Woman Suffrage History and Time Line
Introduction: The resolution calling for woman suffrage had passed, after much debate, at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, convened by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. In “The Declaration of Sentiments,” a document based upon the Declaration of Independence, the numerous demands of these early activists were elucidated.
The 1848 convention had challenged America to a social revolution that would touch every aspect of life. Early women’s rights leaders believed suffrage to be the most effective means to change an unjust system. By the late 1800s, nearly 50 years of progress afforded women advancement in property rights, employment and educational opportunities, divorce and child custody laws, and increased social freedoms. The early 1900s saw a successful push for the vote through a coalition of suffragists, temperance groups, reform-minded politicians, and women’s social-welfare organizations. Although Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton devoted 50 years to the woman’s suffrage movement, neither lived to see women gain the right to vote. But their work and that of many other suffragists contributed to the ultimate passage of the 19th amendment in 1920.
Suffrage is the right or privilege of voting and is frequently incorporated among the rights of citizenship. However, just as not all people in the United States are necessarily granted the privilege of citizenship, not all U.S. citizens have been uniformly endowed with the right to vote. Written in 1787 and adopted the following year, the U.S. Constitution granted each state the power to decide the voting qualifications of its residents in all elections. Many states restricted voting rights to those who owned land or substantial taxable property. Given the property laws and economic status of citizens at that time, these restrictions meant that most women and persons of color could not vote, and only about “half of the adult white men in the United States were eligible to vote in 1787.”
Most women were prohibited from voting or exercising the same civil rights as men during this time based on the idea that “a married woman’s legal existence was incorporated into that of her husband”. With so few rights, many women drew parallels between their social and political state and that of slaves. This comparison won support of greater numbers of women and men to their cause, among them were the famous suffragettes attributed with founding the woman suffrage movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.
Dedicated abolitionists, Stanton and Mott returned to the United States in June of 1840 highly indignant that they had been denied the right to participate in the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London because they were women. Determined to overcome the social, civil, and religious disabilities that crippled women of their day, Stanton and Mott organized the first woman’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, on 19 July 1848. It drew over 300. Stanton drafted the “Declaration of Sentiments,” a document that stated “men and women are created equal.”
Source: Elizabeth Smiltneek, Graduate Student, Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University–http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper62.html
US Suffrage Movement Time Line, 1792 to Present
1792 British author Mary Wollstonecraft argues for the equality of the sexes in her book, the Vindication of the Rights of Women.
1793 January 3: Lucretia Mott is born in Nantucket, MA.
1815 November 12: Elizabeth Cady Stanton is born in Johnstown, NY.
1818 August 13: Lucy Stone is born in West Brookfield, MA.
1820 February 15: Susan B. Anthony is born in Adams, MA.
1821 Emma Willard founds the Troy Female Seminary, the first school to offer girls classical and scientific studies on a collegiate level.
1828 Englishwoman Frances Wright is the first woman to address an American audience composed of both men and women.
1833 Oberlin College is founded as the first coeducational institution of higher learning.
1837 Mount Holyoke, the first college for women, is founded by Mary Lyon in South Hadley, MA.
1840 The World’s Anti-Slavery Convention is held in London, England. When the women delegates from the United States are not allowed to participate, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton determine to have a women’s rights convention when they return home.
1845 Margaret Fuller publishes Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which has a profound influence on the development of American feminist theory.
1847 February 14: Anna Howard Shaw is born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England.
1848 July 19: The first woman’s rights convention is called by Mott and Stanton. It is held on July 20 at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, NY. August 2: A reconvened session of the woman’s rights convention is held at the Unitarian Church in Rochester, NY. Amelia Bush is chosen chair, and becomes the first woman to preside over a meeting attended by both men and women. New York State Legislature passes a law that gives women the right to retain possession of property they owned prior to their marriage.
1849 Elizabeth Blackwell graduates from Geneva College in Geneva, NY with the first medical degree awarded to a woman.
1851 Amelia Bloomer publishes in her Seneca Falls newspaper, The Lily, a description of a comfortable, loose-fitting costume consisting of a short skirt worn over pantaloons. Even though the outfit was first worn by Elizabeth Smith Miller, it becomes known as the “Bloomer.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony meet and begin their fifty-year collaboration to win for women their economic, educational, social, and civil rights. Sojourner Truth delivers her “And Ain’t I a Woman Speech” at the Woman’s Rights Convention in Akron, OH.
