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Women's Suffrage (HHH Exhibit): Early years 1848-1899

Subject guide as a companion to the exhibit at the Hays-Heighe House in February to mark the occasion of the 100 year anniversary of the nineteenth amendment.

Setting the stage for suffrage

In the mid 1800's, women are becoming more interested in social causes such as abolition, child labor and safety laws, environmental protections (clean water, sewage management), and temperance among others. At the same time, it is still considered improper for women to be involved in politics or protest of any kind. 

Seneca Falls, NY 1848

Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton lead a group to develop the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, a list of demands including the right to vote. It is presented at the Seneca Falls Convention (Seneca Falls, NY) which is considered the first US convention dedicated to women's rights. 

Frederick Douglass, a prominent abolitionist, attends the convention and helps convince attendees to approve the the declaration.

Lucretia Mott

[Lucretia (Coffin) Mott, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing right]

Women's Rights Convention: Akron, OH 1851

Sojourner Truth gives the now famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech at the first National Women's Suffrage Convention. The link she makes between oppressions of race and sex stirs controversy among white suffragists.

[Sojourner Truth, three-quarter length portrait, standing, wearing spectacles, shawl, and peaked cap, right hand resting on cane]

Civil War/ 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments: 1863-1870

The Civil War puts the women's rights movement on hold. Many suffragists believe that their part in the war will be repaid with the vote. 

The fifteenth amendment, passed in 1869, does not include sex, against which the vote could be prohibited. This causes a rift within the suffrage movement and is only the beginning of a complex relationship between race and sex as it relates to women's suffrage.

Suffrage Split 1869

The National Women's Suffrage Association, which protested the omission of women from the Reconstruction amendments, was largely led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. They focused on the goal of a federal amendment to give all women the vote.

The American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone, focused on a state-by-state suffrage strategy.


Womens rights activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left) and Susan B. Anthony. The Library of Congress.