Women's Suffrage

Overview:

"The National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, both founded in 1869, were the main suffrage organizations in the U.S. during the 19th century. They pursued the right to vote in different ways, but by 1890 it became necessary to combine efforts to keep the cause alive. The newly formed organization, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), became the most mainstream and nationally visible pro-suffrage group. Its strategy was to push for suffrage at the state level, believing that state-by-state support would eventually force the federal government to pass the amendment.

The National American Woman Suffrage Association represented millions of women and was the parent organization of hundreds of smaller local and state groups. The NAWSA hosted and participated in large and theatrical suffrage parades, and held major annual conventions that helped to keep its members energized.

It also sponsored several newspapers and a suffrage press that published pamphlets, broadsides and books. The Library has an interesting collection of these publications, which illustrate the strategies employed by the NAWSA in its attempts to win over various constituencies."
- From NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association)

"The origins of the National Woman's Party (NWP) date from 1912, when Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, young Americans schooled in the militant tactics of the British suffrage movement, were appointed to the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s (NAWSA) Congressional Committee. They injected a renewed militancy into the American campaign and shifted attention away from state voting rights toward a federal suffrage amendment.

At odds with NAWSA over tactics and goals, Paul and Burns founded the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) in April 1913, but remained on NAWSA’s Congressional Committee until December that year. Two months later, NAWSA severed all ties with the CU.

The CU continued its aggressive suffrage campaign. Its members held street meetings, distributed pamphlets, petitioned and lobbied legislators, and organized parades, pageants, and speaking tours. In June 1916 the CU formed the NWP, briefly known as the Woman’s Party of Western Voters. The CU continued in states where women did not have the vote; the NWP existed in western states that had passed women’s suffrage. In March 1917 the two groups reunited into a single organization–the NWP. In January 1917 the CU and NWP began to picket the White House. The government’s initial tolerance gave way after the United States entered World War I. Beginning in June 1917, suffrage protestors were arrested, imprisoned, and often force-fed when they went on hunger strikes to protest being denied political prisoner status.

The NWP’s militant tactics and steadfast lobbying, coupled with public support for imprisoned suffragists, forced President Woodrow Wilson to endorse a federal woman suffrage amendment in 1918. Congress passed the measure in 1919, and the NWP began campaigning for state ratification. Shortly after Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify women’s suffrage, the 19th Amendment was signed into law on August 26, 1920. Once suffrage was achieved, the NWP focused on passing an Equal Rights Amendment. The party remained a leading advocate of women’s political, social, and economic equality throughout the 20th century."
- From NWP (National Woman's Party)

The passing of the 19th Amendment came after hard work and struggles from various groups over the years. The two main groups, NAWSA and NWP, used multiple methods to support and fight for their cause. Although there were some similarities between their methods, NWP’s militant tactics separated them from NAWSA. Did some of their methods work better than others? Were some of their methods a hindrance to the cause? What ultimately led to the passing of the 19th Amendment? Was it just a matter of time or did the actions of some speed up the process of granting women the vote?

Question: During the women’s suffrage movement, not unlike other movements, different factions arose that used various methods to fight for their cause. Evaluate how well the methods of each group helped in passing the 19th Amendment.

 


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