Women's Suffrage

Creating a Narrative of Women's Movements 

Page Designed by Molly Collins

1870-1890 - Alex Forni 

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper 

France Ellen Watkins Harper was born in Baltimore Maryland on September 21, 1825. She grew up as the only child to her two free African American parents until the age of three when they passed away. It was at this point that she moved in with her aunt and uncle, Henrietta and William Watkins. William Watkins was an abolitionist himself and heavily influenced France in her foundational years. He established the Watkins Academy for Negro Youth in 1820 and enrolled her there until she was 13. It was here that she found her passion for writing and speaking. She went on to take a job as a nursemaid in the area where she had access to a bookshop and wrote her first small volume of poetry titled “Forest Leaves''. She later moved to Pennsylvania where she taught for two years before embarking on her career as a speaker. 

This is when Watkin’s career as a suffragist and an abolitionist took off. She was known for helping slaves escape through the underground railroad, frequently writing for anti slavery newspapers, and her many beloved poems and short stories. This was how Watkins used her voice, putting her feelings and thoughts into her work, the most notable being her story “The Two Offers' ' which was the first short story ever published by an African American woman. This earned her the title of the mother of African American journalism. She went on to hold many influential positions such as the co-founder and Vice President of the National Association of Colored women, a member of the American woman's suffrage association of colored women, holding a seat in the American’s Women’s Suffrage Association, and eventually as director of the America Association of Colored youth. Watkins inspired many with her literature, her speeches, and her presence and a powerful black woman in a pro-slavery America. Having been one of the few women of color to be accepted into the early Women’s Rights Movement, Harper used her position to advocate for including more black women in suffrage conventions

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Susan B Anthony 

Born on February 15th, 1820 in Massachusetts, Susan B Anthony devoted her life to the fight for voting rights. Born to a Quaker family, her parents Daniel and Lucy Anthony instilled strong moral values in her from a young age. Anthony believed that everybody was equal under god, leading her to go on to fight for both African American and women’s rights.

After spending much of her young adult life teaching, Anthony worked alongside activists like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, friends of her father, to make anti slavery speeches and fight for abolition. Anthony was using her voice at a time when society thought it improper for women to speak in public. However, this did not stop Anthony from traveling across the country giving speeches demanding women and African Americans be given the right to vote. She eventually went on to found the American Equal Rights Association. She became editor of the association’s newspaper, The Revolution, which she used to spread her voice and fight for change. Anthony also founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association after her opinion on the exclusion of women from the 14th and 15th amendments made her controversial. This pushed for a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. At the 1876 Centennial of our nation’s independence, Anthony gave a the speech “Declaration of Rights” where she spoke the famous quote, “ Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less”. 

Anthony was noted for her exceptional organizational skills and discipline. She had an inspiring energy about her that made people want to follow her. While she passed away 14 years before the passage of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote, it is clear that her voice and her leadership played a crucial role in the making of this legislation 

Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.” National Women's History Museum, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/frances-ellen-watkins-harper.

“Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/frances-ellen-watkins-harper.

“Emmeline Pankhurst (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/people/emmeline-pankhurst.htm.

Edited by Nancy Hayward | 2018. “Susan B. Anthony.” National Women's History Museum, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/susan-b-anthony.

Gandhi, Lakshmi. “5 Black Suffragists Who Fought for the 19th Amendment-and Much More.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Aug. 2020, https://history.com/news/black-suffragists-19th-amendment.

“Who Was Emmeline Pankhurst the Pioneer of the Suffragette Movement?” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 13 Dec. 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/women/emmeline-pankhurst-who-womens-suffrage-leader-suffragette-political-activist-statue-a8681901.html.

1890-1910 - Blaine Stanczak

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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Born November 12th, 1815, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the most prominent and notable figures in the history of the Women’s Rights Movement. Among her accomplishments are a number of hallmark moments for suffragists, such as the Seneca Falls Convention and the drafting of the Declaration of Sentiments, two contributions that proved key to the solidification of the Women’s Rights Movement in the United States during the mid to late 1800s. The Declaration of Sentiments, in particular, would set the stage for the vision and demands of women suffragists moving into the future, and also established the standard for Stanton’s argumentative strategy. A large part of this strategy involved taking older documents, that were reflective of patriarchal structures, and transforming or reinterpreting their texts to show that the same arguments used for women’s subservience could also be used to prove women’s liberation and rights.

