The accepted narrative of the national woman suffrage movement has its origins in the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention with prominent suffragists including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. After being introduced to Susan B. Anthony in 1851, Stanton worked with Anthony to transform the goals of the overall national woman suffrage movement; under the leadership of these two powerful women, the national movement underwent a shift in goals from state-by-state campaigning to campaigning for a federal amendment granting all American women the right to vote and creating one woman suffrage association that would become the sole association: the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890.
Before the turn of the century, many women took advantage of the opportunities that opened up, allowing women to obtain a higher formal education and enjoy a somewhat higher degree of economic independence. This recent ability spawned a new generation of woman suffragists who helped revitalize the current woman suffrage organization. This new generation of woman suffrage leaders would demand, not ask for, their rights.
The tension and divide over how to pursue suffrage split the woman suffrage campaign yet again; radical suffragist Alice Paul and other younger suffragists formed the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1916 in an attempt to continue the push for a federal amendment. Naturally, this opposition grew deeper as the United States found itself in midst of a world war in 1917; as traditional NAWSA suffragists called for a temporary end to the suffrage campaigns, requesting women to instead contribute to the war effort, the NWP began to publically picket in front of the White House, for all passersby to witness. Picketing, according to the NWP, was the only way to ensure the passage of the federal amendment; the picketing of the White House led to the arrests, trials, and imprisonments of several suffragist women, including Paul.
After examining the poor treatment of the imprisoned suffragists, President Wilson’s views shifted and he began to support the suffragists. Thus began a fifteen-month long process that required ratification by thirty-six states; Tennessee became a contested battleground, but woman suffrage persevered and the Nineteenth Amendment passed by only one vote. In 1920, the several decades-long woman suffrage movement finally culminated in the ratification of the Susan B. Anthony amendment, a testament and honor to one of the fiercest and most devoted woman suffrage campaigners and leaders.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, seated, and Susan B. Anthony, standing, 1880-1902. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. LC-USZ61-791 (b&w film copy neg.), http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print.
Some books to consider when researching the national Woman Suffrage movement:
Anthony, Susan B., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. History of Woman Suffrage. 6 Volumes. Rochester: Charles Mann, 1881-1922.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6, 1900-1920. N.P.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922.
Tetrault, Lisa. The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
Lunardini, Christine A. From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights: Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party, 1910-1928. New York: New York University Press, 1986.