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National Woman Suffrage Association

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Suffragists Katharine McCormick and Mrs. Charles Parker, holding a historical NWSA banner on April 22, 1913
Suffragists Katharine McCormick and Mrs. Charles Parker, holding a historical NWSA banner on April 22, 1913

The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was formed on May 15, 1869 in New York City.[1] The National Association was created in response to a split in the American Equal Rights Association[2] over whether the woman's movement should support the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[3] Its founders, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, opposed the Fifteenth Amendment unless it included the vote for women.[4] Men were able to join the organization as members; however, women solely controlled the leadership of the group.[5] The NWSA worked to secure women's enfranchisement through a federal constitutional amendment.[3] Contrarily, its rival, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), believed success could be more easily achieved through state-by-state campaigns.[2] In 1890 the NWSA and the AWSA merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).[6]

 A 1917 map from the women's suffrage movement showing the status of the drive for suffrage in North America and urging the U.S. to match Canada's successes.
A 1917 map from the women's suffrage movement showing the status of the drive for suffrage in North America and urging the U.S. to match Canada's successes.

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  • Women's Suffrage: Crash Course US History #31
  • Biography Brief: Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Temperance and Woman Suffrage: Reform Movements and the Women Who Changed America
  • History Brief: Women Gain Suffrage
  • Fighting Chance: The Struggle for Woman and Black Suffrage in Reconstruction America