One of the most important examples of this technique can be found in a text that Stanton primarily authored, called The Woman’s Bible, a two-part book published in 1895 and 1898, that challenged conventional interpretations of religious literature. While controversial at its time, the book framed prominent Biblical women in a new light and demonstrated that women were not simply subservient to men in the Bible, but actually vocal advocates and equal partners. Additionally, this text targeted churches and similar institutions, as they were seen to be the groups primarily responsible for the perpetuation of patriarchal religious interpretations. This book, however, caused a remarkable drop in Stanton’s popularity amongst fellow suffragists, as many feared that attacking religious institutions would hurt the reputation of the Women’s Suffrage Movement as a whole. This being said, the book sold remarkably well nationally, allowing the concepts and themes of The Woman’s Bible to permeate into greater society gradually. Unfortunately, four years after the publication of the second volume, Elizabeth Cady Stanton passed away due to heart failure.

Madam CJ Walker 

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Known as both an important figure in the history of women and in the accomplishments of African American women, Madam CJ Walker was a businesswoman, political activist, and philanthropist, born on December 23rd, 1867. She was the daughter of previously enslaved parents and grew up in Louisiana until becoming suddenly orphaned at the age of seven. From there Walker moved to Mississippi, where the bulk of her work involved picking cotton, in addition to domestic chores. It was here where she married, only to become widowed two years after, forcing her to once again relocate, now moving to St. Louis with her brothers that worked as barbers.

This is where the majority of Walker’s accomplishments began, as she started to develop new strategies for hair care, various products, and new marketing techniques around the 1890s due to a scalp disorder she had developed some time prior. As a result of this work, Walker was recruited by an already successful black hair care business run by Annie Turnbo Malone in 1905, where she acquired knowledge on the creation of products, as well as on sales campaigning. Soon after, she split from Malone and created her own business, aptly named the Madam C.J. Walker Company, which produced a range of popular hair growers, shampoos, and other toiletries.

Due to her massive success in the early 1900s, Walker worked to expand her business by opening a new factory in 1908, and by continuing to promote her sensational “Walker Method” of hair care. Overall, these strategies made Madam CJ Walker one of the earliest and most notable black woman millionaires and enabled her to donate large sums of money to groups advocating for improved black education, and rights. This late-life philanthropy helped to fund the historically black Tuskegee University, the NAACP, and a number of youth organizations, including national scholarships for aspiring students. Walker, unfortunately, passed at the age of 51 due to hypertension in 1919, although her company continued to make products for some six decades after.

Emmeline Pankhurst

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Often considered one of the most prominent leaders of the British suffrage movement, Emmeline Pankhurst was born on July 14th, 1858. In her early life, Pankhurst focused on learning about woman’s suffrage and is said to have been an advocate for the movement as young as 14. Later in life, Emmeline was married to a man by the name of Richard Pankhurst who was a staunch advocate for women’s suffrage and worked as a lawyer in the field for some time, helping to foster Emmeline’s drive for improving women’s rights in Britain. She, however, was the main force behind groups such as the Women’s Franchise League, an organization that fought for improved voting rights, particularly for married women, in the 1890s.


These earlier movements would not be what ultimately defined Pankhurst’s activism, however, as this would come nearly a decade later in the 1900s. Using her pivotal role in the creation of the Women’s Social and Political Union, or WSPU, Pankhurst expanded the suffrage movement into a more militant and targeted direction. This essentially meant that the demonstrators used methods of hunger strikes, arson, marches, and more to attract attention towards their cause. The WSPU also played an essential role in shaping British narratives on women’s suffrage in 1906 and was important to the creation of the term “suffragette” in distinction to the American suffragist. Along with her role in the WSPU, Pankhurst also toured across Britain, and internationally in 1909, influencing American suffrage movements to act more militant and to protest more concretely against existing voting laws.


Her strong voting rhetoric ultimately resulted in multiple arrests, and sometimes lead to her being involuntarily force-fed, along with multiple other traumas following political protest. This treatment, along with hardline protests were cut short, however, at the start of World War 1, and Pankhurst was forced to evolve her strategies and advocacy shortly after. From this time onwards, women saw incremental increases to their voting rights, up until 1928, where all women older than 21 were given the right to vote universally. The same year, on June 14th, Emmeline Pankhurst passed away at the age of 69.
 

