicians:  Some supporters of progressive legislation worried that acts by women’s militant suffrage would harm the “larger” cause of progressive politics. There further was concern that once given the vote, women might all vote for conservative parties. Women in Mexico sadly missed the chance to gain suffrage in 1930s because of these fears. In 1934, General Lázaro Cárdenas drafted a bill to implement female suffrage, which was passed by both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, was ratified by the states, and only needed formal declaration to be made into law. That declaration never came. The presence of a number of street demonstrations, a threatened hunger strikes by feminists, and fears that women would be unduly influenced by the clerical vote, unnerved Cárdenas at the last moment. Since the suffrage campaign was not a mass movement, it was easy to let the needed declaration slip away. Mexican women did not receive federal vote until 1958.

•  Suffrage Granted and the Denied: Suffrage, or its promise, has been granted and then retracted at various times. During the liberalization phase of Japan’s Meiji government in the 1880s, it seemed that Japan’s “first feminists” were going to achieve their goal of political participation. But all was ended in 1889 with the passing of laws which not only denied women voting rights, but even the right to join political parties. In the 1920s, Japanese feminists campaigned again, but the growing imperialism of the Meiji state and rising tide of Japanese militarism in the early 1930s turned Japanese suffragists back. When the Japanese military took control of the country in the 1930s, all democratizing movements were suppressed. It took people like Ichikawa Fusae decades of arguing that women’s suffrage was a fundamental human right before it was enshrined in the new Japanese constitution of 1945.

In 1956 in Egypt, thirty-three years after feminists had first demanded suffrage, the revolutionary government granted women the right to vote. But from the start, the state and official Islam obstructed women’s political rights by banning feminist organizations and suppressing the public expression of their views. Thus the same year that the state granted women the right to vote, women were suppressed as independent political actors.

Similarly Iran, which had granted women suffrage in 1963 and passed numerous women’s equal rights legislation in the 70s, repealed all these gains when the revolutionary government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in 1979. Women were eliminated from all decision-making positions within the government, dress requirements were enforced, and women’s organizations were declared corrupt and disbanded. The future looks brighter today. A growing urban, middle class is making some progress by situating women’s rights within the cultural framework of Iran, and noting that in order to modernize, Iran must improve the status of women.

Irish Cartoon, 1913

Beyond Suffrage:

Suffrage has not been an automatic stepping stone to full equality for women. One problem was that once suffrage was achieved, the common ground among women fighting for it was lost. Fears that participation in politics was “unladylike” remained, as did the old resistance and hostile attitudes against it.

This means that major changes in women’s political activities, other than exercising their right to vote, have been long in coming. Today, women are struggling to gain equal participation in political office alongside men. Of interest is the use in over 41 countries of parity quotas and quota laws to achieve political gender balance. Responding to strong pressure by women’s organizations, gender quotas have appeared in many new constitutions, like the one of Rwanda, and recently in the constitution of Iraq. This means that a certain number of parliamentary seats are reserved for women. The seats are distributed among the political parties in proportion to the number of seats awarded in parliament. In South Africa, a municipal law stipulates that 50 percent of all candidates for the local office have to be women. India in 1992 enacted a 33 percent policy to reserve seats for women in Parliament and throughout the State Government. The final effectiveness of this policy is unknown, but so far, as many as one million women have gotten an opportunity to enter institutions as members and office bearers; many more have participated in elections and as campaigners for state legislatures. Most dramatic has been the change in the landscape of local politics. In some cases, women for the first time have sat with village leaders, and sometimes even had a turn heading village affairs.

Demonstration for parity in the Lower House of Parliament

France, 1993


Ellen Dubois, “Woman Suffrage: The View from the Pacific,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 69, No. 4,

Marlene Le Gates, “Making Waves: A History of Feminism in Western Society,” Copp Clark, Ltd., 1996.

Robin Morgan, editor, “Sisterhood is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology,” Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1984.

Karen Offen, “European Feminism: 1700-1950: A Political History,” Stanford University Press, 2000.

