Woman Suffrage collection

Biographical and Historical Notes

The fight for woman suffrage in the United States began in the early nineteenth century, growing out of the Anti-Slavery campaigns of that period.

Women who were actively involved in Abolitionism found themselves treated as second class-citizens even within that movement, being denied variously the right to serve as delegates at conventions and to speak publicly to a mixed audience. The discrimination shown to women who were fighting for the rights of African Americans caused Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott to begin a campaign for woman's rights.

The first major event of the woman suffrage movement was the Seneca Falls Convention, which took place in New York State in July of 1848. At the convention the delegates demanded suffrage for woman as well as improved access to educational and employment opportunities.

Early campaigns for woman suffrage focused on state voting rights. However, by 1869 it was apparent that an amendment to the federal constitution was preferable. In that year two organizations were formed to work toward that end: The National Woman Suffrage Association, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and The American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone. In 1890, the two organizations joined under the name: National American Woman Suffrage Association.

In 1890, Wyoming entered the Union and became the first state in which women had the Vote. Over the next three decades various states changed their constitution to give women voting rights. However up until the 1910s, there was little progress toward a constitutional amendment.

After World War I, the major oppositions to woman suffrage had been broken down. In January of 1918 the House voted to amend the constitution, followed by the Senate in June of 1919. The Nineteenth Amendment was enacted August 26, 1920 after Tennessee became the 36th State to ratify it.

Scope and Content Note

The Woman Suffrage collection comprises ephemera, pamphlets, books, and realia that relate to the campaign for women's voting rights.

Many of the materials are propagandistic in nature, including literature explaining the rational behind the idea of woman suffrage. The collection also includes various pieces of realia that represent the material culture of the movement. These include buttons, pennants, posters, and other objects such as a fan and a watchband.

Most of the materials date from the 1910s and document the movement in the last decade before woman suffrage was achieved.