History.com Editors. “Women Who Fought for the Vote.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14 Oct. 2009, https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/women-who-fought-for-the-vote-1#section_5.

“The Woman's Bible.” Harvard Divinity School Library, https://library.hds.harvard.edu/exhibits/incomparable-treasure/woman%27s-bible.

History.com Editors. “Madam C. J. Walker.” History.com, A&E

Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009, https://www.history.com/

topics/black-history/madame-c-j-walker.

“Madam C.J. Walker.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television,

12 Nov. 2021, https://www.biography.com/inventor/madam-cj-walker.

1910-1930 - Keyri Reyes Rodriguez

Lucy Burns 

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Lucy Burns was born on July 28th of 1879 in Brooklyn, New York. In 1902 she graduated from Vassar College, in New York, and proceeded to teach english at a high school in Brooklyn.

Over the next years, Burns pursued her post-graduate work in linguistics from Yale University, the Universities of Berlin, and Oxford.

While in England, she became interested in the struggle of women's suffrage and left her job to become fully involved in the cause.

She joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and worked closely with the leaders of the movement : Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, as well as Alice Paul 

In 1912, Burns returned to the United States to fight towards enfranchisement for American women, implementing the militant practices she had learned from the suffragettes in England. The fight was towards the implementation of a national amendment that guaranteed women their right to vote rather than state-by-state which is what other organizations advocated for.

In 1913, along with Alice Paul, she formed the Congressional Union for Women's Suffrage which later became the National Women’s Party and led the first U.S march for women's suffrage with help of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

The march was not taken seriously by spectators and police officials but that did not stop Burns and the other suffragettes from advocating for their right to vote.

Alice Paul 

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Alice Paul was born on January 11th of 1885 in New Jersey to a wealthy Quaker family, and was the oldest of four children. Paul’s parents supported gender equality and education for women. In 1905, Paul graduated from Swarthmore College which was a Quaker school that was co-funded by her grandfather. She then proceeded to attend the New York School of Philanthropy, now known as Columbia University, and received her masters of arts in sociology in 1907. She then went on to receive a PhD in economics in 1912 from the University of Pennsylvania, and a law degree (LLB) from the Washington College of Law at American University in 1922.

Paul spent some time in England during her graduate education. While in England, she became politically active and joined the Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain along with Lucy Burns. Emmeline Pankhurst, the founder of the movement, opted for disruptive and radical practices that included smashing windows, and hunger strikes. As a result of being active in this group, Paul was arrested many times for her activism; nevertheless, being a part of this movement had a big impact on her views. 

Upon her return to the United States in 2010, Paul focused on the American Suffrage movement, joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and was appointed the chair of the NAWSA Congressional Committee in 1912. After acquiring the role, Paul began planning a women's suffrage march in Washington D.C for march 3rd of 1913, a day prior to President Wilson’s inauguration.

Crystal Eastman

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Crystal Eastman was born on June 25th of 1881 in Marlboro, Massachusetts. She grew up in Upper New York and graduated from Vassar College in 1903. She went on to graduate from the New York University School of Law in 1907, and was ranked second in her class. In 1911, after moving to Wisconsin, Eastman became involved in the women's suffrage movement by campaigning to win a state woman’s suffrage amendment, which failed.

The failure of the Wisconsin campaign led Eastman to believe that work would be better if they focused on a national suffrage amendment rather than a state one. As a result, she joined Alice Paul and Lucy Burns in urging the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to change their tactics. Since the association refused, she joined forces with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns to help found  the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage which evolved into the National Woman’s Party in 1916.

“Alice Paul.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 29 June 2021, https://www.biography.com/activist/alice-paul.

“Crystal Eastman.” American Civil Liberties Union, https://www.aclu.org/other/crystal-eastman.

“Lucy Burns.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 10 July 2020, https://www.biography.com/activist/lucy-burns.

“Dr. Alice Paul (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/people/alice-paul.htm.

“Lucy Burns.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lucy-Burns.

Michals, Edited by Debra. “Alice Paul.” National Women's History Museum, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/alice-paul.

“Crystal Eastman.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/biography/Crystal-Eastman.

Lewis, Jone Johnson. “Biography of Crystal Eastman, Feminist, Civil Libertarian, Pacifist.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 29 July 2019, https://www.thoughtco.com/crystal-eastman-biography-3530413.