A History
of the


Timeline from

A History of the American Suffragist Movement

1637   Anne Hutchinson is convicted of sedition and expelled from the Massachusetts colony for her religious ideas.


  The Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, is founded in England. Quakers will make vital contributions to the abolitionist and suffrage movements in the United States. One Quaker woman, Mary Dyer, will be hanged in 1660 for preaching in Boston.


  During the second Continental Congress, Abigail Adams entreats her husband John to "remember the ladies" in the new code of laws he is writing.


  The colony of New Jersey grants the vote to "all free inhabitants."


  New Jersey women lose their vote, with the repeal sponsored by a politician who was nearly defeated by a female voting block ten years earlier.


  Author Frances Wright travels the United States on a paid lecture tour, perhaps the first ever by a woman. She attacks organized religion for the secondary place it assigns women, and advocates the empowerment of women through divorce and birth control.


  Sarah Grimké publishes "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women." She and her sister Angelina will be active in both the suffrage and the abolitionist movements.


  The World Anti-Slavery Convention is held in London. Abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton attend, but they are barred from participating in the meeting. This snub leads them to decide to hold a women's rights convention when they return to America.


  Three hundred people attend the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Among the attendees are Amelia Bloomer, Charlotte Woodward, and Frederick Douglas. Lucretia Mott's husband James presides. Stanton authors the Declaration of Sentiments, which sets the agenda for decades of women's activism. A larger meeting follows in Rochester.


  A women's rights conventions is held in Salem, Ohio; men are not permitted to speak at the meeting.

The first National Women's Rights Convention is held in Worcester, Massachusetts; among the attendees are Paulina Wright Davis, Frederick Douglass, Abby Kelly Foster, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth.


  Sojourner Truth delivers her "Ain't I a Woman?" speech at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio.

The second National Woman's Rights Convention is held in Worcester, Massachusetts; celebrities new to the list of endorsers include educator Horace Mann, New York Tribune columnist Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and Reverend Harry Ward Beecher, one of the nation's most popular preachers. Lucretia Mott presides. Westminster Review publishes John Stuart Mill's article, "On the Enfranchisement of Women." Mill later admits that the piece is the work of his companion, Harriet Hardy Taylor.


  Newspaper editor Clara Howard Nichols addresses the Vermont Senate on the topic of women's property rights, a major issue for the suffragists. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin is published.


  On the occasion of the World's Fair in New York City, suffragists hold a meeting in the Broadway Tabernacle. It will go down in history as "The Mob Convention," marred by "hissing, yelling, stamping, and all manner of unseemly interruptions."

The World's Temperance Convention is held, also in New York City. Women delegates, including Rev. Antoinette Brown and Susan B. Anthony, are not allowed to speak.


  The Massachusetts legislature grants property rights to women.


  Prominent suffragists Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell marry; they eliminate the vow of obedience from the ceremony and include a protest against unfair marriage laws.


  The Civil War. Suffrage efforts nearly come to a complete halt as women put their enfranchisement aside and pitch in for the war effort.


  The Eleventh National Women's Rights Convention, the first since the beginning of the Civil War, is held in New York City. Lucretia Mott presides over a merger between suffragists and the American Anti-Slavery Association: the new group is called the American Equal Rights Association.


  Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Clarina Nichols, and others travel to Kansas to agitate for women's suffrage. After months of campaigning, suffragists are defeated on the fall ballot.

At the American Equal Rights Association annual meeting, opinions divide sharply on supporting the enfranchisement of black men before women.


  Stanton and Anthony have a falling out with longtime ally Horace Greely, editor of the New York Tribune. As a result, Stanton and Anthony begin publishing The Revolution, a weekly newspaper devoted to suffrage and other progressive causes.


  The territory of Wyoming is the first to grant unrestricted suffrage to women. Arguments over the Fifteenth Amendment lead to a split in the movement.

Stanton and Anthony form the National Woman Suffrage Association; it allows only female membership and advocates for woman suffrage above all other issues. Lucy Stone forms the American Woman Suffrage Association, which supports the Fifteenth Amendment and invites men to participate.


  The American Woman Suffrage Association begins publishing the Woman's Journal, edited by Mary Livermore.

Esther Morris is appointed the justice of the peace of South Pass City, Wyoming: she is the first female government official.

The Fifteenth Amendment is ratified. Although its gender-neutral language appears to grant women the vote, women who go to the polls to test the amendment are turned away.

The Utah territory enfranchises women.


  A suffrage proposal before the Dakota Territory legislature loses by one vote.


  The Women's Christian Temperance Union is founded by Annie Wittenmeyer of Iowa. Within a few years the WCTU will have 25,000 members, and under the leadership of Frances Willard, will provide important support to the suffrage movement.

In the case of Minor vs. Happersett, the Supreme Court rules that the Fourteenth Amendment does not grant women the right to vote.

A referendum gives Michigan's male voters the chance to enfranchise women, but they vote against women's suffrage.


  Michigan and Minnesota women win the right to vote in school elections.


  A federal amendment to grant women the right to vote is introduced for the first time by Senator A.A. Sargeant of California.

The first International Woman's Rights Congress is held in Paris, France.