“Suffrage & Beyond: International Feminist Perspectives”ø, edited by Caroline Daley & Melanie Nolan, New York University Press, 1994.

The Women’s Peace Congress at The Hague

A History of the Women’s Rights Movement   (Suggested by Barbara Kelley’s Middle School Students)

Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
Click for Author Information

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Women’s Suffrage

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Images from Schlesinger Library

 Louise Hall speaking from the back of the vehicle holding the Liberty Bell and a "Votes for Women" banner during a suffrage campaign stop in Pennsylvania, 1915.

Victoria Woodhull, the only woman at the polls, attempting to cast a ballot. Published in Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 25, 1871, p. 1109.

Three women outside the MA Woman Suffrage Assocation, 1914.

Alice Paul sewing stars on the suffrage flag as others look on, ca.1920.

Photograph of Susan B. Anthony, with Elizabeth Smith Miller, her daughter Anne Fitzhugh Miller, and Mary S. Anthony, 1905.

Informal portrait of a young girl standing with the "Justice Bell," a replica of the Liberty Bell, during a suffrage rally in Pennsylvania.

Florence Luscomb coloring in Tennessee on the Ratification map, 1919.

Women riding along Beacon St. in Boston on horseback in a suffrage parade, May 02, 1914..

Margaret Foley in hot air balloon distributing suffrage pamphlets, 1910.

Suffrage meeting taking place on a porch, including Alice Stone Blackwell.

Carrie Chapman Catt (standing, left) and Jeannette Rankin (standing, right) in automobile with three other women on the occasion of Rankin’s arrival in Washington, D.C. as the first U.S. Congresswoman, April 1917.

 Woman with a sign reading “The Rose Stands For Chivalry. We Want Justice.” Trinity Church, Boston, 1914.

Get Started

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 menu on the left to view additional material related to this topic. 

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)

    Best known for her lifelong crusade for woman’s suffrage, Susan B. Anthony was first active in the temperance and anti-slavery movements. Discrimination within these movements, along with her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, helped to convinced Anthony that women could not fully participate in social action until equal rights were first secured. She helped to organize the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in 1869 and served as the second president of the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) from 1891-1900. In 1872, Anthony cast a vote, for which she was arrested and tried. Anthony died in March 1906 at the age of 86, fourteen years before the Nineteenth Amendment gave American women the right to vote. This collection has been digitized and is available on the Library’s website .

  • Blackwell family

    The most prominent members of the Blackwell family were Elizabeth (1821-1910) and Emily (1826-1910), among the earliest women doctors and founders of the New York Infirmary and College for Women; their brother Henry Browne Blackwell (1825-1909), his wife Lucy Stone (1818-1893), and their daughter Alice Stone Blackwell (1857-1950), known for their leading roles in the abolition, woman suffrage, and prohibition movements; and their sister-in-law Antoinette Louisa (Brown) Blackwell (1825-1921), wife of Samuel Charles Blackwell (1823-1901), the first woman ordained as a minister in the United States and an active speaker on behalf of abolition, women’s rights, and prohibition. The Blackwell family collections document the family’s involvement in the suffrage movement and include materials relating to suffragists Alice Stone Blackwell and Lucy Stone, letters to Antoinette Louisa (Brown) Blackwell from Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, photographs of suffrage parades, and articles about suffrage. They also include materials relating to Emma Stone Lawrence Blackwell, who was a niece of Lucy Stone and active in the New Jersey and Massachusetts suffrage movements. All of the collections have been digitized and are available through the Blackwell Family Papers Online Portal .

