Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders

The Movement Reunites

In 1890, the acrimony had died down between the two suffrage factions and the two suffrage organizations merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). For a time the organization remained under the leadership of the “old guard” including Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In the early 1890s, the NAWSA oversaw some successes. Under the direction of organizer Carrie Chapman Catt, the NAWSA pursued a “state-by-state” strategy to win the vote for women in each state. By 1896, women had won the right to vote in four states - Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado.

As the older generation of suffrage activists began to pass on (Cady Stanton died in 1902, Anthony in 1906), a new generation of leaders assumed control of the organization. Among these were Carrie Chapman Catt, Anna Howard Shaw, and Alice Stone Blackwell.

In 1900, Chapman Catt was elected president of the NAWSA. As president, she pursued a strategy of attracting society women to the suffrage cause. However, Chapman Catt left the presidency in 1904 to care for her ailing husband. Anna Howard Shaw was elected president and served until 1915. Although Shaw was a committed activist and powerful orator, she was not a strong president and during much of her presidency the NAWSA languished. From 1896 through 1910, women failed to win the right to vote in any additional states.

Convention Ribbon
NAWSA Convention Ribbon, 1899, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collection Division, NAWSA Miller Scrapbook Collection

Anna Howard Shaw
Anna Howard Shaw, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

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