Women’s suffrage, legalizing women’s right to vote, was established in 1920 after over half a century of struggle and effort.
The demand for women’s suffrage gathered strength in the 1840s, emerging from the broader movement for women’s rights. In 1848, the first women’s rights convention passed a resolution in favor of women’s suffrage.
Following the Civil War, the first national suffrage organizations were established in 1869 when two competing organizations were formed, one led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, both Republicans, and the other by Lucy Stone, also a Republican. After years of rivalry, they merged in 1890 as the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Anthony as its leading force.
Together, Anthony, Stanton and Stone have been called the 19th century ‘’triumvirate” of women’s suffrage and feminism.
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, established in 1873 and the largest women’s organization at the time, also pursued women’s suffrage, giving a huge boost to the movement.
Susan B. Anthony lived on her abolitionist father’s farm in Rochester, New York. She met William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass during regular activist gatherings at the Sunday dinner table. A great orator in her own right, she worked for Garrison’s Anti-Slavery Society, fearlessly making speeches, organizing meetings and distributing leaflets.
In 1872, Anthony was arrested for trying to vote.
Elizabeth Cady, daughter of the prominent attorney and Republican Daniel Cady, married abolitionist lecturer and writer Henry Brewster Stanton, honeymooning with him in London at the World Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840. Henry Stanton later helped found the Republican Party by infusing it with members from his Free Soil Party.
Lucy Stone was a courageous abolitionist Republican. Like Susan B. Anthony, she also worked for William Lloyd Garrison, making public speeches for the Anti-Slavery Society before lecturing on woman suffrage. She was derided for her college degree, sensible bloomers and for keeping her maiden name upon marriage to Henry Browne Blackwell.
With majorities in the U.S. House and Senate in 1918, Republicans introduced and passed the 19th Amendment. The House passed the resolution with 91 percent Republican support and the Senate with 82 percent.
After the 19th Amendment passed, Republican women’s votes helped to elect Warren G. Harding, a Republican, in 1920 as the 34th president of the United States. This was the first election after World War I.
This year, we honor the effects of those women who worked for over 70 years to secure women the right to vote. It is important both to understand their contributions and exercise our own voting rights.
Pauline Bruno is president of the Moore Republican Women. Kay Wildt is past president of the organization.