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Which of the female reformers or reform movements from around 1890-1920 do you admire most? Why? Do you agree with Sarah? Why or Why not?

Brief video about an important suffrage march

A brief biography of one of the most prominent women’s rights leaders

A brief profile of an influential figure in Civil Rights in the first half of the 20th century

Sarah: I admire Alice Paul and the Equal Suffrage movement. After Woodrow Wilson vaguely pledged his allegiance to support women’s suffrage, Paul and the National Woman’s Party formed a picket line in front of the White House. They had themed days and stayed out in horrible conditions sharing their stories, just to gain press attention and hold the President to his promise. This was in 1917. Unfortunately, these women were arrested because they were unable to pay the fine. As soon as they were released, they returned to the lines. By early 1918, after Wilson received letters and saw the protests, he “publicly endorsed a constitutional amendment” (Kerber 350). A day later the House of Representatives passed the suffrage amendment barely achieving the two-thirds majority; however, it failed to be carried by the Senate by two votes. It was needed for a re-election for the amendment to pass. “In the fall 1918 elections, NAWSA targeted four senators for defeat; two of them failed to be reelected”, this led to 35 states ratifying the amendment by August 1920 (Kerber 351). Finally women won the battle, but African Americans still had an ongoing fight.

I admire this movement because without these fearless women, I believe society would be very different. It would not be as progressive and women may not be granted the rights that they are today. These women were arrested, yet it did not deter them from fighting harder. The courage and perseverance of these women are commendable and as the current events are happening within society, I wish to have an ounce of their courage.

