The National Woman Suffrage Association
Activism for woman suffrage largely ceased during the Civil War. The movement re-emerged on the national scene in 1866 to organize formally under a new name – the American Equal Rights Association (AERA). At a convention of the AERA in May 1869, the ideological and political differences that had developed among suffrage leaders during and immediately after the Civil War exploded over the proposed 15th Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote. Confronted by the proposal of the reconstruction amendments, which introduced the word “male” to the United States Constitution, the AERA eventually dissolved over whether suffrage for emancipated slaves and women would be pursued simultaneously.
Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others refused to endorse the 15th amendment because it did not give women the ballot. Other suffragists, however, including Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, argued that once the black man was enfranchised, women would achieve their goal. As a result of this conflict, two suffragist organizations emerged. Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) to work for woman’s suffrage on the federal level and to press for more extensive institutional changes, such as the granting of property rights to married women. Stone created the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which aimed to secure the ballot through state legislation.
The NWSA dealt with many issues of interest to women besides suffrage, such as the unionization of women workers. In 1872, it supported Victoria Woodhull, the first woman candidate for president of the United States. In 1890, the NWSA and AWSA overcame their previous divisions, joining as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), thereby strengthening the movement.