The organized woman’s movement dates from 1848, when a convention to consider the rights of women was held in Seneca Falls, New York. The committee drafting the list of woman’s wrongs found her grievances against the government of men to be the same in number that American men had had against King George. It took George Washington six years to rectify men’s grievances by war, but it took seventy-two years to establish woman’s rights by law. At least one thousand legal enactments were necessary and every one was a struggle against ignorant opposition. Woman suffrage is the long story of hard work and heartache crowned by victory.
—Carrie Chapman Catt(audio clip at )
THE PURPOSE OF THIS annotated bibliography is twofold. The first purpose is to address the question raised by Phyllis Holman Wiesbard, “Where are women on the ‘net?” The second purpose is to explore how teachers can use the documents found on the world wide web to teach woman suffrage in their classrooms. Woman suffrage has proved to be a fruitful place to renew students’ interest in citizenship. While the American Revolution, Jacksonian Democracy, Civil War and Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement are familiar to students, the history of woman’s work to win full citizenship is often fuzzy at best. Many students are surprised to learn that there are stories in United States history that they have not yet heard. In addition to their surprise, students are often amazed by the wide range of activities and tactics women used to win woman suffrage. For example, the militant branch of the suffrage movement often flies in the face of students’ seemingly impenetrable monolithic notion that, “women were mainly in the home” prior to 1968.
This collection of sources is by no means exhaustive, it is a collection of women’s suffrage sites that are rich in primary sources and/or multi-media content. The secondary sources provide background information on a wide range of suffrage and anti-suffrage viewpoints.
General Suffrage Resources
One Woman, One Vote Web site
This PBS sponsored site has a valuable summary of the suffrage movement as well as a timeline. The “Short History of Suffrage” article covers topics ranging from the influence of the temperance movement, progressivism and race on woman suffrage, to the interplay between the militant and traditional branches of the suffrage movement in the 20th century. The depth of the “short” history makes it an essential starting point for teachers and students alike. While there are many timelines on woman suffrage on the web, this one is the most accurate and reflective of many people in the movement.
Votes for Woman Suffrage 1850–1920
Sponsored by the Library of Congress, this site is the best place to find pictures to illustrate the story of woman suffrage. The strength of the site is that it shows the full range of suffrage activities including African American leaders, like Mary Church Terrell, as well as anti-suffrage activities. It is a collection of images so one will need to go elsewhere to find sufficient text to support the images (see previous annotations).
Political Culture and Imagery of American Woman Suffrage
The iconography of woman suffrage is explained in this multimedia online exhibit sponsored by the National Women’s History Museum. The site is rich in text and images as well as audio of suffrage songs. The online exhibit format makes it a good site for students to explore independently. While the site does makes connections to international suffrage groups (the British woman suffrage movement), information on African American women’s contributions to woman suffrage are not included.
“Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less”: The Suffrage Movement from 1840–1920
The Library of Congress American Memories Fellows Program
You can explore the various and diverse ways that women worked to win suffrage at this Library of Congress site. Great documents, but limited by the lack of context needed to give full meaning to this important part of civics history. Creative lesson plans are also limited by the fact that the site focuses solely on women of the NAWSA. The revolutionary methods of the militant branch of the woman suffrage movement are glossed over and incorrectly placed on the timeline. For example, the 1913 entry states incorrectly, “Borrowing the tactics of the radical, militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in England, members of the Woman’s Party participate in hunger strikes, picket the White House, and engage in other forms of civil disobedience to publicize the suffrage cause.” The hunger strikes did not begin until January of 1917 when Wilson refused to meet with the then peaceful suffragists. By mushing all of these tactics together in 1913 the site de-emphasizes the evolutionary strategic process planned by the militant women. African American women have links to their pictures, but without context the use is tragically superficial.
Women in American Historyby the Encyclopedia of Britannica
Useful for “one stop shopping” for short biographies of women in American History. The strengths of the site are the general overviews and inclusion of a variety of women. The multimedia component contains an excellent one minute audio clip of Carrie Chapman Catt comparing woman’s fight for equality to man’s. The best way to find information specifically on woman suffrage is through the “Articles: Misc. by category” section. Here you will find short articles on organizations such as the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage as well as links to the founders of the organizations.
Woman Suffrage in Political Cartoons
BoondocksNet.com is a site sponsored and edited by independent scholar Jim Zwick. It illustrates key concepts like a comparison of the British and American Woman suffrage tactics.
Gifts of Speech at Sweet Briar College: Speeches by women from around the world
Students can reenact speeches made by women on woman suffrage. If you view the speeches by year it is easy to see which speeches apply to woman suffrage.
