Saturday, April 29, 2017

Women’s Suffrage

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Prominent 19th century suffragist and civil rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) became involved in the abolitionist movement after a progressive upbringing. She helped organize the world’s first women’s rights convention in 1848, and formed the National Women’s Loyal League with Susan B. Anthony in 1863. Seven years later, they established the National Woman Suffrage Association. With her advocacy of liberal divorce laws and reproductive self-determination, Cady Stanton became an increasingly marginalized voice among women reformers late in life. However, her efforts helped bring about the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave all citizens the right to vote.

Born in Johnstown, New York, Elizabeth Cady received the best female education available at the time, at Emma Willard’s Academy, but regretted not having a full-fledged college education. She spent her postacademy years like other young women of leisure, in visiting and social activities, primarily at the home of her cousin, the abolitionist Gerrit Smith. There she fell in love with another abolitionist, Henry B. Stanton. An older, romantic figure, Henry was part of the exciting world of reform and politics to which she was drawn. Despite her father’s opposition, they married in 1840 and for their honeymoon went to London to attend the World’s Antislavery Convention. There Cady Stanton met Lucretia Mott, the leading American female abolitionist, and began to study the Anglo-American traditions of women’s rights.

In 1847, the Stantons moved to rural Seneca Falls, New York, where Elizabeth bore the last three of their seven children and grew resentful of her domestic confinement. In 1848, with the help of Mott, she organized the world’s first women’s rights convention. Despite Mott’s reluctance, she insisted on including the right to woman suffrage in its resolutions. In 1851, Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony, with whom she formed a lifelong partnership based on their common dedication to women’s emancipation. Three years later, she addressed the New York legislature on an omnibus women’s rights bill. In 1860, most of the legal reforms she sought in women’s status, with the notable exception of enfranchisement, were secured.

Cady Stanton threw herself into the political drama of the Civil War and with Anthony formed the National Women’s Loyal League on behalf of the constitutional abolition of slavery. After the war, the two created deep conflicts among reformers by attempting to link woman suffrage to black suffrage and, when their efforts failed, by criticizing the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments for ignoring woman suffrage. Determined to use the Constitution to enfranchise women, they established in 1869 the National Woman Suffrage Association, forerunner of the organization that eventually secured the Nineteenth Amendment.

Cady Stanton’s interests extended far beyond the vote. She had always advocated divorce law liberalization, and in 1860 she precipitated a heated debate among women’s rights advocates by urging women to leave unhappy marriages. In the late 1860s, she began to advocate what she called the ‘right to self-sovereignty’-women should take deliberate measures to avoid becoming pregnant. These beliefs led her in the early 1870s into association with the notorious ‘free lover,’ Victoria Woodhull. Because of Cady Stanton’s advocacy of liberalized divorce laws, reproductive self-determination, and greater sexual freedom for women, hers became an increasingly marginalized voice among women reformers in the 1880s.

Cady Stanton also diverged from the mainstream women’s movement over religion. Her deep dislike of organized religion grew out of a traumatic youthful conversion experience. In the 1880s, she visited England, where she was influenced by freethinkers and biblical critics. Back in the United States, she learned that Christian political activists were attempting to close public institutions on the Sabbath, undo divorce law liberalization, and even establish Christianity as the state religion. Determined to oppose them, she found herself on a collision course with the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, a new generation of suffrage leaders, and even Anthony. In 1898 she published The Woman’s Bible, a scholarly but irreverent feminist commentary, for which the National American Woman Suffrage Association censured her. Although embittered, she continued her independent course on behalf of women’s emancipation until her death in 1902.

The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) was one of the leading voices of the abolitionist and feminist movements of her time. Raised in a Quaker community, she became a member of the society’s ministry and adopted its anti-slavery views. Mott helped form the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, and later was among the founders of the American women’s rights movement. Mott’s feminist philosophy was outlined in her Discourse on Women (1850), in which she argued for equal economic opportunity and voting rights. After helping to establish Swarthmore College in 1864, she served as head of the American Equal Rights Association.