The Women’s Movement after the Civil War
The women’s movement was split by the fourteenth amendment (1868) which introduced the
word “male” into the U.S. Constitution regarding the right to vote. Although all male citizens,
including black men, now had the right to vote, the fourteenth amendment implied that women
could not vote. In 1869 the women who supported the fourteenth and later the fifteenth
amendment (1870) formed the American Women’s Suffrage Association (AWSA). Those who
did not support it formed the National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA). What were the
differences between these two organizations?
Led by Stanton and Anthony
Concerned with numerous issues that plagued women, including equal pay for equal work,
present conditions of marriage and divorce (Skinner p. 175: Stanton on marriage and divorce)
More “radical” organization
Want national amendment to allow female suffrage
Break with former abolitionist friends because they feel betrayed
Publication is called Revolution
Have financial problems
Led by Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe
Concerned mainly with suffrage (right to vote for women)
Want amendments in state constitutions to allow women to vote
Don’t break with abolitionists
Publication is called the Woman’s Journal
Fewer financial problems because Stone and husband Blackwell have some money
NWSA’s money problems led Stanton and Anthony to pursue funding from Victoria Woodhull.
Woodhull was from a lower-class background, but had the advantages of being extremely
intelligent and attractive. Her sister Tennessee Claflin was the mistress of railroad magnate
commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt gave them money and hot stock tips which allowed
Woodhull and Claflin to make profitable investments on Wall Street. They financed and
published their newspaper Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, which provided financial advice for
women. Woodhull even addressed Congress in 1871 stating that women, as citizens, already had
the right to vote under the 14th amendment. Consequently, she attracted the attention of Stanton
and Anthony and for a short time, Woodhull gave money to NWSA. In 1872, Anthony and other
feminists used this argument when they attempted (unsuccessfully) to vote.
What were the drawbacks to this association with Woodhull? In the early 1870s Woodhull, who
was a Spiritualist. (Spiritualists believed that it’s possible to communicate with the spirits of the
dead. Although it predated the Civil War, Spiritualism become much more popular during and
after the war as a means to console people who had lost loved ones.) Woodhull frequently
delivered speeches about free love and declared that human sexuality is not evil, but its
repression is. Woodhull and Claflin were also mediums who claimed they could communicate
with the dead. Communicating with the dead was not the problem. (Abraham and Mary Lincoln
had even enlisted the aid of mediums to communicate with their dead son.) Instead, free love was
the problem for many Americans at the time. Susan B. Anthony, fearing a stain on the reputation
of NWSA, publicly ousted Woodhull from the organization. Stanton disagreed with Anthony and
argued that if “Woodhull must be crucified, the men should be the ones to drive the spikes.”
Eventually Woodhull and Claflin went to England where they married into the minor nobility,
disavowed their former radicalism, and became proper English “ladies.” Pop star Madonna’s
many reinventions have nothing on them.
In 1870 Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote about Marriage and Divorce, advocating in favor of it. At
the time, it was extremely difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce even if her husband was
abusive and unfaithful.
In 1890, Stone, Stanton and Anthony (Stone would die a few years later) decided to end their
long feud and merged NWSA and AWSA into NAWSA (National American Women’s Suffrage
Association.) The combined total membership was 13,000. Meanwhile the Women’s Christian
Temperance Union had 150,000 members.
Stanton was elected the first president of NAWSA. However, she proved too radical for the next
generation of feminists. In the early 1890s she published The Woman’s Bible, which blamed
much of women’s low status and legal disabilities on the Bible and the Judeo-Christian tradition.
It created an uproar among the newer, more conservative members of NAWSA. The 1890s were
a very conservative, even reactionary decade in American history. This was the time of legalized
segregation as promoted by the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision (1896).
Stanton was replaced by Anthony as President in 1892. Although Anthony may have agreed with
much of what Stanton had written, she knew that questioning religion could harm the movement,
just as she knew that associations with Woodhull twenty years earlier could hurt the women’s
After 1900 leadership of NAWSA fell to a younger generation of feminists led by Carrie
Chapman Catt and Anna Howard Shaw. They focused mainly on suffrage and amendments to
state constitutions. In effect, in the early twentieth century NAWSA became more like AWSA
than NWSA.
Many women, however, did not openly support suffrage in the 19th century or seemed
ambivalent. There were even some women who were opposed to suffrage. For example, in 1896
Amelia Barr advanced a virulent anti-feminist, anti-suffrage argument in Discontented Women.
She argued that women who desired the vote were unnatural malcontents who wanted to be men.
(The term “unnatural” was used at that time to suggest that pro-suffrage women were lesbians.)
Women and Progressive Reform
Between the 1880s and WWI, many women became concerned about worsening
conditions in cities and factories. They were also worried about the immigrant workers who
faced these deplorable living and working conditions. People who joined forces to try to address
the situation were known as Progressives.
The most famous of these Progressive reformers was an Illinois woman named Jane
Addams. Addams founded the first settlement house in the United States. This settlement house
was called Hull House and was located in Chicago. The women who lived and worked at Hull
House devised programs to assist the recently-arrived immigrants in Chicago. Programs
included day care, kindergarten, parenting classes, English lessons, citizenship classes, and other
programs to help immigrants make the transition to their new lives. Soon settlement houses arose
in many major American cities. Socially conscious women, including the young Eleanor
Roosevelt (future wife of Franklin Roosevelt and niece of Theodore R.) volunteered in
settlement houses. Ultimately the profession of social work emerged out of the settlement house
Feminist historians have noted that settlement houses provided opportunities, not just for
immigrants, but also for the women who lived and worked there. Since some of the women–like
Jane Addams and her lifelong companion Ellen Gates Starr–lived as well as worked in the
settlement houses, they were able to forge out an independent existence without getting married.
Indeed, it appears very likely that some of the settlement house women, for example Addams
and Starr, formed long-term same-sex relationships.
Many Progressives (male and female) supported female suffrage and believed that if
women voted the lives of children and families in general would improve. In short, they believed
that women were society’s “housekeepers.” In 1912 the Progressive Party was the first major
political party to endorse female suffrage. Unfortunately, their candidate, Theodore Roosevelt
lost to Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, who did not support female suffrage.

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