“What political rights did women have in 19th century Britain? Were there any changes?”
Students may gain an international perspective on women’s rights by investigating this site sponsored by Learning Curve. Learning Curve is a project sponsored by the British National Archives and is both teacher and student friendly. For teachers there are discussion questions for each document. Students are attracted to the simple design of the site which focuses on documents. In particular, students find the documents and video surrounding the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison compelling.
The sites in this section are less comprehensive than those listed above and should be used with other sites. An obvious pedagogical choice would be to have students become experts on one of the associations and report back to the class. Students could create pamphlets to try to entice their peers to join their suffrage organization.
The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs: “Lifting As We Climb”
The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs
The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs web page explains the purpose of the club founded in 1896 and has a short list of leaders from the club’s history.
African American woman suffrage documents on the web are tragically sparse, despite the active role of African American women in the fight for woman suffrage in groups like the NAWSA, NWP and the African American women’s clubs (which were largely dedicated to woman suffrage at this time). For example, Mary Church Terrell’s address before the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1898 entitled, “The Progress of Colored Women,” is indexed in the Library of Congress (LOC) African American Perspectives Pamphlet Collection, but not in the NAWSA collection. Pictures, however, of Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth can be found in the LOC: Votes for Woman Suffrage Collection.
Both Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells led delegations in the 1913 Suffrage March in Washington D.C. sponsored by the NAWSA. Mary Church Terrell and her daughter, Phyllis, picketed the White House with the more militant suffragists from the NWP in 1917.
African American Women’s Clubs at the Turn of the Century and Woman Suffrage
< http://www.wwnorton.com/ >
This link is no longer active, but the source is valuable for teachers.
For information on African American women’s clubs in general see the first chapter on nation-making in Deborah Gray White’s Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894–1994. This chapter makes excellent background reading for teachers as it highlights key suffrage issues and women like, Nellie Francis, Fannie Williams, Addie Dickerson and Anna Julia Cooper. The chapter also explains the complex relationship between white and black woman suffrage organizations.
Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction
The full text (searchable for suffrage) version of Homespun Heroines and other Women of Distinction by Hallie Q. Brown, is available from the Digital Schomburg African American Women Writers of the 19th Century. Homespun Heroines includes many leaders of the NACWC including Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Mrs. S. J. S. Garnett. By completing a search of the text for “suffrage” students will get beyond the notion of Sojourner Truth as the lone African American suffragist.
The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs Project
Sponsored by Howard University Archives Net: The Electronic Journal, while only a single document (the inaugural edition of the National Association Notes) showcases African American women’s work across the nation at the turn of the century. Students will see that African American women were devoted to a number of progressive issues. Most importantly, students can use the inaugural issue as a research springboard to locate African American women’s clubs across the nation that were members of the NACWC. For example, Mary Church Terrell, a founding member and president of the NACWC, spoke at the NAWSA convention in 1898, marched on Washington D.C. with the Congressional Committee in 1913, and picketed the White House in 1917 with the NWP.
Women and Colored Women, By Mrs. Mary B. Talbert
Read the editorial entitled “Women and Colored Women” by Mary Talbert (Vice-President at Large, 1915) in the NAACP’s journal The Crisis.
The National American Woman Suffrage Association: “The Winning Plan”
The National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, 1848–1921
The Library of Congress sponsored site’s search feature is useful when trying to find text and cartoon documents related to a particular topic associated with the NAWSA. Since this site is not an online exhibit, if you do not have a specific topic or person you are researching the site can be overwhelming.
The National Woman’s Party: “How long must we wait for liberty?”
Suffragists Speak: 1910–1920
Suffragists Speak is the premiere multimedia site on woman suffrage. Sponsored by the University of California-Berkley, this site features a wide variety of primary sources, good introductory summary material, as well as very detailed timelines. Clips of oral interviews can be downloaded as well as suffrage songs. Photographs, personal correspondence, handbills and text of speeches are also available. The site’s limitation is that it offers the perspective of only one branch of the suffrage movement. People and documents are largely associated with the NWP, the more militant branch of the suffragist movement.
Suffrage Oral History Project
This site contains the full text of the oral interviews with suffragists associated with the National Woman’s Party. The full text interviews load faster than the Suffragists Speak site and this site contains a fantastic search engine which allows one to search all of the interviews for specific words. This search feature makes the site a great resource for United States history up to the 1970’s when the interviews were recorded.
