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Women's Suffrage Centennial: Key Figures of the Movement

The long history of the Suffrage movement.

Prominent Figures of the Women's Suffrage Movement

This page contains brief biographies on some key figures of the Women's Suffrage Movement. Scroll down the page for biographical information on:

Susan B. Anthony - Lucy Burns - Carrie Chapman Catt - Frederick Douglass - Frances Ellen Watkins Harper - Lucretia Mott - Alice Paul - Elizabeth Cady Stanton - Lucy Stone - Mary E. Church Terrell - Sojourner Truth - Ida B. Wells

Lucretia Mott (1793-1880)

Massachusetts native Lucretia Mott is widely considered the primary founder of the Women's Suffrage Movement in America. A staunch progressive and lifelong abolitionist and advocate for women's rights, she began her career as a schoolteacher and Quaker minister who soon became known for her eloquent speeches. She was an early supporter of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and in 1840 traveled with her husband to London to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention, where she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The two women, after male attendees banned women from the event, joined forces to organize and advocate, and together, they planned and executed the seminal Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Like Stanton, she published seminal works arguing for women's equality, including Discourse on Women (1850).

Mott was the most prominent white woman in the abolition movement, and continued to use her status and notoriety to fundraise and advocate for the rights of both Black Americans and women after the Civil War; she pushed hard for equal education for both, and helped found both the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College. She was equally passionate about both causes, and when the push for the 15th Amendment caused a rift between her Women's Suffrage Movement colleagues Stanton and Anthony and other movement leaders like Lucy Stone, Frederick Douglass and Frances Harper, Mott worked diligently to bring the two factions together. 

After the war, Mott continued to be a Suffrage Movement leader, heading the American Equal Rights Association, presiding over the 1866 Equal Rights Convention, and providing invaluable mentorship to activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her lifelong fight to ensure equal rights for women and Black Americans set the standard for many who would follow in her footsteps. 

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Photo: Library of Congress (public domain)

Sources: Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas & Weather Guide; Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Women's Biography; American Women's Almanac: 500 Years of Making History; A to Z of Women: American Women Leaders & Activists

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

A lifelong advocate for both civil rights and voting rights, Susan B. Anthony was one of the leaders of the modern Women's Suffrage movement that followed the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Her Quaker faith and exposure to the teachings of key abolitionist leaders as a youngster led her to join their cause, and she joined the Suffrage movement after meeting Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851. A master of behind the scenes organizing, she was responsible for putting the movement on the map with lectures and conventions. At the beginning of the Civil War, she put the Women's Suffrage movement on hold to advocate for the abolitionist cause, and with Stanton led an influential petition drive calling for passage of the 13th Amendment. However, in the post-war push for the 15th Amendment, she was with Stanton a firm believer that the cause of Women's Suffrage should not be subordinated to the amendment's core tenet of voting and political rights for Black men, instead proposing that the amendment should guarantee voting rights for both; the rift significantly harmed both movements.

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Photo: Library of Congress (public domain)

In 1872, she was arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, N.Y. for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant for president, a move that while only drawing a minor fine, gained national attention for the Suffrage Movement. Towards the end of the 19th century, Anthony and Stanton eventually changed tactics, advocating for the position that the 14th & 15th Amendments permitted universal suffrage for all men and women of voting age, and in 1890, they united the disparate factions of the movement by founding the National American Woman Suffrage Association; Anthony was subsequently elected its first president. At her death in 1906, she had spent over 50 years fighting for voting rights, but sadly did not live to see her life's dream of suffrage for women. (The right to vote would not become reality for most Black women until the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.)

Sources: Encyclopedia of Emancipation & Abolition in the Transatlantic World; Susan B. Anthony Center, University of Rochester; The American Women's Almanac: 500 Years of Making History; Reader's Companion to American History

Sojourner Truth (ca. 1797-1883)

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Photo: Public domain

Preacher and activist Sojourner Truth was born an enslaved person with the given name Isabella Baumfree; she endured the difficult circumstances of her early life in rural New York sustained by her Christian faith. In 1827, she gained her freedom, and wound up in New York City, where she underwent a religious conversion, became a minister, and began traveling to preach. Truth believe herself to be a mystic and although illiterate, she was extremely knowledgeable in biblical scripture.  