Born the daughter of a Nantucket sea captain, Mott was reared in a Quaker community that provided strong role models for the young girl. She attended a Quaker boarding academy in the Hudson Valley, New York, where she soon became a teacher. After her family moved to Philadelphia, a fellow instructor at the academy, James Mott, followed her there, and in 1811 the two were married. They had six children, five of whom survived infancy. The death of her first son deepened her spirituality, and in 1818, she became a member of the Quaker ministry.
Mott, like many Quakers, advocated antislavery and boycotted all products of slave labor. She helped found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 and served as its president. She also became prominent in the national organization after it admitted women. This sort of activity in reform groups was a radical departure for women of her era.

When denied a seat in 1840 at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London on account of her sex, Mott preached her doctrine of female equality outside the conference hall. During her London visit, she befriended Elizabeth Cady Stanton, wife of abolitionist delegate Henry Stanton. During the summer of 1848 she and Stanton organized the meeting at Seneca Falls, New York, where the American women’s rights movement was launched. Mott was elected president of the group in 1852.

Mott’s feminist philosophy was outlined in her Discourse on Women (1850). She believed women’s roles within society reflected limited education rather than innate inferiority. She advocated equal economic opportunity and supported women’s equal political status, including suffrage.

After the Civil War, Mott, unlike many abolitionists who believed their work was done, threw herself into the cause of black suffrage and aid for freedpeople. She also helped establish a coeducational Quaker institution, Swarthmore College, in 1864. Two years later, despite increasing ill health, she was elected head of the American Equal Rights Association. Unfortunately the group broke into factions, the National Woman Suffrage Association (headed by Stanton and Susan B. Anthony) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (led by Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and others).

Although viewed as a peacemaker by both abolitionists and feminists, Mott did not thrive on her role as referee, suffering increasingly from severe stomach disorders. Nevertheless she pursued her own path as a champion of the unempowered-the poor, blacks, and women. Using her gift for oratory, Mott delivered hundreds of speeches and sermons, reached thousands of listeners, and was a strong force in effecting the reforms of her day.

The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Sojourner Truth

Activist, Civil Rights Activist, Women's Rights Activist(c. 1797–1883)

Sojourner Truth is best known for her extemporaneous speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?" delivered at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in 1851.


Born in upstate New York circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. She devoted her life to the abolitionist cause and helped recruiting black troops for the Union Army. Her best-known speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?" was delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention.

Born Into Slavery

Born Isabella Baumfree circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was one of as many as 12 children born to James and Elizabeth Baumfree in the town of Swartekill, in Ulster County, New York. Truth's date of birth was not recorded, as was typical of children born into slavery, but historians estimate that she was likely born around 1797. Her father, James Baumfree, was a slave captured in modern-day Ghana; Elizabeth Baumfree, also known as Mau-Mau Bet, was the daughter of slaves from Guinea. The Baumfree family was owned by Colonel Hardenbergh, and lived at the colonel's estate in Esopus, New York, 95 miles north of New York City. The area had once been under Dutch control, and both the Baumfrees and the Hardenbaughs spoke Dutch in their daily lives.

After the colonel's death, ownership of the Baumfrees passed to his son, Charles. The Baumfrees were separated after the death of Charles Hardenbergh in 1806. The 9-year-old Truth, known as "Belle" at the time, was sold at an auction with a flock of sheep for $100. Her new owner was a man named John Neely, whom Truth remembered as harsh and violent. She would be sold twice more over the following two years, finally coming to reside on the property of John Dumont at West Park, New York. It was during these years that Truth learned to speak English for the first time.

Becoming a Wife and Mother

Around 1815, Truth fell in love with a slave named Robert from a neighboring farm. The two had a daughter, Diana. Robert's owner forbade the relationship, since Diana and any subsequent children produced by the union would be the property of John Dumont rather than himself. Robert and Sojourner Truth never saw each other again. In 1817, Dumont compelled Truth to marry an older slave named Thomas. Their marriage produced a son, Peter, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Sophia.