Jailed for Freedom: A Women’s Suffragist Remembers Prison
Read, and more importantly listen to, Ernestine Hara Kettler explain how the women in the Occoquan Workhouse protested against their arrest for “obstructing traffic” while picketing the White House in 1917. For more information on women’s prison experiences one should turn to the book Jailed for Freedom written by Doris Stevens and edited by Edith Mayo.
Auto Tours for Women’s Suffrage: An Oral Memoir
Read or listen to Laura Ellsworth Seiler explain how she lobbied for passage of woman suffrage while on an auto tour. Students could research in their local community to see if there were auto tours in their community.
The Opponents: Anti-Suffrage
Anti-Suffrage Arguments Summarized
This site sponsored by the University of Rochester gives an overview of common anti-suffrage themes. Students can use the following sites to try to identify the underlying argument of the anti-suffragists as well as the political cartoon site mentioned earlier.
Library of Congress: American Memory Collection
This is a single anti-suffrage pamphlet entitled “Socialism, feminism, and suffragism, the terrible triplets, connected by the same umbilical cord, and fed from the same nursing bottle” written by B.V. Hubbard in 1915.
Where are the suffragists?
Ohio State University has posted this article originally printed in The Woman’s Protest, (June 1912, page 7).The article is a reaction to a suffrage parade in New York.
Anti-woman suffrage pamphlet
This anti-suffrage pamphlet was written by L.P. Reynolds of Michigan. His daughter, who supported woman suffrage, has scribbled across the top of the pamphlet “foolish man.” The pamphlet is posted on the internet by his great granddaughter, a member of the League of Women Voters in Greater Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Document Based Questions on Woman Suffrage
Women and Social Movements in the United States 1830–1930
The Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender at the State University of New York at Binghamton sponsors this site which allows students to examine documents and to explore issues related to social reform. Each “project” includes an extensive bibliography, endnotes and WWW links to other sources. The collection is unique and very valuable because it places the documents within a specific context and gives students a focused purpose for reading since each project is framed with a central question. The extensive annotations and summaries make the site useful to teachers and advanced or highly interested students. The wide range of perspectives used to consider the issues put forth also makes this site superior to its peers. The only draw-back to the site is that the original documents can not be viewed for analysis. The projects that relate to suffrage are listed below:
How Did Lucretia Mott’s Activism between 1840 and 1860 Combine her Commitments to Antislavery and Women’s Rights?*
< http://womhist.binghamton.edu/projects.htm#mott >
Why Did Some Men Support the Women’s Rights Movement in the 1850s, and How Did Their Ideas Compare to those of Women in the Movement?
< http://womhist.binghamton.edu/malesupp/intro.htm >
How Did the Views of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois toward Woman Suffrage Change between 1900 and 1915?*
< http://womhist.binghamton.edu/webdbtw/Intro.htm >
* = Requires subscription for use
What Lobbying Tactics Did Suffragists Use to Obtain Congressional Approval Of a Woman Suffrage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 1917–1920?
< http://womhist.binghamton.edu/lobby/bigintro.htm >
How Did the National Woman’s Party Address the Issue of the Enfranchisement of Black Women, 1919–1924?
< http://womhist.binghamton.edu/nwp/introduc.htm >
Ideas for Assignments
For all of the suggestions listed below, teachers could use the focus question, “How did women win the right to vote?” To answer the questions students could:
Illustrate the One Woman, One Vote timeline with pictures from the Library of Congress Collection Votes for Women. Students are able to edit the timeline to tell the story of one group or to illustrate key events or turning points in the history of woman suffrage.
Take an online field trip to the exhibit Political Culture and Imagery of American Woman Suffrage or Suffragists Speak web site. For thePolitical Images field trip students can describe their favorite images and compare them to political images of women today. For the Suffragists Speak field trip students can pick some of their favorite quotes to share with the class or write a short history of one of the women interviewed.
Compare the experiences of the NWP suffragists to the information in their textbook on woman suffrage. Another valuable comparison would be to consider the role the NWP played in the woman suffrage movement to the role the Black Panthers or Malcolm X played in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Investigate suffrage at a national level and research how woman earned the right to vote in their community or state. Listed below are some of the best local woman suffrage sites available:
How Wisconsin women won the ballot
The Handbook of Texas Online
A search on “woman suffrage” will locate numerous articles ranging from opposition to woman suffrage to the National Woman’s Party.
Women of the West Museum: The Struggle for Western Women’s Suffrage, 1860–1920
< http://www.womenofthewest.org/exhibits/suffrage/ >
1.Phyllis Holman Weisbard, “Women’s Place is on the ‘Net: Creating and Enriching Resources for the Study of Women’s History,” October 27, 2000, < http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/Talks/wsc00lk.html > (August l, 2002).