Although she was not directly connected to the abolition or Women's Suffrage movements, her ability to draw attention to these causes made her  invaluable to both. She was first exposed to the abolitionist cause in 1843, when she met prominent leaders such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, and was introduced to the women's rights movement a few years later. She spoke at the first National Women's Rights Convention, and became a dedicated proponent of both causes in her many public speaking engagements. Perhaps her most notable contribution to the Suffrage Movement was her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, delivered at a convention in 1851. Speaking passionately about her harsh life as an enslaved person, she used it as an example of women's endurance as well as the injustice they suffered due to their lack of autonomy. Like Susan B. Anthony, she attempted to vote in the 1872 election, and was turned away. 

She spent the latter part of her life in Michigan, continuing to travel the country to advocate for the rights of women and Black Americans, and was so popular a speaker that she received an invitation to visit President Ulysses S. Grant at the White House. Her memoir The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, is considered a landmark of American literature. 

Sources: Gale Biographies: Popular People; Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic Worl

Frederick Douglass (ca.1817-1895)

Frederick Douglass, indisputably one of the most electrifying speakers and compelling writers of the 19th century, was a key voice for Women's Suffrage, and was the only Black American to attend the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, where he spoke eloquently in favor of voting rights for women. 

Douglass was born enslaved in coastal Maryland, but a lucrative foreign speaking tour after the 1845 publication of his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass enabled him to purchase his freedom, and he settled in Rochester, N.Y., (also the home of Susan B. Anthony), where he founded The North Star, which he used as outlet for the causes of both abolition and women's rights.

During the Civil War, he settled in Washington, D.C., where he was an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln. After the war, he lectured widely on both women's rights and racial issues, but split with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the push for the 15th Amendment. They all agreed that the voting rights guaranteed to Black men by the proposed amendment had broad support, but they parted ways over how to take advantage of that support. Stanton and Anthony wanted use that leverage to include voting rights for women in the amendment as well, while Douglass and others felt that the Women's Suffrage issue was too divisive, and that priority should be given to granting Black men the right to vote, as linking the causes together would cause both to fail. Douglass would continue to insist to Stanton and Anthony that his firm belief in the cause of Women's Suffrage had never wavered, but their relationship remained fraught for some years afterward.

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Photo: Public domain

Sources: Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World; Encyclopedia of American Studies; Reader's Companion to American History; Seneca Falls & the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement; The Columbia EncyclopediaFrederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings

Lucy Stone (1818-1893)

Born to a large family in central Massachusetts, Lucy Stone was driven to get an education. She graduated from Oberlin College, supporting herself by teaching both white and Black students. Stone was introduced to the abolitionist cause as a teenager, and after college was hired by the American Anti-Slavery Society as a speaker. A powerful and passionate orator, she discussed issues of women's rights as well as advocating for abolition, connecting with audiences through a combination of logical argument and personal experience.

During the Civil War, Stone helped found the Woman's National Loyal League, which espoused full emancipation and enfranchisement for all Black Americans. After the war, she helped establish the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), an organization focused upon granting universal voting rights in the United States.

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Photo: Library of Congress (public domain)

Stone continued speaking, advocating both for the 15th Amendment and for women's rights/suffrage. Although she had long been a colleague of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, she joined with Frederick Douglass, Frances Harper and others to split with them over the direction of the 15th Amendment. Believing that the amendment should only address voting rights for Black men and that including women's voting rights would doom both causes, she formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA); Stanton and Anthony in turn formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. As leader of AWSA, Stone founded the Woman’s Journal which, as editor, she transformed into a leading voice of the women's movement. 

Stone's health began to deteriorate, and she stepped back from speaking engagements; reconciling with Stanton and Anthony, in 1890 she merged AWSA  with their organization to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), where she chaired the executive committee. At her death in 1893, she, like Anthony, had spent over 50 years advocating for civil rights and Women's Suffrage.