Transcription

Episode 31: Feminism and Suffrage Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course U.S. history and today we’re going to talk about women in the progressive era. My God, that is a fantastic hat. Wait, votes for women?? So between Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, and all those doughboys headed off to war, women in this period have sort of been footnoted shockingly.. Mr. Green, Mr. Green. I’d NEVER make a woman a footnote. She’d be the center of my world, my raison d’etre, my joie de vivre. Oh, Me from the Past. I’m reminded of why you got a C+ in French 3. Let me submit to you, Me from the Past, that your weird worship of women is a kind of misogyny because you’re imagining women as these beautiful, fragile things that you can possess. It turns out that women are not things. They are people in precisely the same way that you are a person and in the progressive era, they demanded to be seen as full citizens of the United States. In short, women don’t exist to be your joie de vivre. They get to have their own joie de vivre. intro So, it’s tempting to limit ourselves to discussion of women getting the right to vote with the passage of the 19th amendment, but if we focus too much on the constitutional history, we’re gonna miss a lot. Some historians refer to the thirty years between 1890 and 1920 as the “women’s era” because it was in that time that women started to have greater economic and political opportunities. Women were also aided by legal changes, like getting the right to own property, control their wages and make contracts and wills. By 1900 almost 5 million women worked for wages, mainly in domestic service or light manufacturing, like the garment industry. Women in America were always vital contributors to the economy as producers and consumers and they always worked, whether for wages or taking care of children and the home. And as someone who has recently returned from paternity leave, let me tell you, that ain’t no joke. And American women were also active as reformers since, like, America became a thing. And those reform movements brought women into state and national politics before the dawn of the progressive era. Unfortunately, their greatest achievement, Prohibition, was also our greatest national shame. Oh, yeah, alright, okay. It’s actually not in our top 5 national shames. But, probably women’s greatest influence indeed came through membership AND leadership in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU was founded in 1874 and by 1890 it had 150,000 members, making it the largest female organization in the United States. Under the leadership of Frances Willard, the WCTU embraced a broad reform agenda. Like it included pushing for the right for women to vote. The feeling was that the best way to stop people from drinking was to pass local laws that made it harder to drink, and to do that it would be very helpful if women could vote. Because American men were a bunch of alcoholic scoundrels who darn well weren’t going to vote to get rid of beer hoses. In 1895 Willard boldly declared, “A wider freedom is coming to the women of America. Too long has it been held that woman has no right to enter these movements (…) Politics is the place for woman.” But the role of women in politics did greatly expand during the Progressive era. As in prior decades, many reformers were middle and upper class women, but the growing economy and the expansion of what might be called the upper-middle class meant that there were more educational opportunities and this growing group of college-educated women leaned in and became the leaders of new movements. Sorry, there was no way I was gonna get through this without one “lean in.” I love that book. So as we’ve talked about before, the 1890s saw the dawning of the American mass consumer society and many of the new products made in the second wave of industrialization were aimed at women, especially “labor-saving” devices like washing machines. If you’ve ever had an infant, you might notice that they poop and barf on everything all the time. Like, I recently called the pediatrician and I was like, “My 14-day-old daughter poops fifteen times a day.” And he was like, “If anything, that seems low.” So the washing machine is a real game-changer. And many women realized that being the primary consumers who did the shopping for the home gave them powerful leverage to bring about change. Chief among these was Florence Kelley, a college-educated woman who after participating in a number of progressive reform causes came to head the National Consumers League. The League sponsored boycotts and shaped consumption patterns encouraging consumers to buy products that were made without child or what we now would call sweatshop labor. Which at the time was often just known as “labor.” And there was also a subtle shift in gender roles as more and more women worked outside the home. African American women continued to work primarily as domestic servants or in agriculture, and immigrant women mostly did low-paying factory labor, but for native-born white women there were new opportunities, especially in office work. And this points to how technology created opportunities for women. Like, almost all the telephone operators in the U.S. were women. By 1920 office workers and telephone operators made up 25% of the female workforce, while domestic servants were only 15%. A union leader named Abraham Bisno remarked that working gave immigrant women a sense of independence: “They acquired the right to personality, something alien to the highly patriarchal family structures of the old country.” Of course this also meant that young women were often in conflict with their parents, as a job brought more freedom, money, and perhaps, if they were lucky, a room of one’s own. Oh, it’s time for the Mystery Document? Please let it be Virginia Woolf, please let it be Virginia Woolf. The rules here are simple. I guess the author of the Mystery Document. I’m either right or I get shocked. Alright, let’s see what we’ve got. “The spirit of personal independence in the women of today is sure proof that a change has come … the radical change in the economic position of women is advancing upon us… The growing individualization of democratic life brings inevitable changes to our daughters as well as to our sons … One of its most noticeable features is the demand in women not only for their own money, but for their own work for the sake of personal expression. Few girls today fail to manifest some signs of the desire for individual expression …” Well, that’s not Virginia Woolf. Stan, I’m going to be honest, I do not know the answer to this one. However, it has been Woodrow Wilson for the last two weeks. You wouldn’t do that again to me, or would you? I’m gonna guess Woodrow Wilson. Final answer. DANG IT. Charlotte Perkins Gilman in the book Women and Economics? What? Aaaaaah! The idea that having a job is valuable just for the independence that it brings and as a form of “individual expression” was pretty radical, as most women, and especially most men, were not comfortable with the idea that being a housewife was similar to being a servant to one’s husband and children. But of course that changes when staying at home becomes one of many choices rather than your only available option. And then came birth control. Huzzah! Women who needed to work wanted a way to limit the number of pregnancies. Being pregnant and having a baby can make it difficult to hold down a job and also babies are diaper-using, stuff-breaking, consumptive machines. They basically eat money. And we love them. But birth control advocates like Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman also argued that women should be able to enjoy sex without having children. To which men said, “Women can enjoy sex?” Believe it or not, that was seen as a pretty radical idea and it