As we close out National Women’s History Month, I thought I’d give a brief history of the suffrage movement, mostly focusing on the pre-1900s time period because that is when my book is set. I haven’t done research later than that and will leave it others to tell the fascinating stories of the women who finally got us the right to vote. This list is by no means all-inclusive and is only meant to capture the high points. (I have also left out things that my main character did because I still don’t want to say who she is, though there is a hint in this post. Hopefully within a month, I can.)
1846 – First public debate on women’s rights at Oberlin College.
1847 – First public address about women’s rights.
1848 – First convention on women’s rights held in Seneca Falls.
1850 – First national women’s rights convention.
1860 – Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. They were the more radical arm of the suffrage movement. Their group opposed the 15th Amendment and called for a Federal agreement for women suffrage. They believed that the enfranchisement of black and immigrant men would make it more difficult for women to be given the vote. They also believed the educated shouldn’t have to submit to slaves to ask to vote (hence, their opposition to the 15th Amendment). They also believed that divorce was justified in some cases, which set them at odds with their more conservative women’s rights peers.
Lucy Stone, who didn’t oppose enfranchisement of freedmen but still wanted universal suffrage, founded the American Womans Suffrage Association, supporting the 15th Amendment and working for women’s suffrage. They endorsed suffrage state by state, and were more conservative than the National Woman Suffrage Association.
1866 – Congress passed the 14th Amendment, introducing the word “male” into the Constitution as a qualification for voting.
1868 – The 200+ women of the spiritualist town of Vineland, New Jersey, cast their votes in a separate box and tried to get them counted among the men’s, an event they repeated for several years.
1870 – Fifteenth Amendment passed, giving black men the right to vote.
1875 – Virginia Minor took women’s suffrage to the Supreme Court in Minor V. Happerstatt, arguing that the Constitution already gave women the right to vote by declaring them citizens and giving all citizens the right to vote. The Court said citizenship did not imply the right to vote, but that the power was left to the states unless the federal government could be persuaded to amend the Constitution.
1880 –The National Woman Suffrage Association realized the state by state approach was probably best and focused on that, rather than Federal reform to get women the right to vote.
1890 – The National Woman Suffrage Association and American Womans Suffrage Association reunited as the National American Woman Sufferage Association
1920 – Women finally get the right to vote. (August 18)
Gabriel, Mary. Notorious Victoria.
Wheeler, Marjorie Spruill Wheeler, ed. One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement.
Do you have thoughts or questions about the early suffrage movement in America? It’s not my strongest subject, but I will definitely try to get answers.