  • Alice Stone Blackwell (1857-1950) [in Woman’s Rights Collection]

    Alice Stone Blackwell, self-proclaimed radical socialist and daughter of suffrage leaders Lucy Stone and Henry Browne Blackwell, joined her parents at the Woman’s Journal, the woman’s rights newspaper they had founded and edited. Over the next 35 years, she played a leading role in writing and editing the Journal. Blackwell was instrumental in bringing about the reconciliation of the National and American Woman Suffrage associations in 1890, and for almost twenty years served as secretary of the new National American Woman Suffrage Association. Among her other positions were president of the New England and Massachusetts Woman Suffrage associations and honorary president of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Olympia Brown (1835-1926)

    Olympia Brown became the first American woman to be ordained by full denominational authority when she was ordained by the St. Lawrence Association of Universalists in 1863. She was also active in the suffrage movement, primarily in Wisconsin and then on a national level. In 1868 Brown helped found the New England Woman’s Suffrage Association, the first suffrage organization in the United States. She also joined the Congressional Union (later the National Woman’s Party) and distributed suffrage material in front of President Wilson’s White House. After the passage of the School Suffrage Law in Wisconsin in 1885, Brown cast a vote in November of 1887, but her vote was rejected and her case went to court. Brown argued on her own behalf and won, but the decision was repealed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947)

    Carrie Chapman Catt, an active suffragist and peace leader, joined the Iowa Suffrage Association in 1887 and attended the first convention of the newly organized National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890 as an Iowa delegate. She became chair of NAWSA’s Organization Committee in 1895 and thereafter worked for suffrage both nationally and internationally. She joined Jane Addams in founding the Woman’s Peace Party in 1915 and organized the Committee on the Cause and Cure of War (which met annually from 1925 to 1939), serving as its chair until 1932. Material can be found in the”>Woman’s Rights Collection and the”>Mary Earhart Dillon Collection .
    [Digital content for both collections can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Mary Ware Dennett (1872-1947)

    Suffragist, pacifist, artisan, and advocate of birth control and sex education, Mary Ware Dennett was a founder of the National Birth Control League, director of the Voluntary Parenthood League and editor of the Birth Control Herald. Attracted to organizations seeking a broader distribution of wealth and power, she worked for women’s suffrage, the single tax, proportional representation, and free trade.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Mary “Molly” Dewson (1874-1962)

    Mary “Molly” Dewson was particularly active in the Massachusetts woman’s suffrage movement and the campaign of the National Consumers’ League that worked to secure passage of minimum wage laws for women and children. In 1933, thanks to the influence of Eleanor Roosevelt, her political ally and personal friend, Dewson was appointed head of the Women’s Division of the Democratic National Committee. She is credited with securing important positions for many women in the Democratic Party and the Roosevelt Administration. Material can be found in the”>Woman’s Rights Collection and the”>Papers of Mary “Molly” Dewson .
    [Digital content can for the Woman’s Rights Collection can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Mary Earhart Dillon Collection

    Mary Earhart Dillon assembled this collection in the early 1940s in the course of writing Frances Willard: From Prayers to Politics (published under the name Mary Earhart by University of Chicago Press in 1944). Due to the difficulty of finding primary source material, Dillon contacted various women in the Midwest (especially the Chicago lawyer and suffragist Catharine Waugh McCulloch) who had been active in temperance, woman’s suffrage, and related movements and activities. These women gave Dillon books and papers they had created or accumulated during their work for these causes.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Mary Elisabeth Dreier (1875-1963)

    Mary Elisabeth Dreier (also known as Mimi, Mietze, and Tolochee) was a labor and social reformer as well as a suffragist. The negative attitudes of male trade unionists towards women workers helped turn Dreier into an ardent supporter of suffrage and women’s rights. Dreier chaired the Industrial Section of the New York State Woman Suffrage Party and was active in the New York Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) throughout its existence (1903-1950), serving as president from 1906 to 1914. She never married, but shared a home with fellow reformer Frances Kellor from 1905 until the latter’s death in 1952.

  • Margaret Foley (1875-1957)

    Margaret Foley worked as a speaker and manager of organization work for the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association from 1906 to 1915. Foley, along with other young Massachusetts suffragists, was inspired by the militant tactics of suffragists in England and undertook open-air speaking tours in 1909. When she and others trailed Republican candidates through Western Massachusetts publicly questioning their suffrage views, newspapers labeled her a “heckler.” Foley never married and probably lived with her long-time friend and fellow suffragist, Helen Elizabeth Goodnow, for many years. Material can be found in the Woman’s Rights Collection and the”>Papers of Margaret Foley .
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898)

    Matilda Joslyn Gage served as the president of the National Woman Suffrage and the New York State Woman Suffrage associations. She also edited the National Woman Suffrage Association periodical National Citizen and Ballot Box. Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony together produced the first three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage. [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.] See also Scrapbooks of Matilda Joslyn Gage .