Sources: Encyclopedia of Motherhood; Encyclopedia of Emancipation & Abolition in the Transatlantic World

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)

 

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Photo: Public domain

Journalist, educator and activist Ida B. Wells was a forceful advocate for Black Americans and women, and played an essential role in the Women's Suffrage movement. Born enslaved in Mississippi, she was college educated and forged a career as a public school teacher before becoming a journalist. She reported extensively on lynchings in America, and traveled the country to speak out on the subject.

Wells was among the founders of the NAACP and the National Association of Colored Women, and was a leader in several women's suffrage organizations including the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago, which she founded in 1913. She also founded the Alpha Suffrage Record newspaper.

Later in 1913, the Alpha Suffrage Club marched in the seminal Women's Suffrage Procession in Washington D.C.; membership voiced its disapproval of march leaders' placement of Black marchers at the rear of the parade as a concession to southern suffragists, and many either did not march or joined the parade elsewhere. Wells disregarded instructions altogether, taking her rightful place in the front of the parade between other movement leaders.

After the parade, Wells continued to organize and advocate for anti-lynching legislation, for women's rights and for social justice and equality for Black Americans. Admittedly a difficult personality, she did not often achieve leadership positions in the many advocacy organizations to which she belonged (several of which she had founded), but nevertheless stands as a major figure in Black history and progressive activism.

Sources: American Women's Almanac: 500 Years of Making History; Encyclopedia of African American Politics; Encyclopedia of Women & American Politics

Problematic Figures & Issues

The Portrait Monument, U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Washington D.C.

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Photo: U.S. Air Force

Although Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul are considered three of the major architects of Women's Suffrage, they are somewhat problematic figures in terms of the causes of social justice and equality for Black Americans. As delineated in biographies appearing on this page, both Stanton and Anthony split with abolitionists over contents of the 15th Amendment, while both the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and Alice Paul attempted to appease southern suffragist organizations and took controversial positions on issues like the participation of Black Women's Suffrage groups in the 1913 Suffrage Procession

Stanton, Anthony Split with Douglass on 15th Amendment

While Anthony and Stanton organized a petition drive that significantly assisted the passage of the 13th Amendment, in the push for the 15th Amendment, there was significant tension that caused a rift among activists. There was general agreement by Anthony, Paul and Black activists like Frances Harper and Frederick Douglass that the voting rights guaranteed to Black men by the proposed amendment had broad support, but they split over how to take advantage of that support. Stanton and Anthony wanted to use that leverage to include voting rights for women in the amendment as well, and made statements to the effect that the rights of (white) women ought not to be subjugated to those of Black men. Douglass and others felt that the Women's Suffrage issue was too divisive, and that priority should be given to granting Black men the right to vote, as linking the causes together would cause both to fail. Ultimately, the amendment did not include women's voting rights. Stanton was a particularly frustrating figure in the movement; despite her fierce intelligence and grounding in the abolition movement, she occasionally included racial slurs in her speeches.

 

NAWSA, Alice Paul and the 1913 Suffrage Procession

NAWSA adopted a "states' rights" platform in 1903 to mollify southern suffrage groups whose allegiance was necessary to the cause; signers to this platform included Carrie Chapman Catt and Susan B. Anthony. It essentially nullified the issue of voting rights for Black women within the organization, declaring white women's suffrage as NAWSA's primary goal. Black women had been forming suffrage groups for some time, many of which were on college campuses, and they resented the segregation and exclusion. The issue came to a head during the planning of the 1913 Suffrage Procession, when a Black women's group from Howard University declared their intention to march. Alice Paul initially included them in the parade lineup with other college groups, but was persuaded by segregationists that this would cause tension among participants and garner negative press coverage. She tried to keep the story out of the press but was unsuccessful. Ultimately, the official stance of organizers was that all were permitted to march, but that Black women were officially set to march behind male supporters near the back of the parade; while some in the parade attempted to execute this objective, some Black women ended up marching with their state delegations instead of at the back, and Ida B. Wells marched at the front with other movement leaders. The "greater good" of the movement was always Paul's ultimate priority, and in this case, she placed successful execution of the march ahead of equal rights for all women. She later asserted that NAWSA stood for suffrage for all women and that she had always supported participation of Black women, but continued to play down her role in the concessions made to southern segregationists.