Early Years of Freedom

The state of New York, which had begun to negotiate the abolition of slavery in 1799, emancipated all slaves on July 4, 1827. The shift did not come soon enough for Truth. After John Dumont reneged on a promise to emancipate Truth in late 1826, she escaped to freedom with her infant daughter, Sophia. Her other daughter and son stayed behind. Shortly after her escape, Truth learned that her son Peter, then 5 years old, had been illegally sold to a man in Alabama. She took the issue to court and eventually secured Peter's return from the South. The case was one of the first in which a black woman successfully challenged a white man in a United States court.

Sojourner Truth's early years of freedom were marked by several strange hardships. Having converted to Christianity, Truth moved with her son Peter to New York City in 1829, where she worked as a housekeeper for Christian evangelist Elijah Pierson. She then moved on to the home of Robert Matthews, also known as Prophet Matthias, for whom she also worked as a domestic. Matthews had a growing reputation as a con man and a cult leader. Shortly after Truth changed households, Elijah Pierson died. Robert Matthews was accused of poisoning Pierson in order to benefit from his personal fortune, and the Folgers, a couple who were members of his cult, attempted to implicate Truth in the crime. In the absence of adequate evidence, Matthews was acquitted. Having become a favorite subject of the penny press, he subsequently moved west. In 1835 Truth brought a slander suit against the Folgers and won.

After Truth's successful rescue of her son, Peter, from slavery in Alabama, the boy stayed with his mother until 1839. At that time, Peter took a job on a whaling ship called the Zone of Nantucket. Truth received three letters from her son between 1840 and 1841. When the ship returned to port in 1842, however, Peter was not on board. Truth never heard from him again.

Fighting for Abolition and Women's Rights

On June 1, 1843, Isabella Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth, devoting her life to Methodism and the abolition of slavery. In 1844, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded by abolitionists, the organization supported a broad reform agenda including women's rights and pacifism. Members lived together on 500 acres as a self-sufficient community. Truth met a number of leading abolitionists at Northampton, including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and David Ruggles.
Although the Northampton community disbanded in 1846, Sojourner Truth's career as an activist and reformer was just beginning. In 1850 her memoirs were published under the title The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. Truth dictated her recollections to a friend, Olive Gilbert, since she could not read or write, and William Lloyd Garrison wrote the book's preface. That same year, Truth spoke at the first National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. She soon began touring regularly with abolitionist George Thompson, speaking to large crowds on the subjects of slavery and human rights. She was one of several escaped slaves, along with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, to rise to prominence as an abolitionist leader and a testament to the humanity of enslaved people.

In May of 1851, Truth delivered a speech at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron. The extemporaneous speech, recorded by several observers, would come to be known as "Ain't I a Woman?" The first version of the speech, published a month later by Marius Robinson, editor of Ohio newspaper The Anti-Slavery Bugle, did not include the question "Ain't I a woman?" even once. Robinson had attended the convention and recorded Truth's words himself. The famous phrase would appear in print 12 years later, as the refrain of a Southern-tinged version of the speech. It is unlikely that Sojourner Truth, a native of New York whose first language was Dutch, would have spoken in this Southern idiom.

Truth continued to tour Ohio from 1851 to 1853, working closely with Robinson to publicize the antislavery movement in the state. As Truth's reputation grew and the abolition movement gained momentum, she drew increasingly larger and more hospitable audiences. Even in abolitionist circles, some of Truth's opinions were considered radical. She sought political equality for all women, and chastised the abolitionist community for failing to seek civil rights for black women as well as men. She openly expressed concern that the movement would fizzle after achieving victories for black men, leaving both white and black women without suffrage and other key political rights.

Advocacy During the Civil War

Sojourner Truth put her reputation to work during the Civil War, helping to recruit black troops for the Union Army. She encouraged her grandson, James Caldwell, to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. In 1864, Truth was called to Washington, D.C., to contribute to the National Freedman's Relief Association. On at least one occasion, Truth met and spoke with President Abraham Lincoln about her beliefs and her experience.

True to her broad reform ideals, Truth continued to agitate for change even after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. In 1865, Truth attempted to force the desegregation of streetcars in Washington by riding in cars designated for whites. A major project of her later life was the movement to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves. She argued that ownership of private property, and particularly land, would give African Americans self-sufficiency and free them from a kind of indentured servitude to wealthy landowners. Although Truth pursued this goal forcefully for many years, she was unable to sway Congress.