  • Helen Hamilton Gardener (1853-1925) [in Woman’s Rights Collection]

    Helen Hamilton Gardener settled in Washington, D.C., and took up the suffrage cause in 1907. In 1913 she was appointed to the Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She would go on to become the vice-chair as well as the vice president of NAWSA and served as its chief liaison with the Woodrow Wilson administration. In 1920, Wilson appointed her to the United States Civil Service Commission, making her the first woman to occupy so high a federal position. Gardener also published numerous lectures, articles, and books during the period between 1885 and 1900.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)

    Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a socialist, deist, independent thinker, and author who was an intellectual leader of the women’s movement from the late 1890s to the 1920s. An advocate of economic independence for women, Gilman considered the ballot of secondary importance. Her interests ranged from sensible dress for women, physical fitness, more rational domestic architecture, and professionalized housework, to birth control, Freud, and immigrants. See also Papers of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (177) . These collections have been digitized and are available on the Library’s website .

  • Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)

    Julia Ward Howe, perhaps best known as the author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” was also active in and widely respected for her leadership in a variety of fields, including women’s suffrage. After the Civil War, she helped found the New England Woman Suffrage Association (1868). In 1869, along with Lucy Stone, Howe became a leader of the American Woman Suffrage Association. She served as the president of the Massachusetts (1870-1878, 1891-1893) and the New England (1868-1877, 1893-1910) suffrage associations. She was also one of the founders of the Woman’s Journal. In addition to her work regarding suffrage, she was also extremely active in the women’s club movement. She was a founder (1868) and president of the New England Woman’s Club and of the Association for the Advancement of Women (1873).
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Hazel Hunkins-Hallinan (1890-1982)

    Hazel Hunkins-Hallinan was born in Aspen, Colorado, in 1890. Denied the opportunity to teach chemistry and physics because she was a woman, she was inspired to join the National Woman’s Party. She became a prominent figure in the picket lines in front of the White House, which led to her arrest and imprisonment in the Occoquan Workhouse, where she and other suffragists participated in a hunger strike. In addition to being a journalist, she was also the author of a children’s book, The Story of America (1942) and the editor of In Her Own Right (1968), a collection of feminist essays.

  • Grace A. Johnson (1871-1952) [in Woman’s Rights Collection]

    Grace A. Johnson defined herself as an educator, lecturing and writing on a wide variety of topics, including suffrage, the status of women, prohibition, and aspects of democracy and government structure. During a 1907 trip to Europe with her family, Johnson became interested in woman suffrage and subsequently served as president to the Cambridge Political Equality Association from 1911 to 1915 – the first of a number of similar positions. She advocated for woman suffrage and for the United States’ participation in the League of Nations (and later the United Nations) and World Court. Johnson was one of three Massachusetts women delegates to the 1912 Progressive Party national convention in Chicago.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Florence Ledyard Cross Kitchelt (1874-1961)

    Florence Ledyard Cross Kitchelt worked as a social worker at a number of settlement houses between 1900 and 1907. By 1915, she had become a proponent of woman’s suffrage. She became the Citizenship Director of the Connecticut League of Women Voters in 1920 and was the director of the Connecticut League of Nations Association from 1924 to 1944. She was once an outspoken opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) but eventually became the chairman of the Connecticut Committee for the ERA in 1943.

