In Their Footsteps: Woman Suffrage Historic Sites In Washington, DC

The American woman suffrage movement is recognized as officially starting in 1848, at the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention in New York. At the conference, women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott wrote and signed a Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, outlining issues and goals of the emerging women's rights movement, such as increased education and employment opportunities, divorce and child custody laws, and the right to vote. The most radical and difficult goal to achieve turned out to be women's right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment, allowing women to vote, did not pass until 1920.

Before the Fourteenth (1868) and Fifteenth (1870) Amendments passed, woman suffrage supporters joined with people who wanted suffrage for black men too in the American Equal Rights Association. After the Amendments passed enfranchising black men but not black or white women, the woman suffrage group split. Some women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed a radical group, National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), demanding the right to vote and tried various tactics to do so. Others like Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, formed the more moderate group American Woman Suffrage Association (AMSA), arguing that women's right to vote would improve society because women would vote for the most moral reforms.

In 1878, a Woman Suffrage Amendment was introduced in Congress, but it took until 1919 for it to pass in both the Senate and the House. Two years later in 1890, the NWSA and AWSA overcame their previous divisions, joining as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), strengthening the movement.

In 1913, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the Congressional Union, later called the National Women's Party (1916), and led women in forms of civil disobedience, such as picketing the White House and hunger strikes when they were jailed. Their actions garnered more public attention and support nation-wide for woman suffrage.

In the end, it took the efforts of a wide-range of women, from the most radical who wanted women and men to be equal in all aspects of public life, to women who wanted the right to vote so that they could better perform their perceived role as the moral reformers of society before women were enfranchised. In 1919, the Nineteenth Amendment passed in Congress, and in August 1920, the required thirty-six states had ratified it, and on August 26, 1920, the amendment officially passed. This tour of suffrage-related sites allows you to walk on the same ground where suffragists fought for the right to vote. It is our hope that you not only have a greater understanding of the struggles women went through to gain this basic right, but that you will be inspired to vote.

1. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Location: 1411 W Street, SE
Open: Oct 16 - April 14 daily: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; April 15 - Oct 15 daily: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
The last house tour departs 30 minutes before closing time.
Admission: free, though groups of 5+ persons need a reservation and it costs $2/person.
For more information visit: http://www.nps.gov/frdo/

Cedar Hill was the home of antislavery and women's rights lecturer and activist Frederick Douglass (1817--1895) and his second wife Helen Pitts Douglass. They lived there from 1877 until Frederick's death in 1895. Helen bequeathed the house to the Frederick Douglas Memorial and Historical Association. Joining with the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, the association opened the house to visitors in 1916. Inside the house is a virtual exhibit that features items owned by Frederick Douglass and highlights his achievements with the abolition and women's rights movements.


2a. Pennsylvania Ave

On March 3, 1913, charismatic and devoted women's suffrage leader Alice Paul (1885-1977) organized a massive suffrage parade down Pennsylvania Avenue the day before President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. Inez Milholland led the parade wearing a white cape, astride a white horse. Behind her stretched approximately 8,000 marchers, twenty-six floats, ten bands, four mounted brigades, three heralds, and six chariots. More than half a million people came to watch them, though some came to jeer and harass the marchers, leaving few people to greet president-elect Wilson when he arrived by train that same morning. Having been unable to convince President Wilson to pass a new woman suffrage amendment during his first term in office, the activists pursued different tactics during his second term.

 

2b. White House
Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Self-guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more: Tues - Sat: 7:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Groups wanting a tour must submit a request through their Member of Congress approximately six months in advance. Please note that White House tours may be subject to last minute cancellations.
Admission: free
*White House workers also recommend that visitors stop by the White House Visitor Center
For more information visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ or please call 202-456-7041.

After President Wilson's re-election in 1917, Alice Paul and other women's suffrage crusaders picketed outside of the White House for many months, protesting the disenfranchisement of women. These brave women were the first people ever to protest at the White House. America entered World War I during this time but this did not stop Paul and the others from protesting. Instead they carried banners asking how the United States could fight for democracy abroad when women did not enjoy it at home. People passing by often harassed them, and eventually the police warned the women that they would be arrested if they returned to picket. The women returned and were arrested or given fines. When they continued to return, they received harsher punishments, primarily sentenced to prison terms at the *Occoquan Workhouse. Conditions at Occoquan Workhouse included solitary confinement and forced feedings for women like Paul who went on hunger strikes to protest the prison conditions.


2c. United States Capitol Building
Location: East end of the National Mall
Open: Mon - Sat: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. for guided tours
Admission: free, tickets are available on a first come, first serve basis at the Capital Guide Service Kiosk at 1st St., SW and Independence Ave. The maximum tour size is 40. Due to the possibility of security measures, please call 202-225-6827 prior to your visit to determine if tours are operating as scheduled. Tours for 15 people or less are often available through the offices of individual Representatives and Senators. Please check with your local representatives' offices as to the availability of these tours.
For more information, visit: http://www.aoc.gov/

After President Wilson endorsed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, which stated, "The rights 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." The Amendment passed in the House of Representatives on May 21, 1919, and then passed in the Senate two weeks later. Woman suffrage supporters then focused their efforts on a state-by-state campaign to achieve the required ratification of the amendment by thirty-six states. On August 24, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment, when the youngest member in the Tennessee legislature, Harry Burn, voted in favor of woman suffrage at the urging of his mother. Two days later, the amendment officially passed.