Sources: The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement 1890-1920; American Women's Almanac: 500 Years of Making HistoryAlice Paul: Claiming Power; "Marching for the Vote" (Library of Congress); "I Was Arrested, of Course" (interview w Alice Paul, American Heritage); "Colored Women in Suffrage Parade" (Richmond Times-Dispatch); "6 Surprising Facts About the 19th Amendment" (PBS video)

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)

Novelist, poet, short story writer, essayist, journalist, orator and activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was one of the most dynamic orators and best-known writers of the 19th century. Born in Maryland, Harper moved to Ohio and became a schoolteacher, but changed careers to join the abolition movement. She became a powerful public speaker on the subject, traveling on speaking tours with the likes of Frederick Douglass and Lucretia Mott. She also began a long and prolific writing career.

After the Civil War, Harper continued writing, speaking and advocating for civil rights, concentrating in particular on improving the lives of Black women, and often incorporated her own original prose and poetry in her fiery addresses. Although a staunch advocate for voting rights for all women, she did part ways with Suffrage leaders like Anthony and Stanton in the post-war push for ratification of the 15th Amendment; while they all agreed that every woman deserved equality before the law, Harper argued that granting Black men the right to vote helped the cause of Black women and children, and that Women's Suffrage could be put on hold until the Amendment was ratified.

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Photo: Public domain

Harper became a prominent speaker for and member of several leading women's organizations, including the American Woman Suffrage Association and the American Equal Rights Association. She also co-founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) with Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Harriet Tubman and others. She continued her staunch advocacy for Black women, writing and lecturing on civil rights and social reform right up to her death in 1911. Like her contemporaries Anthony and Stanton, she had spent much of her life advocating for women's rights, but did not live to see Women's Suffrage become reality. In truth, it would not become reality for most Black women until the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Sources: Encyclopedia of African American Literature; Defining Moments: Reconstruction

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947)

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Photo: Library of Congress (public domain)

Midwesterner Carrie Chapman Catt was a woman who accomplished many firsts: she was one of the first female superintendents of schools in the state of Iowa, and in 1885, one of San Francisco’s first female journalists. Prior to her second marriage, she designed a pre-nuptial agreement that carved out four months per year to advocate on behalf of Women's Suffrage.

The battle for ratification of the 15th Amendment divided the Women's Suffrage movement, but in 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), an organization founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, brought the disparate factions together. The unity proved somewhat short-lived, however. Stanton and Anthony continued their push for a constitutional Women's Suffrage amendment, and when Anthony retired as NAWSA president in 1900, she chose Catt as her successor. However, when the latter assumed leadership, she abandoned the amendment push in favor of her state by state advocacy strategy. She also forged partnerships overseas, helping to found the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in 1904, and later touring Asia and Africa to promote the cause.

Catt cofounded the Woman's Peace Party with Jane Addams in 1915, but when the U.S. entered World War I, she encouraged women to support the war effort because she believed that this display of patriotism would garner sympathy for women's voting rights. As president of NAWSA, she continued to push for suffrage at the state level, while the more militant Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the National Woman's Party, leading the movement for a constitutional amendment from their home base in Washington. In the end, it was the combined efforts of both factions that enabled final passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. 

After women gained the vote at last*, Catt suggested the establishment of the League of Women Voters in order to facilitate women's entry into the voting booth. She spent the remainder of her life as an advocate for world peace, and established the Conference on the Cause and Cure of War. 