1853 Antoinette Brown Blackwell, an 1847 Oberlin graduate, is ordained as the minister of the First Congregational Church in Butler and Savannah, NY. She is the first woman to be ordained in the United States by a mainstream denomination.
1855 Elizabeth Cady Stanton makes an unprecedented appearance before the New York State Legislature to speak in favor of expanding the Married Woman’s Property Law.
1859 January 9: Carrie Chapman Catt is born in Ripon, WI.
1863 Stanton and Anthony organize the Women’s Loyal National League and gather 300,000 signatures on a petition demanding that the Senate abolish slavery by constitutional amendment.
1865 The 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. The amendment officially abolishes slavery in the United States.
1866 The American Equal Rights Association is founded with the purpose to secure for all Americans their civil rights irrespective of race, color, or sex. Lucretia Mott is elected president. To test women’s constitutional right to hold public office, Stanton runs for Congress receiving 24 of 12,000 votes cast.
1867 Stanton, Anthony, and Lucy Stone address a subcommittee of the New York State Constitutional Convention requesting that the revised constitution include woman suffrage. Their efforts fail. Kansas holds a state referendum on whether to enfranchise blacks and/or women. Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton traverse the state speaking in favor of women suffrage. Both black and women suffrage is voted down.
1868 Stanton and Anthony launch their women’s rights newspaper, the Revolution, in New York City. Anthony organizes the Working Women’s Association, which encourages women to form unions to win higher wages and shorter hours. The 14th amendment to the U. S. Constitution is adopted. The amendment grants citizenship to former slaves, but still does not secure voting rights.
1869 National Woman Suffrage Association is founded with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as president. American Woman Suffrage Association is founded with Henry Ward Beecher as president. Wyoming Territory grants suffrage to women.
1870 Utah Territory grants suffrage to women. First issue of the Woman’s Journal is published with Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Blackwell as editors. The 15th amendment to the U. S. Constitution is adopted. The amendment grants suffrage to former male African-American slaves, but not to women. Anthony and Stanton bitterly oppose the amendment, which for the first time explicitly restricts voting rights to “males.” Many of their former allies in the abolitionist movement, including Lucy Stone, support the amendment.
1871 Victoria Woodhull addresses the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives arguing that women have the right to vote under the 14th amendment. The Committee issues a negative report.
1872 In Rochester, NY, Susan B. Anthony registers and votes contending that the 14th amendment gives her that right. Several days later she is arrested.
1873 At Susan B. Anthony’s trial the judge does not allow her to testify on her own behalf, dismisses the jury, rules her guilty, and fines her $100. She refuses to pay.
1874 In Minor v. Happersett, the Supreme Court decides that citizenship does not give women the right to vote and that women’s political rights are under the jurisdiction of each individual state.
1876 Stanton writes a Declaration and Protest of the Women of the United States to be read at the centennial celebration in Philadelphia. When the request to present the Declaration is denied, Anthony and four other women charge the speakers’ rostrum and thrust the document into the hands of Vice-President Thomas W. Ferry.
1879 Belva Lockwood becomes the first woman lawyer admitted to practice before the Supreme Court.
1880 November 11: Lucretia Mott dies. New York state grants school suffrage to women.
1882 The House of Representatives and the Senate appoint Select Committees on Woman Suffrage.
1885 January 11: Alice Paul is born.
1887 The first three volumes of the , edited by Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, are published.
1888 The International Council for Women is founded and holds its first meeting in Washington, DC.
1890 After several years of negotiations, the NWSA and the AWSA merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone as officers. Wyoming joins the union as the first state with voting rights for women. By 1900 women also have full suffrage in Utah, Colorado and Idaho. New Zealand is the first nation to give women suffrage.
1892 Susan B. Anthony becomes president of the NAWSA.
1893 October 18: Lucy Stone dies.
1895 Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Woman’s Bible, a critical examination of the Bible’s teaching about women. The NAWSA censures the work.
1900 Anthony resigns as president of the NAWSA and is succeeded by Carrie Chapman Catt.
1902 October 26: Elizabeth Cady Stanton dies. Women of Australia are enfranchised.
1903 Carrie Chapman Catt resigns as president of the NAWSA and Anna Howard Shaw becomes president.
1906 March 13: Susan B. Anthony dies. Women of Finland are enfranchised.
1907 Harriet Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founds the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, later called the Women’s Political Union.
1908 March 8: International Women’s Day is celebrated for the first time.
1910 The Women’s Political Union holds its first suffrage parade in New York City.
1911 National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage is founded.
1912 Suffrage referendums are passed in Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon.
1913 Alice Paul organizes a suffrage parade in Washington, DC, the day of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.
