Sufferigists: 5 Need to Know First Wave Feminists

In honor of the Forth of July – It seems like a great moment to identify some of the women who began the US fight for female independence:

Susan B. Anthony, a primary organizer, speaker, and writer for the 19th century women’s rights movement in the United States. she said,  “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union,” and “It would be ridiculous to talk of male and female atmospheres, male and female springs or rains, male and female sunshine…. how much more ridiculous is it in relation to mind, to soul, to thought, where there is as undeniably no such thing as sex, to talk of male and female education and of male and female schools.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the first women’s rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized woman’s rights and woman’s suffrage movements in the United States. She said, “Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman’s thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government,” and “The heyday of woman’s life is the shady side of fifty.”

Ida B. Wells, was an African American journalist and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented the extent of lynching in the United States, and was also active in the women’s rights movement and the women’s suffrage movement. She said, “No nation, savage or civilized, save only the United States of America, has confessed its inability to protect its women save by hanging, shooting, and burning alleged offenders, and “The negro has suffered far more from the commission of this crime against the women of his race by white men than the white race has ever suffered through his crimes.”

Carrie Chapman Catt was a women’s suffrage leader who campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which gave U.S. women the right to vote in 1920. Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was the founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women. She said, “This world taught woman nothing skillful and then said her work was valueless. It permitted her no opinions and said she did not know how to think. It forbade her to speak in public, and said the sex had no orators,” and “Just as the world war is no white man’s war, but every man’s war, so is the struggle for woman suffrage no white woman’s struggle, but every woman’s struggle.”

Alice Paul was an American suffragist and activist. Along with Lucy Burns and others, she led a successful campaign for women’s suffrage that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Hillary Swank played her in Iron Jawed Angels.  (You should see this movie by the way.) She said, “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality,” and “Sometimes, if you wear suits for too long, it changes your ideology.”

And there were so many others! Lucretia Mott, Maud Humphrey, Mary Edith Campbell, Lucy Burns, Julia Ward Howe, Margaret Mitchell, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell, Millicent Garret Fawcett

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