*Voting rights would not become reality for Black women until the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Sources: Britannica Concise Encyclopedia; Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches; Encyclopedia of American Political Parties & Elections; The American Women's Almanac 500 Years of Making History; American Biographies: American Social Leaders & Activists

Alice Paul (1885-1977)

New Jersey native Alice Paul, along with her longtime colleague Lucy Burns, was one of the driving forces behind final passage of the 19th Amendment granting Women's Suffrage. The product of a privileged background, she took advantage of her educational opportunities, earning a Ph.D in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912. Prior to the doctorate, Paul studied at the London School of Economics, where she befriended English suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst. Like her longtime friend and colleague Burns, she embraced the suffragist movement, participating in countless demonstrations and other acts of civil disobedience that resulted in imprisonment. With Burns, she participated in hunger strikes and endured brutal force feedings.

Upon her return to the U.S., she was driven to bring the same tactics of direct action to the American suffrage movement. She joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), assuming leadership of the committee working on a constitution amendment. Paul reunited with Burns, and they began planning the 1913 Woman's Suffrage Procession, which was set to coincide with the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. The 8,000 who marched attracted an estimated 500,000 onlookers and national press coverage.*

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Photo: Public domain

However, soon frustrated with NAWSA's state by state strategy to push for women's suffrage, Paul and Burns split with the organization in 1914 and founded the Congressional Union (later the National Woman's Party) to continue their direct action pressure campaign for a suffrage amendment. They believed that the way to get results on Capitol Hill was to force President Woodrow Wilson to come out in favor of their cause, and in 1917, they recruited an army of volunteers to engage in daily pickets outside the White House fence; dubbed the "Silent Sentinels,", the protestors held colorful banners directly addressing Wilson, confronting him for his lack of action.

The tactics, initially a minor nuisance to the president, ultimately forced his hand, as local police began to arrest the picketers; most of the women ended up spending time in horrific conditions in a workhouse in Virginia, where they engaged in hunger strikes to protest their increasingly harsh treatment. As they had in England, the strikes resulted in retaliation, including force feedings. Both Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were arrested and jailed multiple times, and were the primary targets of the torturous feedings due to their leadership status within the National Woman's Party (NWP).

The protests continued until 1919, when, along with NAWSA's pressure at the state level, they eventually brought about introduction and passage of the Suffrage Amendment. The campaign for ratification was equally arduous, as the amendment faced opposition not just from the existing male power structure, but from women's groups; in the end, it came down to a single vote in the Tennessee legislature.

After ratification of the Suffrage Amendment in 1920, Paul remained at the NWP to continue her work for women's rights, turning her attention to an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which sought to eliminate gender-based discrimination. Drafted by Paul, it was introduced to Congress in 1923; the ERA was finally passed by Congress in 1972, but ratification efforts failed by three states. 

*See "Problematic Figures" box on this page for more detail about Alice Paul's role in the 1913 Procession.

Sources: Milestone Documents of Civli Rights Leaders; The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of FameEncyclopedia of Women & American PoliticsThe American Women's Almanac: 500 Years of Making History

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

 

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Photo: Library of Congress (public domain)

New York-born Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a founding figure in the fight for women's rights in the United States. Well-educated and intellectual, Stanton was a staunch reformer and early advocate for the abolitionist cause, traveling abroad to attend conventions. She met Lucretia Mott in London at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention, and, frustrated after male attendees banned women from the event, the two soon joined forces to organize and advocate. Together, they planned and executed the seminal Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, and were among the authors of the Declaration of Sentiments, the foundational document of the women's movement that included a list of reforms including voting rights for women.

in 1851, Stanton met Susan B. Anthony, and the two forged a lifelong partnership. Together they published the three-volume History of Woman Suffrage, (a tome that while fairly comprehensive, did not adequately cover the contributions of Black women), organized lectures and educational programs and testified before legislative bodies on both voting and property rights for women. Like her friend and colleague Anthony, Stanton presided over key leadership organizations of the movement, including the National American Woman Suffrage Association (an organization that the two women founded to mend the rift that had occurred in the push for the 15th Amendment).* However, after Stanton published The Woman's Bible in 1895, she was pushed out of the organization altogether when more conservative members argued she was harming the Suffrage Movement because she was "too radical."

