The Beginning of the Women's Suffrage Movement

    The term "women's suffrage" refers to the economic and political reform aimed at extending suffrage  — the right to  vote— to women.      The demand for the enfranchisement of American women was first seriously formulated at the Seneca Falls Convention (1848). The catalyst for this gathering was the World Anti-Slavery Convention held on 1840 in London. The Convention was attended by an American delegation which included a number of women. In attendance were Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who were forced to sit in the galleries as observers because they were women. This poor treatment did not rest well with these women of progressive thoughts, and it was decided that they would hold their own convention to "discuss the social, civil and religious rights of women."

     Using the Declaration of Independence as a guideline, Stanton presented her Declaration of Sentiments in her hometown chapel and brought to light women's subordinate status and made recommendations for change.

     Resolution 9 requesting the right to vote was perhaps the most important in that it expressed the demand for sexual equality. Subsequent to the Seneca Falls Convention, the demand for the vote became the centerpiece of the women's rights movement.

Suffrage During the Civil War

     During the Civil War, women's suffrage was eclipsed by the war effort and movement for the abolition of slavery. While annual conventions were held on a regular basis, there was much discussion but little action. Activists such as slave-born Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony lectured and petitioned the government for the emancipation of slaves with the belief that, once the war was over, women and slaves alike would be granted the same rights as the white men. At the end of the war, however, the government saw the suffrage of women and that of the Africans as two separate issues, and it was decided that the African vote could produce the immediate political gain, particularly in the South, that the women's vote could not. Abraham Lincoln declared, "This hour belongs to the negro."

Suffrage After the Civil War

After the Civil War, agitation by women for the ballot became increasingly vocal. With the side-stepping of women's rights, women activists became enraged, and the American Equal Rights Association was established by Stanton and her colleagues in 1866 in effort to organize in the fight for women's rights. In 1868, the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, which ensured the rights of former slaves, proved an insult to the women's movement, as it defined "citizenship" and "voters" as "male", and raised the question as to whether women were considered citizens of the United States at all. The exclusion of women was further reinforced with the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, which enfranchised black men. In a disagreement over these Amendments, the women's movement split into two factions. In New York, Stanton and Anthony established the radical National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and Henry Blackwell organized the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in Boston. These two groups later merged in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under the leadership of Elizabeth Stanton.

Gaining the Right to Vote

Susan B. Anthony was arrested for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the 1872 presidential election. Six years later, in 1878, a Woman's Suffrage Amendment was introduced to U.S. Congress. With the formation of numerous groups, such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) ,the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and, the Women's Trade Union League, the women's movement gained a full head of steam during the 1890's and early 1900's. The U.S. involvement in World War I in 1918 slowed down the suffrage campaign as women pitched in for the war effort. However, in 1919, after years of petitioning, picketing, and protest parades, the Nineteenth Amendment was passed by both houses of Congress, and in 1920, it became ratified under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.