Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders

The National American Association of Woman Suffrage under Carrie Chapman Catt

In 1915, Anna Howard Shaw stepped down from the presidency of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and Carrie Chapman Catt was elected to take her place. Under Catt’s leadership, the NAWSA became a highly effective organization. It served as the parent organization for hundreds of state and local organizations, and its membership swelled into the millions.

In 1916, the NAWSA convinced the Democratic and Republican parties to adopt woman suffrage as a plank in their platforms. Chapman Catt also secretly unveiled her “Winning Plan” whereby the NAWSA would simultaneously work for a federal amendment to enfranchise women and also work at the state level to win woman suffrage. In addition, Chapman Catt developed an effective personal relationship with President Wilson, and began to pressure him to support woman suffrage.

In 1917, suffragists were finally successful in winning the vote in New York. In 1918, the NAWA’s “Front Door Lobby” became famous for conducting their lobbying activities in public, instead of behind closed doors.

Carrie Chapman Catt
Carrie Chapman Catt, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Jeannette Rankin
The first Congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin, speaks from the NAWSA's headquarters in DC,
Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Women of Protest:
Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party


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