Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders

1869-1890: A Movement Divided

For the next twenty years, the suffrage movement would remain divided, but women continued to campaign actively for their rights. In the 1870s, women tried, some successfully, to vote on the basis of the wording of the 14th Amendment. Susan B. Anthony was arrested, tried, and fined for voting successfully. However, in 1875, in Minor vs. Happersett, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution did not grant women the right to vote. Also during this time, some women refused to pay taxes, arguing that they were being taxed without representation in the legislature.

The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) campaigned for a federal amendment to enfranchise women. A constitutional amendment to enfranchise women was first introduced in Congress in 1869. A more narrowly drafted amendment was introduced in 1878, and reintroduced every year thereafter. In 1882, committees on woman suffrage were appointed in both Houses of Congress, each of which reported favorably on the suffrage amendment. In 1887, the Senate voted on the suffrage amendment, but it was defeated soundly.

Simultaneously, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) worked to convince individual states to grant women the vote, although successes were few.

In 1874, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was founded, and soon became the largest and most powerful women’s organization in the country. Under the leadership of France Willard, its hundreds of thousands of members provided important support to the suffrage movement. However, the WCTU’s support of woman suffrage also meant that liquor and brewing interests became ardent opponents of the woman suffrage movement.

Account of Anthony Trial
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Front page of an account of the trial of Susan B. Anthony, published in 1874, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection

Frances Willard
Frances Willard, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division


Leaders in the NWSA:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Isabela Beecher Hooker, Belva Ann Bennett McNall Lockwood

Leaders in the AWSA:
Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Alice Stone Blackwell, Caroline Maria Seymore Severance

Other important leaders:
Frances Willard, Victoria Woodhull, Esther Hobart McQuigg Slack Morris



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