August 26 of each year is designated in the United States as Women's Equality Day. Instituted by Rep. Bella Abzug and first established in 1971, the date commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Woman Suffrage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave U.S. women full voting rights in 1920.
Suffrage is the right to vote in a political election. Prior to the 19th Amendment in 1920, women in the United States did not have the right to vote. Hence, someone who peacefully campaigned for equal rights for women was known as a suffragist.
The development of the 19th century suffragist movement can be seen to begin when women began to be able to pray aloud in church. It also grew out of the Abolitionist (anti-slavery) movement. Suffragism and Abolitionism had a close and complicated history.
Many suffragist women political and intellectual leaders came out of the Abolitionist (anti-slavery) movement, as they were allowed to speak publicly in these circles in the 1830s.
1838 | Sarah Grimké Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman published in newspapers
Sarah found slavery intolerable. At age 26, she spent a year in Philadelphia with like-minded Quakers. Quakers allowed women to preach and speak, and also believed in ending slavery. Quakers were a significant part of the anti-slavery movement. Sarah soon became a Quaker and Angelina joined her.
Sarah joined the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) , which was made up of blacks and whites. She and Angelina spoke out about slavery but were criticized harshly by those who believe women should not speak publicly.
In response, Sarah Grimké published a series of letters titled Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Woman. Considered ahead of her time in many ways, Sarah argued women have a natural right to speak out on moral causes, penning the first complete argument for women's right to vote in her century.
1848 | The Seneca Falls Convention
Lucretia Mott was a powerful orator, and drew crowds; Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann M'Clintock were more of the behind-the-scenes organizers of the first convention devoted to women's rights.
Mott wrote a "Declaration of Sentiments" based on the Declaration of Independence, and a resolution to fight for women's causes--which controversially included the women's right to vote. As we will see, Frederick Douglass played a key role in ensuring women's right to vote remained in the resolution.
"Eight years later in Seneca Falls, New York, Mott and Stanton, along with Mott's younger sister, Martha Coffin Wright, fulfilled the pledge they had made to each other in London and held the first woman's rights convention in America.”
Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist, stood up and spoke for women's right to vote at the convention as it was being debated. Douglass's said powerfully he could not stand for the right of black men to vote and deny the vote to half the world. Thus, he played a key part in the convention adopting the resolution to add women's suffrage to its mission.
Douglass was a lifelong suffragist and was attending a suffragist convention with Susan B. Anthony on the last day of his life.
Douglass would, after the trials he and the other slaves faced, go on to help with another cause which dealt with the suppression of rights: the Women's Suffrage Movement. He saw in the case of women's rights a similar kind of suppression of rights that he and the other former slaves had in their lives and realized that they too would need equal to fully achieve their rights.
Suffragists continued to challenge the cultural ideas of a woman's role in society and the family, while lobbying the US government to enshrine women's rights in law.
The first woman graduate from Oberlin College, where she managed to get equal pay for equal work with men, Lucy Stone was famous for her tremendous powers as an orator. Contemporaries say she had a voice "like a silver bell."
In 1851, Sojourner Truth, a powerful orator, gave one her most famous speeches at the National Women's Conference in Akron, Ohio. The speech is known as "Ain't I a Woman?" However, the "Ain't I" was apparently a rewritten version of her speech in an American vernacular, because Truth's first language was Dutch. Read more about her impactful life below.
1850 - A Lifelong Friendship Begins
Anthony had read the pamphet from the first National Women's Rights Convention organized by Lucretia Mott. The pamplhet convinced her to become a suffragist.
Anthony and Mott organized conventions, and started many organizations, fighting their entire lives against slavery and for women's suffrage.
Susan B. Anthony was a leading suffragist. With her friend Lucretia Mott, she co-founded the Women's Loyal National League, American Equal Rights Association, National Woman Suffrage Association (which became the National American Woman Suffrage Association).
Best known as an abolitionist, Harriet Tubman spent the later part of her life fighting for women's rights with Susan B. Anthony, touring cities and speaking about women's rights.
1866 | Frances Ellen Watkins Harper demands the right to vote for black women
1869 | Victoria Woodhull is the first woman to petition in front of Congress
Victoria Woodhull was the first women to petition before Congress for women's right to vote, and the first woman to run for President of the U.S.
1878 | The 19th Amendment is introduced in Congress
The thirty year period between the introduction of the 19th Amendment into Congress in 1878, and its ratification in 1920, is called "the doldrums." Suffragists continued to lobby Congress, and new tactics like protests and boycotts were used.
1890 | National American Woman Suffragist Association is formed
In 1890, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). NAWSA played an instrumental role in the passage of the 19th Amendment. Susan B. Anthony was president until 1900.
Today it is known as the League of Women Voters.
A skilled organizer and leader, she gave speeches and mobilized voters and recruited a million volunteers. She led a state by state strategy to ratify the 19th Amendment. However, her legacy is marred by her statement supporting white supremacy in order to convince southern states to ratify the amendment, which was rightly criticized in her time and after.
Carrie Chapman Catt played a major role in the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She was criticized by her peers and by historical critics for making a statement supporting white supremacy in order to convince southern states to support the amendment.
1916 | The National Women's Party is Established
Burns and Paul met in England and become lifelong friends, fighting for women's rights. They had disagreements with the NAWSA, and created their own party.
The National Women's Party was considered a more radical suffragist group. They wanted to bring the militant tactics of the British suffragettes to the US by staging protests, rather than just petitioning Congress to pass the 19th Amendment.
Alice Paul was a suffragist and leader for the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. She picketted the White House and organized boycotts.
Dressed like Joan of Arc on a white horse, Inez Milholland Boissevain, a New York attorney, led a group of women all dressed in white. Here she is on horseback at the Women's Equality March in Washington D.C., 1913
This short documentary is a window into the Women's Suffrage Movement through the sacrifice of an American Amazon who will inspire today’s woman as much as she did 100 years ago.
Rankin was part of the successful effort to give women the right to vote in her home state of Montana, which was passed in 1914. In 1917, when she became a member of Congress, she helped create the Committee on Woman Suffrage and was on the special committee. This committee reported out the 19th Amendment for women's suffrage. Rankin was able to get this on the House Floor for a debate in 1918, the first time it was ever debated. It did not pass, however, until 1920.
Jeanette Rankin, the first Congresswoman, fought for suffrage, equal pay, child welfare, laws to protect working women, and birth control and introduced the first debate on unrestricted voting rights to women.
1920 | Ratification of the 19th Amendment
The 19th Amendment was adopted on August 18, 1920 and stated: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
1970 | National Women's Equality Day is Established to Commemorate the Ratification of the 19th Amendment
Abzug was a leader of the Second Wave Feminist movement that started in the 1960s. As a Congresswoman, she established Women's Equality Day. Women's Equality Day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment -- the Woman Suffrage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- on August 26, 1920, which gave U.S. women full voting rights.
Bella Abzug was a New York Congresswoman who fought for women's rights and instituted Women's Equality Day.
This 1948 stamp was issued on the 100th anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, and shows (L-R) Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Lucretia Mott.
Additional Reading from the MY HERO Library
Organizer created on 8/16/2012 5:20:48 PM by Becky Miller
Last edited 1/11/2019 11:19:17 PM by Anthony Pouw