LWV looks back at suffrage
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 10:00 PM
April 26 marks the 93rd anniversary of the constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote. This achievement on August 26, 1920 was a result of a 72 year effort by visionary and courageous women who lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and organized demonstrations in support of suffrage.
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government. As an organization, the League never supports or opposes candidates or parties. The League does work to increase public understanding of major policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information about the League, visit the website: www.lwvmontco.org , send an e-mail to; firstname.lastname@example.org or message to P.O.101; Crawfordsville, IN 47933.
The fight for woman suffrage had its roots in the 1848 "Declaration of Sentiments" drawn up at the first women's rights convention which was held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. Early suffrage leaders-Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Myra Bradwell, Zerelda Wallace (step-mother of Lew Wallace) and many more-worked tirelessly for women's suffrage during the later half of the 19th century. Dr. Mary Holloway Wilhite chaired the organizing committee for Woman's Suffrage Association of Montgomery County.
In 1890, Wyoming became the first state permitting suffrage for women. By 1900, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho also allowed women to vote. Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive (Bull Moose) Party in 1912 became the first national political party to have a plank supporting women's suffrage.
In 1900, Susan B. Anthony had handed the leadership of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association over to Carrie Chapman Catt who was a talented and interesting individual. Raised in Iowa, Catt was the only woman in her Iowa Agriculture College (now Iowa State) class from which she graduated in three years as the top student. In 1883, she became one of the first women in the nation appointed superintendent of a public school system. Widowed twice, she was an outstanding speaker and strategist with organizational skills and political savvy.
After traveling abroad to help create the International Women Suffrage Alliance (32 countries) and to promote suffrage rights world wide, Catt resumed leadership of the NAWSA
and developed "the Winning Plan" to campaign at the same time for suffrage on both state and federal levels and to develop nonpartisan local organizations to lobby lawmakers and build public support for suffrage.
Younger suffragettes, led by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns of the National Woman's Party were very partisan, picketed the White House, were arrested and imprisoned, conducted hunger strikes and were force fed which dramatized the issue.
Interestingly, Crawfordsville native Will Hays, Chairman of the Republican National Party, was a key supporter for the women's right to vote.
The nonpartisan League of Women Voters was founded Feb. 14, 1920 at the 51st Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Chicago. Under the leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt, the LWV was created to help educate and involve in the political process the soon to be enfranchised women throughout the United States.
The combination of public attention given to the National Women's Party's activists and the bipartisan lobbying by Catt's LWV, led to the final passage of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment (originally drafted in 1875) by the House of Representatives in May, 1919. Two weeks later, the amendment was passed in the Senate with just two more votes than necessary for the two-thirds vote of the entire Senate. In August, 1920 Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, overcoming the final hurdle of obtaining approval by the required three-fourths of the states.
The nature of the American electorate was changed forever when Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification on August 26, 1920. August 26 is now celebrated as Women's Equality Day.