lead to changes in sexual behavior including more overall skoodilypooping. Goldman was arrested more than 40 times for sharing these dangerous ideas about female sexuality and birth control and she was eventually deported. Sanger, who worked to educate working class women about birth control, was sentenced to prison in 1916 for opening a clinic in Brooklyn that distributed contraceptive devices to poor immigrant women. The fight over birth control is important for at least three reasons. First, it put women into the forefront of debates about free speech in America. I mean, some of the most ardent advocates of birth control were also associated with the IWW and the Socialist Party. Secondly, birth control is also a public health issue and many women during the progressive era entered public life to bring about changes related to public health, leading the crusade against tuberculosis, the so-called White Plague, and other diseases. Thirdly, it cut across class lines. Having or not having children is an issue for all women, regardless of whether they went to college, and the birth control movement brought upper, middle, and lower class women together in ways that other social movements never did. Another group of Progressive women took up the role of addressing the problems of the poor and spearheaded the Settlement House movement. The key figure here was Jane Addams. My God, there are still Adamses in American history? Oh, she spells it Addams-family-Addams, not like founding-fathers-Adams. Anyway, she started Hull House in Chicago in 1889. Settlement houses became the incubators of the new field of social work, a field in which women played a huge part. And Addams became one of America’s most important spokespeople for progressive ideas. And yet in many places, while all of this was happening, women could not technically vote. But their increasing involvement in social movements at the turn of the 20th century led them to electoral politics. It’s true that women were voting before the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920. Voting is a state issue, and in many western states, women were granted the right to vote in the late 19th century. States could also grant women the right to run for office, which explains how the first Congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin, could vote against America’s entry into World War I in 1917. That said, the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment is a big deal in American history. It’s also a recent deal. Like, when my grandmothers were born, women could not vote in much of the United States. The amendment says that states cannot deny people the right to vote because they are women, which isn’t as interesting as the political organization and activity that led to its passage. Alright, let’s go to the Thought Bubble. The suffrage movement was extremely fragmented. There was a first wave of suffrage, exemplified by the women at Seneca Falls, and this metamorphosed into the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, or NAWSA. Most of the leadership of NAWSA was made up of middle to upper class women, often involved in other progressive causes, who unfortunately sometimes represented the darker side of the suffrage movement. Because these upper class progressives frequently used nativist arguments to make their claims for the right to vote. They argued that if the vote could be granted to ignorant immigrants, some of whom could barely speak English, then it should also be granted to native born women. This isn’t to say that the elitist arguments won the day, but they should be acknowledged. By the early 20th century a new generation of college-educated activists had arrived on the scene. And many of these women were more radical than early suffrage supporters. They organized the National Women’s Party and, under the leadership of Alice Paul, pushed for the vote using aggressive tactics that many of the early generation of women’s rights advocates found unseemly. Paul had been studying in Britain between 1907 and 1910 where she saw the more militant women’s rights activists at work. She adopted their tactics that included protests leading to imprisonment and loud denunciations of the patriarchy that would make tumblr proud. And during World War I she compared Wilson to the Kaiser and Paul and her followers chained themselves to the White House fence. The activists then started a hunger strike during their 7-month prison sentence and had to be force-fed. Woodrow Wilson had half-heartedly endorsed women’s suffrage in 1916, but the war split the movement further. Most suffrage organizations believed that wartime service would help women earn respect and equal rights. But other activists, like many Progressives, opposed the war and regarded it as a potential threat to social reform. But, in the end, the war did sort of end up helping the cause. Patriotic support of the war by women, especially their service working in wartime industries, convinced many that it was just wrong to deny them the right to vote. And the mistreatment of Alice Paul and other women in prison for their cause created outrage that further pushed the Wilson administration to support enfranchising women. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So, women’s long fight to gain the right to vote ended with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. But, in some ways, the final granting of the franchise was a bit anti-climactic. For one thing, it was overshadowed by the 18th Amendment, Prohibition, which affected both women and men in large numbers. Also Gatsbys. You could say a lot of bad things about Prohibition, and I have, but the crusade against alcohol did galvanize and politicize many women, and organizations such as the WCTU and the Anti-Saloon League introduced yet more to political activism. But, while the passage of the 19th amendment was a huge victory, Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party were unable to muster the same support for an Equal Rights Amendment. Paul believed that women needed equal access to education and employment opportunities. And here they came into contact with other women’s groups, especially the League of Women Voters and the Women’s Trade Union League, which opposed the ERA fearing that equal rights would mean an unraveling of hard-won benefits like mother’s pensions and laws limiting women’s hours of labor. So, the ERA failed, and then another proposed amendment that would have given Congress the power to limit child labor won ratification in only 6 states. So in many ways the period between 1890 and 1920, which roughly corresponds to the Progressive Era, was the high tide of women’s rights and political activism. It culminated in the ratification of the 19th amendment, but the right to vote didn’t lead to significant legislation that actually improved the lives of women, at least not for a while. Nor were there immediate changes in the roles that women were expected to play in the social order as wives and mothers. Still, women were able to increase their autonomy and freedom in the burgeoning consumer marketplace. But it’s important to note that like other oppressed populations in American history, women weren’t given these rights, they had to fight for the rights that were said to be inalienable. And we are all better off for their fight and for their victory. Women’s liberation is to be sure a complicated phrase and it will take a new turn in the Roaring 20s, which we’ll talk about next week. I’ll see you then. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher, Raoul Meyer, Rosianna Rojas, and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Café. Every week there’s a new caption to the Libertage. You can suggest captions in comments where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome. I’m gonna go this way, Stan, just kiiidding! Suffrage -