  • Harriet Burton Laidlaw (1873-1949)

    Throughout her life, Harriet Burton Laidlaw was a suffragist, social and civic reformer, and internationalist. Her concern with women’s rights blossomed into her remarkably active involvement in a variety of causes and organizations. This life of public service is reflected in her participation with many suffrage organizations including the College Equal Suffrage League, National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and the New York State Woman Suffrage Association/Party.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.] See also Scrapbooks of Harriet Burton Laidlaw

  • Rosa Marie Finnochietti Levis (1878-1959)

    Levis was born on Hull Street in the North End of Boston. Her parents, Giovanni and Theresa Finnochietti, were recent immigrants from Genoa, Italy. Levis was proud of her early advocacy (1910) of woman suffrage, claiming to be the first Italian-American suffragist in Massachusetts. During World War I she participated, with other suffragists, in the sale of Liberty Bonds and in programs for food conservation and for Americanization of Italian immigrants.

  • Florence Hope Luscomb (1887-1985)

    Florence Hope Luscomb, social and political activist, became an executive secretary for the Boston Equal Suffrage Association in 1917. She held positions in the Massachusetts Civic League and other organizations and agencies until 1933, when she became a full-time social and political activist. In the early 1920s, Luscomb began to serve on the boards of civil rights, civil liberties, and other organizations. Luscomb ran unsuccessfully for the Boston City Council, U.S. House of Representatives, and governor of Massachusetts. Material can be found in the”>Woman’s Rights Collection and the”>Papers of Florence Luscomb .

  • Catharine Gouger Waugh McCulloch (1862-1945)

    Both a suffragist and a lawyer, McCulloch served as the legislative superintendent of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association (1890-1912). She was also active in the movement for women’s rights, seeking state legislation permitting woman suffrage in presidential and local elections not constitutionally limited to male voters, a bill that passed in 1913. She served as legal adviser (1904-ca.1911) and as first vice president (1910-1911) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She was also instrumental in the passage of Illinois legislation granting women equal rights in the guardianship of their children (1901) and raising the legal age of consent for women from fourteen to sixteen (1905).
    Material can be found in the Mary Earhart Dillon Collection and the Papers of Catharine Gouger Waugh McCulloch .
    [Digital content for the Mary Earhart Dillon Collection can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Helen Brewster Owens (1881-1968)

    Helen Brewster Owens was both a mathematician and a suffragist. Her mother, Clara (Linton) Brewster, a teacher, was president of the Linn County Women’s Suffrage Association in Kansas, and as a young girl, Owens would help her mother distribute suffrage literature at the county fair. Owens went on to serve as chair of the Resolution Committee for the New York State Woman Suffrage Association (1910). She also organized the College Equal Suffrage League at Cornell (1911) and was a paid organizer and chair of the Sixth Judicial District for the Empire State Campaign Committee (1913-1916). [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.] See also”>Additional Papers of Helen Brewster Owens

  • Alice Park (1861-1961)

    A socialist, vegetarian, pacifist, founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and campaigner for women’s rights, Alice Park wrote the California law, passed in 1913, granting women equal rights of guardianship over their children. She was a delegate and speaker at the Congress of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance in Budapest, Hungary, in June 1913, and a delegate to the Tenth Congress of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance, held in Paris in May 1926. Through her connections with many women’s rights organizations, Park acquired a library of feminist books, as well as buttons, leaflets, and posters. This collection includes 55 different posters of the women’s suffrage movement collected by Alice Park. Most are British, two are from the international congresses she attended, and eleven are American.
    [All posters in this collection have been digitized and are accessible without a Harvard ID through HOLLIS Images .]

  • Maud Wood Park (1871-1955) [in Woman’s Rights Collection]

    Maud Wood Park graduated from Radcliffe College in 1898 and was active in suffrage and civic work in Boston for more than fifteen years. With Inez Haynes Gilmore, she organized the first chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League in 1900 and during the next eight years worked to establish local chapters in Massachusetts, New York, and the Midwest. Following the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Park served as the first president of the National League of Women Voters (1920-1924). She prepared and donated a large body of material on the suffrage movement and on women after 1920 to Radcliffe College in 1943. This collection, called the Woman’s Rights Collection, formed the nucleus of the Women’s Archives, later the Schlesinger Library.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Alice Paul (1885-1977)

