Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders

Post-Civil War and the Emergence of Two Movements

Already by 1865, it was becoming clear that the country was about to legally enfranchise black men, but not white or black women. The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, and the 15th Amendment was under consideration. The suffrage movement began to divide over the question of whether to support black male suffrage if women were not also granted the right to vote.

On one side of the debate, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony refused to support black male suffrage if women were not also enfranchised. In 1867, while campaigning in Kansas for the enfranchisement of women, Cady Stanton and Anthony accepted the help of a pro-slavery Democrat, George Train. In 1868, they accepted his money to start a women’s rights newspaper, The Revolution.

Anthony and Stanton
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division

In 1869, Cady Stanton and Anthony founded their own women’s rights party, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). The NWSA, considered a radical organization, did not support the 15th Amendment on the grounds that it enfranchised black men but not white or black women. The NWSA also initially discouraged the participation of men in leadership positions, and was a multi-issue organization, arguing for a variety of women’s rights.

NWSA Constitution
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NWSA Constitution, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection

On the other side of the debate, Lucy Stone argued that suffragists should support the enfranchisement of black men. Together with her husband, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe, she founded a second organization, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). The AWSA, considered a moderate organization, supported the 15th Amendment, actively sought to include men in leadership positions, and focused on the issue of woman suffrage. Its newspaper was called The Woman’s Journal.

AWSA Constitution
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First page of the AWSA Constitution, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection

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