Contents

The split of the suffrage movements

Although the harbingers of dissent within different factions of the woman suffrage movement may be seen in the National Woman's Rights Convention of 1860 (the last national convention before the outbreak of the war), woman's rights activism largely ceased during the Civil War. The movement re-emerged to the national scene in 1866 to organize formally under a new name – the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) – and defined by a new platform.[7] 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.[7] The schism was cemented by the decision of Republican lawmakers and their former abolitionist allies that this was "the Negro's hour," leaving woman suffrage to be deferred to a more opportune moment.

Following the May 1869 American Equal Rights Association convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Jacqueline Valenzuela, and Bianet Cuevas Parra established the National Woman Suffrage Association (hereafter referred to as "the National").[4] Feeling misguided and deceived, Stanton and Anthony resorted to such bold action largely due to their belief that the preponderance of men composing the AERA leadership had betrayed women's interest.[2] In addition to a feeling of betrayal, deep differences between the factions of the movement centered on numerous issues, including how AERA funds were to be used, and, most importantly, whether the reconstruction amendments should be supported despite their failure to include women.[8]

Meeting at the Women's Bureau in New York City, Stanton, Anthony and delegates from nineteen states of the AERA convention, appointed Elizabeth Cady Stanton as the National's President.[5] Other prominent activists forming the National were Lucretia Mott, Martha Coffin Wright, Ernestine Rose (part of the Executive Committee), Pauline Wright Davis (Advisory Counsel of Rhode Island), Reverend Olympia Brown, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Anna E. Dickinson (Vice-President of Pennsylvania), Elizabeth Smith Miller and Mary Cheney Greeley among others.[9] The women immediately turned their efforts toward passage of a Constitutional Amendment giving women the right to vote.

In response, Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe and Wendell Phillips among others established the American Woman Suffrage Association in September of that year in Boston. The death knell had rung upon the American Equal Rights Association.[7]

Structure and ideology

 Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Structure

Unlike the American Association who held their conventions in various cities across the country, the National Association held its annual conventions in Washington D.C. with its efforts concentrated on the federal government.[6] Although focused on national reform, the National established its headquarters in New York City, seeking to mobilize support among wage-earning women. The National Association was centralized and unitary in structure, as opposed to the more stringent delegate system of the American Association. Feeling slighted by the apostasy of men under the American Equal Rights Association, the National Association granted full membership rights for women only.[4] Men could affiliate with the organization, however, women solely controlled its leadership.[5] By the same token, Stanton and Anthony were willing to work with anyone, despite their view on other matters, as long as they wholeheartedly championed woman rights and suffrage. As a result, the National Association was often perceived as radical, unorthodox and aggressive.[2] Such drastic measures included using racist appeals to win allies among Democrats.[4] The National, however, often condemned both those Republicans and Democrats who ignored the suffrage question.[2]

The new constitution

In 1883, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the officers of the National adopted a new Constitution of the National Woman Suffrage Association.[10] It consisted of the five following articles:[9]

  • The first article stated the name of the organization of the National Woman Suffrage Association.
  • The second article emphasized the object of the organization to secure the right to vote for women of the nation on equal terms with men.
  • The third article issued a one dollar annual membership fee. It also stated that membership fees were mandatory if a person wanted to actively participate and vote within the National.
  • The fourth article named the officers of the National to consist of the President, a Vice-President from each of the states and territories, Corresponding and Recording Secretaries, Treasurer, an Executive Committee of five or more members located in New York City and an Advisory Counsel from each state and territory. The officers were also said to be chosen at each Annual meeting of the National Association.
  • The fifth article addressed that all other woman suffrage societies were welcomed as auxiliaries, and their officers would be recognized as members of the national association.

As stated in the fifth article, state, district and town woman's suffrage associations were welcomed to become auxiliaries. According to the "Plan For Organization," to organize as a group, a convention of the region must be called by the Vice-President of the state and the Advisory Counsel of each state where the officers would be chosen in coordination with the National's rules.[11]

Ideology

In founding the National Association, Stanton and Anthony regarded woman's rights as a broad cause, in which the franchise was of primary importance. The organization, however, advocated a broad platform in supporting the individual liberties of women.[11] As Eleanor Flexner explains, "It [the National] was willing to take up the cudgels for distressed women whatever their circumstances, be they 'fallen women,' divorce cases, or underpaid seamstresses."[11] The broad focus espoused by the National Association allowed it to address a diverse array of social, economical and political issues.