1914 Montana and Nevada grant voting rights to women. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns organize the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. It merges in 1917 with the Woman’s Party to become the National Woman’s Party.
1915 Suffrage referendum in New York State is defeated. Carrie Chapman Catt is elected president of the NAWSA. Women of Denmark are enfranchised.
1916 Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, is elected to the House of Representatives and becomes the first woman to serve in Congress. President Woodrow Wilson addresses the NAWSA.
1917 Members of the National Woman’s Party picket the White House. Alice Paul and ninety-six other suffragists are arrested and jailed for “obstructing traffic.” When they go on a hunger strike to protest their arrest and treatment, they are force-fed. Women win the right to vote in North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Michigan, New York, and Arkansas.
1918 Women of Austria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, and Wales are enfranchised. House of Representatives passes a resolution in favor of a woman suffrage amendment. The resolution is defeated by the Senate.
1919 Women of Azerbaijan Republic, Belgium, British East Africa, Holland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Rhodesia, and Sweden are enfranchised. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution granting women the vote is adopted by a joint resolution of Congress and sent to the states for ratification. July 2: Anna Howard Shaw dies. New York and twenty-one other states ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.
1920 Henry Burn casts the deciding vote that makes Tennessee the thirty-sixth, and final state, to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. August 26: The Nineteenth Amendment is adopted and the women of the United States are finally enfranchised.
1923 At the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention, Alice Paul proposes an Equal Rights Amendment to remedy inequalities not addressed in the 19th Amendment.
Late 1920s Many states continue to bar women from jury duty and public office. Widows succeed their husbands as governors of Texas and Wyoming. Middle-class women attend college and enter labor force. Anticipated “women’s vote” fails to materialize by end of decade.
1933 Frances Perkins is appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as first female Secretary of Labor. In the New Deal years, at urging of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Democratic women’s leader Molly Dewson, many women gain positions in federal social service bureaus, including Mary McLeod Bethune, director of the Negro Affairs Division of the National Youth Administration.
1936 Federal court rules birth control legal for its own sake, rather than solely for prevention of disease.
1941 United States enters World War II. Millions of women are recruited for defense industry jobs in war years and become significant parts of labor force. WAC and WAVE are established as first women’s military corps.
1947 Percentage of women in the labor force declines as women leave jobs to get married and to make way for returning soldiers. By end of decade, numbers of workingwomen are again on the increase.
1952 Democratic and Republican parties eliminate women’s divisions.
1955 Civil Rights movement escalates in the South; Septima Clark and others lead sit-ins and demonstrations, providing models for future protest strategies.
1960 FDA approves birth control pills.
1961 President’s Commission on the Status of Women is established, headed by Eleanor Roosevelt. Commission successfully pushes for passage in 1963 of Equal Pay Act, first federal law to require equal compensation for men and women in federal jobs.
1963 Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique articulates dissatisfaction about limits on women.
1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits job discrimination on the basis of race or sex and establishes Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to address discrimination claims.
1966 National Organization for Women, founded by Betty Friedan and associates, promotes child care for working mothers, abortion rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, and “full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”
1972 After nearly 50 years, Equal Rights Amendment passes both houses and is signed by President Richard Nixon. Civil Rights Act bans sex discrimination in employment and education. Shirley Chisholm is first black American to run for president.
1973 In Roe v. Wade, U.S. Supreme Court affirms women’s right to first trimester abortions without state intervention.
1974 Ella Grasso of Connecticut becomes the first woman Governor elected in her own right.
1981 Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed first woman U.S. Supreme Court justice.
1982 Deadline for ERA ratification expires; final count is three states short of adoption.
1984 Geraldine Ferraro is first woman from a major political party nominated as Vice President.
1991 Senate confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas as U.S. Supreme Court justice and testimony of Anita Hill raise awareness of sexual harassment.
1992 More women run for and are elected to public office than in any other year in United States history.
Today The fight for equality is waged on many fronts; women are seeking political influence, better education, health reform, job equity, and legal reform. The demands echo those of the movement throughout its history. In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and others claimed on behalf of American women “all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens.” What would the reformers from Seneca Falls do today to contribute toward a future of equality? What will you do?
Note: 1792-1920 prepared by Mary M. Huth, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Rochester Libraries, February 1995.
1920-present from the Women’s Rights brochure produced by the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, National Park Service, 1994.
Source: Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, Rochester, NY: www.rochester.edu/SBA/