Nevertheless, the forward thinking Stanton never hesitated to express her opinion, and continued to be a prolific writer, speaker and advocate for women; sadly, like Anthony, Harper and Mott, she did not live to see (primarily white) women gain the right to vote. (Voting rights would not become reality for most Black women until the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act).

*See "Problematic Figures" box on this page for more detail about Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Sources: American Governance; Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History; Penguin Biographical Dictionary of Women; Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature; Reader's Companion to American History; "6 Surprising Facts About the 19th Amendment" (PBS Video)

Mary E. Church Terrell (1863–1954)

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Photo: Public domain

Born in Tennessee, Mary E. Church Terrell was sent to Ohio by her family in order to have access to better educational opportunities. She was an Oberlin College graduate, after which she spent two years abroad studying several foreign languages. She began a teaching career at Wilberforce College before moving to Washington D.C. to become a high school teacher. In Washington, she also began a career as an activist, founding the Colored Woman's League (later the National Association of Colored Women) in 1892. She was also the first Black woman to serve on the D.C. school board, as well as a charter member of the newly formed NAACP.

Fluent in several languages, she was in demand as a orator both in the United States and abroad, often speaking out against lynching and in favor of women's rights; she addressed the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention several times. Terrell met and befriended Susan B. Anthony in 1898, and later joined forces with Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and other Washington-based advocates in the campaign for passage of the 19th Amendment. She participated in the suffragist pickets in front of the White House in 1919.

She viewed sexism and racism as interrelated problems, and spent her life campaigning both for women's rights and for civil rights and equality for Black Americans. Terrell took an increasingly militant stance as she became more politically engaged, and trained her focus on the issue of desegregation towards the end of her life. She published her memoir A Colored Woman in a White World in 1940.

Sources: African American Almanac; From Suffrage to the Senate: America's Political Women; Encyclopedia of African American Politics

Lucy Burns (1879–1966)

Brooklyn, N.Y. native Lucy Burns, along with her friend and colleague Alice Paul, was instrumental in the enactment of the 19th Amendment. Highly educated and articulate, she became interested in the Women's Suffrage Movement while studying at Oxford. She soon was heavily engaged, and became a leader in the English suffrage movement led by Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst, where she participated in civil disobedience that resulted in multiple arrests. Like her jailed compatriots, she protested her imprisonment by conducting hunger strikes, and endured punishing force feedings. 

Returning to the states in 1912, she joined the National American Women's Association (NAWSA), where she met Alice Paul. Together, they joined the organization's Congressional Committee, where they devised an aggressive strategy designed to compel the U.S. Congress to act on the issue of Women's Suffrage. With Paul, she planned and executed the seminal 1913 Women's Suffrage Procession in Washington, D.C. 

 

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Photo: Library of Congress (public domain)

The two eventually broke with NAWSA in 1914, forming the Congressional Union (later the National Woman's Party) to advance their activism for women's suffrage. Paul and Burns employed civil disobedience tactics learned from the Pankhursts, organizing women to engage in picket lines in front of the White House in 1917 (the first such demonstration on White House grounds) as what came to be known as "Silent Sentinels."  Initially given little attention, as the United States edged closer to involvement in World War I, the picketers began to display more provocative signs like those comparing President Woodrow Wilson to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, and eventually began to be arrested.

The women, many of whom were arrested multiple times, were taken to a workhouse in Virginia, where they were brutalized repeatedly; the hunger strikes Burns organized in protest of this treatment led to horrific force feedings. As one of the central figures of the National Woman's Party, Burns suffered some of he harshest treatment, and spent the most time behind bars.

The aggressive tactics employed by Burns and Paul along with Carrie Chapman Catt's state by state campaign eventually forced the issue before Congress, where Burns was its primary advocate. However, after more than two years of intensive activism in support of the 19th Amendment both on Capitol Hill and around the country, an exhausted Burns retired to Brooklyn not long after its ratification in 1920. Her longtime colleague Alice Paul remained in Washington to continue the push for women's rights.

In reality, the 19th Amendment only guaranteed voting rights to white women, and access was not universal even to them. Voting rights would not become reality for most Black women until the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Source: The American Women's Almanac: 500 Years of Making History