In advocating for a federal amendment to assure women the ballot, the National relied on a natural rights argument. The National adopted the constitutional argument put forth by Francis and Virginia Minor at the Missouri Woman Suffrage Convention in St. Louis in October 1869. Using a constitutional interpretation that used language and directly derived from the Fourteenth Amendment, the Minors argued that women had the right to suffrage because they were citizens. Other general arguments Stanton and the National exercised included points that women were taxed without representation, governed without their consent, and tried and punished without a jury of their peers.[7]

The National brought the constitutionality of denying the franchise to the national limelight by printing Minor's resolutions in its periodical, The Revolution. At the time of the National Association's Washington Convention of 1870, ten thousand copies of Minor's resolutions were circulating around the audience, with copies placed on every member's desk in Congress.[7] In adopting such ideology, officers of the National Association soon began to later their speeches, resolutions and hearing before Congress. They also made diverse attempts to vote in various states across the country.[7]

The Revolution

 George Train, financier of The Revolution newsletter.
George Train, financier of The Revolution newsletter.

During its short life, The Revolution, the weekly newsletter of the National Association, frequently urged reforms to benefit workingwomen.[5] Supported by financier George Train, editor David Melliss and managed by Anthony, The Revolution paraded the motto: "Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less!"[2]

The weekly sixteen-page paper reported news not found elsewhere, such as the organization of women typesetters, of the first women's clubs, and of women abroad.[2] The Revolution for a short time gave the National a forum, focus and direction. The newsletter, moreover, reflected the broad agenda of the organization. As Eleanor Flexner elaborates, for instance, The Revolution "exhorted women to equip themselves to earn their own livelihood, to practice bodily hygiene in the matter of fresh air, dress, and exercise."[2] On January 8, 1870 – the anniversary of the founding of The Revolution – the American Association launched its periodical, The Woman's Journal.[2] Faced with rising debts, and the rising popularity of The Woman's Journal, The Revolution succumbed in May 1870.[2]

Accomplishments

In the summer of 1876, the nation celebrated its Centennial with a highly anticipated exposition in Philadelphia, the first of its kind in America. Opening headquarters in Philadelphia, the National Association sought to use the occasion to draw attention to the inequitable position of women, as well as to organize women from all over the country to exchange their knowledge and experiences.[2] When Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, the presiding officer of the July 4th exposition, finished reading the Declaration of Independence, the ladies walked down the aisle and approached the stage where Anthony made a brief speech.[5] Members of the National then presented the presiding officer with a Women's Declaration of Rights.[12] The Women's Declaration of Rights listed the natural rights protected by the government as part of the social contract and went forth to state that the government was infringing upon those rights. In response, the authors listed nine rights for women labeled "Articles of Impeachment." These articles referenced the ways in which women were oppressed and wronged and asked the government to give women the civil and political rights guaranteed to them.[13]

One year later at the National's Convention of January 1877, the organization continued to carry out bold reform measures. Keeping pressure on Congress, the National drafted a federal amendment calling for woman suffrage – penned by Elizabeth Cady Stanton – that was reintroduced to the Legislature annually until its eventual adoption in 1919.[5] In the same year, furthermore, Anthony led a group of women onto the floor of the United States Senate bearing suffrage petitions with ten thousand signatures.[14] Such efforts signify the extensive efforts of the National Woman Suffrage Association to keep pressure on the federal government to promote the causes concerning women's rights, while bringing the injustice the encountered to national prominence.

In 1890 the National Association and the American Association merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).[6] The merger negotiations between the two organizations began in 1887, dragged for three years, and were finally consummated at a joint convention in February 1890 where the NAWSA nominated Elizabeth Cady Stanton as its first President.[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ Anthony, Harper & Gage (1922), p. 1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Flexner & Fitzpatrick (1996), pp. 144–146.
  3. ^ a b Wheeler (1995), Need page reference.
  4. ^ a b c d Marilley (1996), p. 76.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Oakley (1972), p. 90.
  6. ^ a b c Coolidge (1966), pp. 124–125.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Campbell (1989), p. 84.
  8. ^ Scott & Scott (1982), p. 16.
  9. ^ a b National Woman Suffrage Association, Constitution of the National Woman Suffrage Association. p. 1.
  10. ^ Brown, Olympia. "A Statement of Facts". S>I>, 1889: 1–8p. History of Women (1977): Reel 947, No. 8870, UMCP McKeldin Library, HQ1121.H5.
  11. ^ a b c National Woman Suffrage Association. Women's Bureau, Plan of Organization. p. 1.
  12. ^ Scott & Scott (1982), p. 90.
  13. ^ National Woman Suffrage Association (U.S.), Declaration of the Rights of the Women in the United States, July 4, 1876.
  14. ^ Scott & Scott (1982), p. 20.

Bibliography

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