  Due to subversion by the liquor industry, the suffragists lose electoral battles in Nebraska and Indiana.


  Women in the Washington territory are granted full voting rights. Prominent suffragists travel to Liverpool, where they form the International Council of Women. At this meeting, the leaders of the National and American associations work together, laying the foundation for a reconciliation between these two groups.


  The Supreme Court strikes down the law that enfranchised women in the Washington territory. Meanwhile, Congress denies women in Utah their right to vote. Kansas women win the right to vote in municipal elections.

Rhode Island becomes the first eastern state to vote on a women's suffrage referendum, but it does not pass.


  The National and American associations merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton becomes the new organization's first president.


  As a result of the strategy of Carrie Chapman Catt, Colorado men make their state the second in which women have full voting rights.


  The National American association formally condemns Stanton's Women's Bible, a critique of Christianity.

The New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage begins.


  The National American association hires Ida Husted Harper to launch an expensive suffrage campaign in California, which ultimately fails.

In Washington, D.C., black women's organizations converge under the umbrella of the National Association of Colored Women, headed by Margaret Murray Washington and Mary Church Terrell.

Catt organizes her second successful western campaign; Idaho enfranchises women because Catt manages to sever the suffrage issue from the eastern movement and prohibition.

Utah becomes a state, and Utah women regain the vote.


  The National American association begins publishing the National Suffrage Bulletin, edited by Catt.


  Anthony retires as the president of the National American and, to the surprise of many, recommends Carrie Chapman Catt as her successor; Catt is elected.


  Women from 10 nations meet in Washington, D.C. to plan an international effort for suffrage. Clara Barton is among the distinguished speakers.

New Hampshire's men vote down a women's suffrage referendum.


  Dissidents from the International Council of Women form the more aggressive International Women Suffrage Alliance.

Because Catt must attend to her dying husband, Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw takes over as president of the National American.


  Stanton's daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, returns from England and is appalled by the National American association's conservatism. She responds by forming the Equality League of Self Supporting Women, to reach out to the working class.


  The Women's Trade Union League coordinates a large strike by 20,000 women workers in New York's garment district. Wealthy women support the strike with a boycott. Through strikes, working class women connect with suffrage movement.


  Emma Smith DeVoe organizes a grass-roots campaign in Washington State, where women win full enfranchisement.

Blatch's Equality League changes its name to the Women's Political Union.

Emulating the grassroots tactics of labor activists, they organize America's first large-scale suffrage parade, which is held in New York City.


  With little help from the National American, California women win full voting rights.


  Alaska's territorial legislature enfranchises women.

Abigail Scott Duniway dissuades National American members from involving themselves in Oregon's grassroots suffrage campaign; Oregon women win the vote.

Meanwhile, the Arizona territory becomes a state that includes women as voters. Kansas also enfranchises women.

Presidential candidates court the female vote for the first time. Democrat Woodrow Wilson wins the election.


  Suffragist Alice Paul organizes 8,000 women for a parade through Washington.

She becomes the leader of the Congressional Union (CU), a militant branch of the National American association.

Kate Gordon organizes the Southern States Woman Suffrage Conference, where suffragists plan to lobby state legislatures for laws that will enfranchise white women only.

Illinois grants women a new form of partial suffrage by allowing them to vote only in presidential elections.


  The Senate votes on the "Susan B. Anthony" amendment, but it does not pass.

Nevada and Montana enfranchise women.

The CU alienates leaders of the National American association by campaigning against pro-suffrage Democrats in the congressional elections.


  Anna Howard Shaw's tactical conservatism culminates in a loss of support from the National American members. She resigns and Catt replaces her as president.


  Woodrow Wilson promises that the Democratic Party Platform will endorse suffrage. Meanwhile, the CU transforms itself into the National Woman's Party. Montana elects suffragist Jeanette Rankin to the House of Representatives.


  Police begin arresting women who are picketing outside the White House. Some, including Paul and Lucy Burns, go on hunger strike while in jail; their militancy earns them sympathy from some quarters and disdain from others. The U.S. enters W.W.I. Under the leadership of Catt, the National American association aligns itself with the war effort in order to gain support for women's suffrage.

The Arkansas legislature grants women the right to vote in primary, but not general elections. The result of this partial suffrage is that white women win the vote, but black women do not.

Five midwestern states and Rhode Island grant women the right to vote in presidential elections only.

New York State is the first eastern state to fully enfranchise women.


  President Wilson issues a statement supporting a federal amendment to grant woman's suffrage.

Rankin opens debate in the House on a new suffrage amendment, which passes.

President Wilson addresses the Senate in support of the Nineteenth Amendment, but it fails to win the required 2/3 majority of Senate votes.


  Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakota join the full suffrage states.

The National American association holds its convention in St. Louis, where Catt rallies to transform the association into the League of Women Voters.

For a third time, the House votes to enfranchise women. The Senate finally passes the Nineteenth Amendment, and suffragists begin their ratification campaign.


  In the case of Hawk vs. Smith, anti-suffragists file suit against the Ohio legislature, but the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of Ohio's ratification process.

Despite the political subversion of anti-suffragists, particularly in Tennessee, three quarters of state legislatures ratify the Nineteenth Amendment on 26 August. American women win full voting rights.

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