Seneca Falls Convention

woman suffrage

woman suffrage, the right of women to vote. Throughout the latter part of the 19th cent. the issue of women's voting rights was an important phase of feminism.

In the United States

It was first seriously proposed in the United States at Seneca Falls, N.Y., July 19, 1848, in a general declaration of the rights of women prepared by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and several others. The early leaders of the movement in the United States—Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, Abby Kelley Foster, Angelina Grimké, Sarah Grimké, and others—were usually also advocates of temperance and of the abolition of slavery. When, however, after the close of the Civil War, the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) gave the franchise to newly emancipated African-American men but not to the women who had helped win it for them, the suffragists for the most part confined their efforts to the struggle for the vote.

The National Woman Suffrage Association, led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was formed in 1869 to agitate for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Another organization, the American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone, was organized the same year to work through the state legislatures. These differing approaches—i.e., whether to seek a federal amendment or to work for state amendments—kept the woman-suffrage movement divided until 1890, when the two societies were united as the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Later leaders included Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt.

Several of the states and territories (with Wyoming first, 1869) granted suffrage to the women within their borders; when in 1913 there were 12 of these, the National Woman's party, under the leadership of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and others, resolved to use the voting power of the enfranchised women to force a suffrage resolution through Congress and secure ratification from the state legislatures. In 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution granted nation-wide suffrage to women.

In Great Britain

The movement in Great Britain began with Chartism, but it was not until 1851 that a resolution in favor of female suffrage was presented in the House of Lords by the earl of Carlyle. John Stuart Mill was the most influential of the British advocates; his Subjection of Women (1869) is one of the earliest, as well as most famous, arguments for the right of women to vote. Among the leaders in the early British suffrage movement were Lydia Becker, Barbara Bodichon, Emily Davies, and Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson; Jacob Bright presented a bill for woman suffrage in the House of Commons in 1870. In 1881 the Isle of Man granted the vote to women who owned property. Local British societies united in 1897 into the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, of which Millicent Garrett Fawcett was president until 1919.

In 1903 a militant suffrage movement emerged under the leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters; their organization was the Women's Social and Political Union. The militant suffragists were determined to keep their objective prominent in the minds of both legislators and the public, which they did by heckling political speakers, by street meetings, and in many other ways. The leaders were frequently imprisoned for inciting riot; many of them used the hunger strike. When World War I broke out, the suffragists ceased all militant activity and devoted their powerful organization to the service of the government. After the war a limited suffrage was granted; in 1928 voting rights for men and women were equalized.

In Other Countries

On the European mainland, Finland (1906) and Norway (1913) were the first to grant woman suffrage; in France, women voted in the first election (1945) after World War II. Belgium granted suffrage to women in 1946. In Switzerland, however, women were denied the vote in federal elections until 1971. Among the Commonwealth nations, New Zealand granted suffrage in 1893, Australia in 1902, Canada in 1917 (except in Quebec, where it was postponed until 1940). In Latin American countries, woman suffrage was granted in Brazil (1934), Salvador (1939), the Dominican Republic (1942), Guatemala (1945), and Argentina and Mexico (1946). In the Philippines women have voted since 1937, in Japan since 1945, in mainland China since 1947, and in the former Soviet Union since 1917. Women have been enfranchised in most of the countries of the Middle East where men can vote, with the exception of Saudi Arabia. In Africa, women were often enfranchised at the same time as men—e.g., in Liberia (1947), in Uganda (1958), and in Nigeria (1960). One of the first aims of the United Nations was to extend suffrage rights to the women of member nations, and in 1952 the General Assembly adopted a resolution urging such action; by the 1970s, most member nations were in compliance with it.

Bibliography

See The History of Woman's Suffrage (ed. by E. C. Stanton et al., 6 vol., 1881–1922); E. Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914, repr. 1970); M. Fawcett, What I Remember (1925); A. Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890–1920 (1965, repr. 1971); W. Severn, Free but Not Equal (1967); D. Morgan, Suffragists and Democrats (1972); B. Beeton, The Woman Suffrage Movement, 1869–1896 (1986); R. Darcy et al., Women, Elections and Representation (1987); L. Scharf and J. M. Jensen, ed., Decades of Discontent: The Women's Movement, 1920–40 (1987).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Seneca Falls Convention: Selected full-text books and articles

Women's Suffrage in America: An Eyewitness History By Elizabeth Frost; Kathryn Cullen-Dupont Facts on File, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Women of Seneca Falls: 1848-1849"
The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States By Alexander Keyssar Basic Books, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "From Seneca Falls to the Fifteenth Amendment" begins on p. 173
Religious Issues in Nineteenth Century Feminism By Donna A. Behnke Whitston, 1982
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IV "Seneca Falls"
From Preachers to Suffragists: Enlisting the Pulpit in the Early Movement for Woman's Rights By Zink-Sawyer, Beverly A ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly), Vol. 14, No. 3, September 2000
Man Cannot Speak for Her By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell Praeger Publishers, vol.1, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Woman's Rights Conventions: Ideological Crucibles"
Man Cannot Speak for Her By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell Praeger Publishers, vol.2, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Speech at the Seneca Falls Convention, 1848"
From One Voice A Chorus: Elizabeth Cady Stanton's 1860 Address to the New York State Legislature By Miller, Diane Helene Women's Studies in Communication, Vol. 22, No. 2, Fall 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Susan B. Anthony: The Woman Who Changed the Mind of a Nation By Rheta Childe Dorr Frederick A. Stokes, 1928
Librarian’s tip: "Seneca Falls Convention" begins on p. 46
A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women's Rights By Sherry H. Penney; James D. Livingston University of Massachusetts Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Seneca Falls: Abolition ot Woman's Rights"
The Columbia Guide to American Women in the Nineteenth Century By Catherine Clinton; Christine Lunardini Columbia University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Seneca Falls" begins on p. 114
Connecting Links: The British and American Woman Suffrage Movements, 1900-1914 By Patricia Greenwood Harrison Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the Seneca Falls convention begins on p. 1
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