Death and Legacy

Sojourner Truth died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 26, 1883. She is buried alongside her family at Battle Creek's Oak Hill Cemetery. Until old age intervened, Truth continued to speak passionately on the subjects of women's rights, universal suffrage and prison reform. She was also an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, testifying before the Michigan state legislature against the practice. She also championed prison reform in Michigan and across the country. While always controversial, Truth was embraced by a community of reformers including Amy Post, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony—friends with whom she collaborated until the end of her life.

Truth is remembered as one of the foremost leaders of the abolition movement and an early advocate of women's rights. Although she began her career as an abolitionist, the reform causes she sponsored were broad and varied, including prison reform, property rights and universal suffrage. Abolition was one of the few causes that Truth was able to see realized in her lifetime. Her fear that abolitionism would falter before achieving equality for women proved prophetic.

The Constitutional Amendment barring suffrage discrimination based on sex was not ratified until 1920, nearly four decades after Sojourner Truth's death.

Born on Feb. 15, 1820, in Adams, Mass., Susan B. Anthony was a pioneer crusader for the woman suffrage movement in the United States and president (1892-1900) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Her work helped pave the way for the Nineteenth Amendment (1920) to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

Born on February 15, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts, Anthony grew up in a politically active family. They worked to end slavery in what was called the abolitionist movement. They were also part of the temperance movement, which wanted the production and sale of alcohol limited or stopped completely. Anthony was inspired to fight for women’s rights while campaigning against alcohol. She denied a chance to speak at a temperance convention because she was a woman. Anthony later realized that no one would take women in politics seriously unless they had the right to vote.
Along with activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. Around this time, the two created and produced The Revolution, a weekly publication that lobbied for women’s rights. Later the pair edited three volumes of History of Woman Suffrage together.

Anthony was tireless in her efforts, giving speeches around the country to convince others to support a woman’s right to vote. She even took matters into her own hands in 1872 when she voted in the presidential election illegally. Anthony was arrested and tried unsuccessfully to fight the charges. She ended up being fined $100 – a fine she never paid.

When Anthony died on March 13, 1906, women still did not have the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1920, 14 years after her death, that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving all adult women the right to vote, was passed. In recognition of her dedication and hard work, the U.S. Treasury Department put Anthony’s portrait on one dollar coins in 1979, making her the first woman to be so honored.

Biography courtesy of

Women's Suffrage

When and where did women earn the right to vote?

Learn the year in which women's suffrage was granted, organized by year. New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote (in 1893), while the King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia granted women the right to vote in 2011. The United States finally began allowing women to vote in 1920, after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
  • 1893 New Zealand
  • 1902 Australia1
  • 1906 Finland
  • 1913 Norway
  • 1915 Denmark
  • 1917 Canada2
  • 1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
  • 1919 Netherlands
  • 1920 United States
  • 1921 Sweden
  • 1928 Britain, Ireland
  • 1931 Spain
  • 1934 Turkey
  • 1944 France
  • 1945 Italy
  • 1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
  • 1949 China
  • 1950 India
  • 1954 Colombia
  • 1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
  • 1962 Algeria
  • 1963 Iran, Morocco
  • 1964 Libya
  • 1967 Ecuador
  • 1971 Switzerland
  • 1972 Bangladesh
  • 1974 Jordan
  • 1976 Portugal
  • 1989 Namibia
  • 1990 Western Samoa
  • 1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
  • 1994 South Africa
  • 2005 Kuwait
  • 2006 United Arab Emirates
  • 2011 Saudi Arabia3
NOTE: One country does not allow their people, male or female, to vote: Brunei.
1. Australian women, with the exception of aboriginal women, won the vote in 1902. Aborigines, male and female, did not have the right to vote until 1962.
2. Canadian women, with the exception of Canadian Indian women, won the vote in 1917. Canadian Indians, male and female, did not win the vote until 1960. Source: The New York Times, May 22, 2005.
3. King Abdullah issued a decree in 2011 ordering that women be allowed to stand as candidates and vote in municipal elections, but their first opportunity did not come until Dec. 2015, almost a year after the king's death in January.

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