Today marks the end of our election week special on the blog.
Two groups of suffragists with very different tactics contributed to the passing of the 19th Amendment. The National Woman's Party (NWP) lobbied for a federal amendment and was headed by Alice Paul. The other was group was the the National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) an older, more established (and conservative in tactics) organization. Headed by Carrie Chapman Catt, the NAWSA favored a state by state approach to achieve women's right to vote and was the largest group of suffragists in the country.
After suffrage had been established, the groups disbanded but still differed in their approach to women's rights. In 1923, Alice Paul drafted the Equal Rights Amendment. Carrie Chapman Catt had already created her choice to help women, the League of Women Voters.
Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947)
The League of Women Voters was established even before the 19th Amendment was passed and came out of the NAWSA. Founded February 14, 1920 it was meant to create not only assistance to the new voters of this country but had a wider platform similar to the broader goals of suffrage. These goals included child labor laws, literacy, equal opportunity for women and a minimum wage. One of the first victories of this group was the passing of the Sheppard-Towner Act in 1921 which provided federal support for mothers and children; it was the first federal social security act (it expired in 1929).
One of the questions I always ask when I am studying a part of suffrage history is how did this impact women of color?
After women participated in their first voting election there were multiple reports on how African American women in the south were not allowed to vote. My answer was found actually on the League of Women Voters' website. I appreciate that they did not choose to relay a revisionist perspective of their own history.
Chris Carson and Virginia Kase wrote in 2018:
Last week, Brent Staples of the New York Times published an op-ed titled, How the Suffrage Movement Betrayed Black Women. The League of Women Voters was not mentioned in the piece, but we should have been.
You can read the piece here.