Tag Archive: suffrage


Julia Howe was an abolitionist and suffragist who was a co-founder, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. Later that year Howe was part of a group that broke away from the National Woman Suffrage Association to form the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). They were a less “militant” group. I put that in scare quotes, but Wikipedia didn’t. I just don’t really like the word militant applied to people whose militancy amounts to strong speeches and carrying signs. If anyone could be considered a militant in the battle for women’s suffrage, it would be Alice Paul, and all she did was get arrested for picketing the white house and go on a hunger strike. None of these people were advocating violence of any kind. So really, the AWSA took somewhat less controversial positions and wanted to stick strictly to suffrage and not take on other issues. In any case the split lasted about twenty years, but the groups merged again in 1890, thirty years before they finally succeeded in getting the nineteenth amendment and suffrage for women passed. Howe is also known for writing the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Susan B. Anthony is perhaps the best known of the American suffragists. She had worked in the abolitionist and temperance movements for some time when she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton and turned her attention to women’s suffrage and equality. Stanton and Anthony were close friends and a formidable team. Anthony was single and could travel freely to meetings and to lobby legislatures, while between trips she would baby sit for Stanton so she could write. Anthony was a great motivator and a key organizer who continued to work with other reform movements as well. She helped to smooth over political differences among suffragists and kept the focus on a constitutional amendment with the belief that states lacked the right to keep any American from voting.

I was planning to wait to mention Alice Paul until later in this project, even though a desire to learn more about her was part of my impetus in starting the project, but I’m so in love with this video that I can’t wait.

I’ve mentioned a few of the early suffragists already, but two of them have something rather sad in common beyond being suffragists: Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton died before universal women’s suffrage was achieved in the United States. Susan B. Anthony, who I haven’t mentioned yet, also died before suffrage was achieved. Alice Paul led the next generation of women’s suffrage activists and, while she stood on the shoulders of those who came before, she was the one who saw the job done. Stanton and Anthony had written the text of what would become the Nineteenth Amendment and it was introduced in Congress in 1878. It languished in committee until it was voted on and rejected in 1887. It was not considered again until 1914, when it was rejected again.

After it was rejected again in 1915, Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party got serious. It had been hoped that Woodrow Wilson would support the amendment, but he had not been the strong advocate many had expected. Paul led a picket in front of the White House, calling out Wilson for his failure to provide strong public support for the amendment. The picketers were arrested for “blocking traffic” and sentenced to seven months in prison. In the prison these women, arrested merely for marching with signs, were treated worse than violent criminals. Prevented from having visitors and exercise and given substandard food, Paul began a hunger strike until all the women received adequate food. Paul was taken to the prison hospital where she was offered milk and eggs by officials concerned that she would die on their watch. Paul refused until her fellow prisoners were offered similar quality food for the duration of their imprisonment. She was removed from the prison and placed in an asylum, where she was eventually force fed. As disturbing as the scene in the video above illustrating this is,  it is tame compared to the reality, in which a tube was forced into her throat and raw eggs poured down it.

The protest, arrests, and hunger strike finally had the desired effect, and Wilson appealed to the House to pass the amendment. It failed again, by one vote, but Wilson called a special session to reconsider and in 1919 the Nineteenth Amendment finally passed. It was ratified in 1920 when Tennessee became the needed 36th state in approval.

Alice Paul is still an inspiration to many protest movements. She also drafted the original Equal Rights Amendment that was introduced in congress in 1923. It would not be passed until 1972, and was never ratified. Sadly, 36 state legislatures could not be found willing to agree that: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” And we wonder why we’re still debating birth control now. Alice Paul died at the age of 93 in 1977.

A brief note about the video: It was produced by an education publisher, and I’m not really sure if they had political intent, or were just covering an important historical topic, but it is incredibly timely. The short version of my review is that I am amazed by how well they have taken the original song and video by Lady Gaga and maintained its unusual look and feel while at the same time using every element of the production, from costumes to sets, as well as the lyrics, to tell this story in a powerful way. You should really watch it, and also check out the educational resources on the company’s website.

This may be the best song ever to come out of Schoolhouse Rock. I have always loved the way the backup singers sing “Lucretia” first and then the lead sings “Lucretia Mott”.

Lucretia Mott was a Quaker minister, a teacher, a pacifist, a driving force behind the abolition and women’s suffrage movements, and a founder of Swarthmore College. Lucretia was a mentor to Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the women’s rights movement. Before that she worked in the abolition movement and sought to include women, both black and white, in the movement. She was not content with the end of slavery, seeking full equal rights for black men and all women. For her role in the anti slavery movement she narrowly escaped a violent mob after an anti slavery meeting in Philadelphia.

Lucretia never wrote down her speeches, believing in the Quaker concept of an inner divine light to guide her speeches, so very little writing by Mott exists. The Lucretia Coffin Mott Papers Project is an effort to collect her writings in the form of letters written by and to her.

*UPDATED – Now with Links!*

This will be short since I’m a day behind, but I’ll update it with some links at a later date. Our second fabulous woman in history is the suffragette, abolitionist, women’s rights firebrand, and all around badass Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Perhaps no other person was as influential in launching the women’s rights and suffrage movement in the United States. Stanton helped organize the first national convention on women’s rights at Seneca Falls, NY and wrote the Declaration of Principles that resulted. There’s an interesting piece about her work on The Woman’s Bible here. You can get the Woman’s Bible for free for the Kindle or in other formats.