Although these statues are not necessarily related to the suffrage movement, there are six statues of other women in Statuary Hall: Mother Joseph, Esther Hobart Morris, Jeannette Rankin, Dr. Florence Rena Sabin, Maria Sanford, and Frances Willard in this prestigious gallery.

Visitors to the Capitol can view the Suffrage Statue of Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is on display in the Rotunda.


3. Sewall-Belmont House and Museum
Location: 144 Constitution Ave., NE
Open: Tues - Fri: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Sat: noon - 4 p.m. Tours are given on the hour and last approximately one hour
Admission: $5 suggested donation
For more information visit: www.sewallbelmont.org. Occasionally the museum is temporarily closed for scheduled group tours, so call ahead at 202-546-1210 to check public tour availability.

In 1929, the Sewall-Belmont House became the headquarters of the National Woman's Party (NWP) and the Washington home of its founder, the suffragist leader and author of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Alice Paul.  Over the 43 years that she lived here, Paul organized many campaigns for the ERA’s passage. The house is now a museum with an outstanding collection of fine art and artifacts from the woman suffrage and equal rights movements including sculpture, portraits, political cartoons, historic photographs, suffrage banners and Susan B. Anthony's desk.  The one hour tour includes a short video, Equal Rights Amendment: Unfinished Business for the Constitution.




4. Mary Church Terrell Residence
Location: 326 T Street, NW (not open to the public)

Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) was a well-known and respected

educator, suffragist, and civil rights activist. Terrell was the first African-American to serve on the D.C. School Board (1895-1919). She was an active member in the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and co-founded the Federation of Afro-American Women within it to address issues the mainstream suffrage movement was not. In 1897, Terrell became the president of one such group, the National Association of Colored Women. In 1909 she increased her civil rights activism by becoming one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). At the age of ninety, she also led a successful drive to end segregation at public places in Washington, D.C. through sit-ins, boycotts and picketing.

 

5. Supreme Court
Location: One St, NE (across from the U.S. Capitol)
Open: Mon - Fri: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., lectures every hour on the half hour from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., if court is not in session. To obtain updated information on visiting the Court, including any schedule changes, please call (202) 479-3211.
For more information, visit: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/

Despite being barred from voting for the first 133 years the United States Constitution was in place, women are now active in the legislative and judicial branches of the United States government.

Women's role in the judiciary branch started when a schoolteacher from New York, Belva Ann Lockwood (1830-1917), became the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. Her first political actions were to campaign for equal pay for women teachers, join the American Woman Suffrage Association, and persuade Congress to pass its 1872 bill guaranteeing female government employees equal pay for equal work. Lockwood then joined the Equal Rights Party, and she studied at the District of Columbia Law School. After obtaining her degree, she was barred from practicing law in the Court of Claims and the United States Supreme Court. In 1876, Lockwood drafted a bill to permit women to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. After three years, Congress finally passed the bill and in 1879, Lockwood became the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. Now women not only argue cases as lawyers, but since 1981, have served as Supreme Court Justices. Ruth Bader-Ginsburg is currently a Supreme Court Justice and the first female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, announced her retirement from the bench in July 2005.

On the ground floor of the building, visitors can enjoy changing exhibits, Portraits of Justices, and a 24-minute film about the Supreme Court.

 

6. The Library of Congress
Location: 101 Independence Ave, SE
Open: Mon - Sat: 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Admission: free
For more information, visit: http://www.loc.gov/library/

Visitors to the Library of Congress can view one of the most extensive collections of documents pertaining to the woman suffrage movement available.

The long struggle for woman suffrage was well documented and has been the most widely researched and debated topic in American women's history. This is in great part due to the record keeping in the 1870s of suffragist leaders Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Between 1881 and 1886 they published three extensive volumes called The History of Woman Suffrage. Members of the movement also published various pamphlets, autobiographies, and memoirs.

In 1903 Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford convinced Susan B. Anthony to donate her collection of books and other printed material to the Library of Congress. She agreed and her records are now kept in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division. The Library's curators began collecting manuscripts, photographs, writings of the movements leaders, records from the leading national suffrage organizations, and other papers relating to the struggle for women's rights and then assembled a compelling documentary history of the suffrage campaign, dating from its early connections with the abolition and temperance movements in the mid-19th century, up to its final victory in August 1920. In addition to learning about the suffrage movement at the Library of Congress, the Library launched an online photo gallery in August 2005 to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. It can be viewed at: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/suffrage/nwp/