    Alice Paul was a Quaker, lawyer, and lifelong activist for women’s rights. She was active in the Women’s Social and Political Union in England, where she was arrested and jailed repeatedly as a participant in the campaign for women’s rights led by Emmeline Pankhurst. After returning to the United States in 1910, Paul was appointed chair of the Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1912. In June 1916, Paul founded the National Woman’s Party (NWP), its sole plank a resolution calling for immediate passage of the federal amendment guaranteeing the enfranchisement of women. After the ratification of the suffrage amendment in 1920, the NWP began a long battle to end all legal discrimination against women in the United States and to raise the legal, social, and economic status of women around the world. The Equal Rights Amendment, as written by Paul in 1923, was first introduced in Congress in December of that year. In 1938, Paul founded the World Woman’s Party in Geneva, Switzerland. This collection has been digitized and is available on the Library’s website . See also”>Videotape collection of Alice Paul

  • Wenona Osborne Pinkham (1882-1930)

    Pinkham was a suffragist, reformer, and lobbyist. She taught in the Denver, Colorado, public schools and was a founder and president of the North Side Neighborhood House in Denver. As state chair for the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association (1913-1915), Pinkham spoke to audiences as an example of a woman voter, since Colorado had granted women suffrage years before. In 1917, she became executive secretary of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government and remained in this position when the organization became the Boston League of Women Voters. In late 1922 she left the league and became associate executive secretary of the Massachusetts Civic League, which promoted social welfare legislation and such issues as paying prisoners for their work. From 1923 until her sudden death in 1930, Pinkham served as the Massachusetts Civic League’s executive secretary.

  • Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973)

    Jeannette Rankin, after briefly working as a social worker in Seattle, campaigned for women’s suffrage in Washington, California, Montana, and other states from 1910 to 1915. The first woman elected to Congress (1916), she voted against United States entry into World War I and worked for women’s rights as well as peace legislation. From 1919 to 1940, Rankin lobbied Congress and lectured for various peace and other humanitarian causes. In the 1920s, she was employed by the National Consumers’ League and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and founded the Georgia Peace Society.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Rebecca Hourwich Reyher (1897-1987)

    Reyher was an author, lecturer, suffragist, and traveler. In March 1913, she began her life’s work for women’s rights by participating in the first national suffrage parade in the United States. She carried her newfound passion to New York City and beyond, organizing street meetings and opening offices for the National Woman’s Party. In 1924, Reyher took her first trip to South Africa as a journalist; it opened her eyes to the plight of women in other countries and inspired at least four more trips to the African continent. She wrote many books and articles (some unpublished) regarding women’s rights throughout Africa, India, and Sri Lanka. Back in the United States, Reyher continued her work with the National Woman’s Party, maintaining close friendships with many of the women and men who fought for equal rights for women.

  • Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919)

    A minister, physician, lecturer, and suffragist, Anna Howard Shaw became increasingly convinced that the problems she encountered in her ministry and as a physician could not be solved without major political and social reforms, and that obtaining the vote for women was a necessary first step. Shaw’s oratorical skills surrounding the suffrage and temperance movements were legendary. In 1913, the National Anti-Suffrage Association forbade its members to engage in any further debate with her. She served as the vice president (1892-1904) and the president (1904-1915) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association as well as acting as the chair of the Woman’s Committee of the U.S. Council of National Defense (1917-1919). For her extraordinary work and success in the coordination women’s contributions to the war effort, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the United States government in May 1919. Material can be found in the Woman’s Rights Collection and the”>Mary Earhart Dillon Collection .
    [Digital content for both collections can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Nellie Nugent Somerville (1863-1952)

    Nellie Nugent Somerville became active in suffrage and temperance work in the early 1890s, becoming Corresponding Secretary of the Mississippi Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in 1894 and organizing the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association in 1897. By 1915 she was vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1923, she became the first woman elected to the Mississippi legislature, serving until 1927. She is viewed as a pioneer in Mississippi’s work for women’s rights and was the first woman to be elected to the state House of Representatives.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.] See also”>Additional Papers of Nellie Nugent Somerville

