The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to attain that right. In 1920, the ratification of the Constitution eventually enfranchised women. It wouldn’t be without the efforts of some feminist pioneers. Here are five notable women that fought for women’s rights.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first convention regarding women’s rights in America. The event took place in Seneca Falls, New York, and was called the Seneca Falls Convention; it drew over 300 people, mostly women. Elizabeth modeled the document after the Declaration of Independence.
They wanted to be treated as individuals, not dependents of men. They wanted more employment and education opportunities. They wanted the option to run for office, speak in front of Congress, and vote. 100 people signed the declaration, which included resolutions that would guide the movement.
In 1851, Sojourner Truth, a former enslaved person who became a women’s and civil rights advocate, attended the Women’s Rights Convention in Ohio. When white men tried to take over the meeting, Truth got angry. She made up a speech on the spot called “Ain’t I A Woman.”
Her speech argued that she should also have equal rights since she did the same things as men when enslaved. It was one of the first speeches to address both gender and racial discrimination; it remains one of the greatest speeches of the women’s rights era.
Lucy Stone and her husband, Henry Brown Blackwell, had a different idea about gaining women’s suffrage. They founded the American Woman Suffrage Association to support the 15th Amendment for Black men’s vote, figuring that the amendment wouldn’t pass if women were included.
Instead of going to the federal government like others, they traveled the country asking each state government to change its constitution. They believed that if enough states allowed women to vote in local elections, the federal government would also have to make changes.
Alice Paul led a thousand women in the silent protest starting in January 1917. That year, she was one of the 218 women from 26 states who the police arrested for picketing outside the White House in Washington, D.C.
People against women’s suffrage yelled at Alice and her fellow protesters. In jail, they served them worm-infested food and made them sleep on dirty beds. Alice even went on a hunger strike until doctors forced her to eat.
Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. They created the association in response to the new amendment that gave Black men the right to vote and excluded women. Suffragists were glad that African Americans could now vote but were displeased about the omission of women.
The next year, 90 women sent a letter to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives urging that women be included in the amendment and that they be able to speak in front of Congress to argue their points. Congress refused.