  • Edna Lamprey Stantial (1897-1985)

    Edna Lamprey Stantial was secretary of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government from 1916 to 1920 and was reportedly its youngest member. After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing woman suffrage, she became executive secretary of the Boston League of Women Voters until 1924, when her daughter was born. Stantial continued to work for women’s rights as a volunteer while raising her child. She became close to Maud Wood Park and Alice Stone Blackwell through her political activity. Stantial was extremely organized as well as dedicated to the cause of women’s history. She helped Park gather the papers she gave to Radcliffe College in 1943 that formed the Woman’s Rights Collection, and she was named archivist of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1950. Stantial continued throughout her life to assemble and disseminate suffrage-related information and historical documents to a variety of repositories. Materials can be found in the Papers of Edna Lamprey Stantial and the Mary Earhart Dillon Collection .
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Edna Lamprey Stantial – Mary Earhart Dillon Collection

    [See biographical information above.]
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

    In 1840 Elizabeth Cady Stanton was appointed a delegate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. There she met Lucretia Mott, with whom she signed the first call for a women’s rights convention. She was the chief agent in calling the Seneca Falls Convention (1848), and following the Convention she remained one of the leaders of women in America until her death. From 1855 to 1865 she served as the president of the National Committee of the Suffrage Party. She was president of the National Woman Suffrage Association until 1890. She was also the joint author, along with Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, of The History of Woman Suffrage .

  • Doris Stevens (1888-1963)

    Doris Stevens became active in the suffrage movement in 1913, when the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, which became the National Woman’s Party, hired her as an organizer. Stevens held this position through 1920, at which time she published her book, Jailed for Freedom, which described the imprisonment of women activists in 1917 during the National Woman’s Party’s radical campaign for suffrage. Stevens was an active member of the National Woman’s Party for thirty years and served the party in various capacities: as vice president, as chair of the Committee on International Action, and as a member of the National Council.

  • Lucy Stone (1818-1893)

    Lucy Stone, a suffragist and abolitionist, gave her first public address on women’s rights in 1847. In 1850 she called for the first national women’s rights convention and had much to do with arranging later conventions. When the 14th Amendment was pending both she and her husband, Henry Brown Blackwell, tried in vain to strike the word “male” from it and thereby win suffrage for women. When the American Equal Rights Association was organized (1866), she became a member of the executive committee. In 1868, Stone and Blackwell helped organize the New England Woman Suffrage Association. She was a leading figure in the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, which she helped found in 1870, and in the American and New England Associations. She likewise spent a great deal of time lecturing, drafting bills, and attending legislative hearings in the interest of women’s rights. Materials can be found in the Woman’s Rights Collection and the Blackwell family papers.
    [Digital content for the Woman’s Rights Collection can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access. The Blackwell family papers have been digitized and are available through the Blackwell Family Papers Online Portal .]

  • Betty Gram Swing (1893-1969)

    Suffragist Betty Gram Swing was born Myrtle Eveline Gram. With her sister Alice, she joined the women’s rights movement in 1917 and was part of a group arrested for protesting the treatment of Alice Paul in prison. After her release, she joined the National Woman’s Party as a national organizer and worked for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

  • Woman’s Rights Collection

    Donated by Maud Wood Park in 1943, this collection of papers concerning women and men involved in the woman’s rights movement formed the nucleus of the Women’s Archives, which is now the Schlesinger Library. The collection contains correspondence, journals, notebooks, speeches, financial documents, reports, minutes, membership lists, agendas, bulletins, pamphlets, manuals, articles, clippings, maps, scrapbooks, photos, posters, memorabilia, plays, books, etc. Highlighting the work done in Massachusetts, the collection primarily documents the suffrage movement and also the gains for women in government participation, protective legislation, and employment opportunities after 1920. It includes papers of and about little-known women, suffrage leaders, and professional women; records of suffrage groups; and information on international peace activities.
    [Digital content can be found in ProQuest’s History Vault . This database requires a Harvard ID to access.]

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