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The Suffrage Movement

As women take on more diverse and challenging roles today, it is hard to imagine there was a time when women were considered the property of their husbands, were banned from the workplace and were not allowed to vote. This was the reality during the early 19th century, however, when a woman's place was solely in the home. Women could not own their own business or property, travel on their own or speak out in a public setting.

That changed, however, in 1848 with the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The convention was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and, using the Declaration of Independence as a guideline, participants drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which demanded equality and the right to vote for women.

With the onset of the Civil War, women continued to fight for equal rights. Many also joined the abolitionist movement against slavery, but, unfortunately, the two issues were considered completely separate. In 1866, Elizabeth Cady Stanton established the American Equal Rights Association to fight not only for the right to vote but also for equal rights for women. Despite this formalization of the women's rights movement, the 14th Amendment (giving African Americans equal protection under the law) and the 15th Amendment (which extended voting rights to African American men) were ratified in 1868 and 1870, respectively, without taking women's rights into consideration. In 1878, a Women's Suffrage Amendment was introduced to Congress, and while the campaign for women's rights really began to take hold, the movement lost much of its visibility due to the United States' involvement in World War I in 1918.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was finally ratified. Winning the right to vote was an important moment in history for women; however, it would take many more decades of legal battles, political action and social pressure before women could achieve equality with their male counterparts. Many believe that the battle for full equality continues in such areas as access to jobs and workplace promotions; the wage gap between men and women; and family-friendly employment policies that support all working parents.

For more information about the women's suffrage movement and the continued push for gender equality, visit the Web sites below.

Classroom Resources

Voices for Votes: Suffrage Strategies
Created by the Library of Congress, this lesson plan has middle school students examine a variety of primary source documents and then discuss methods used to change the perceptions of women during the suffrage movement.  

Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less
Created by the Library of Congress, this activity asks high school students to use primary documents to identify the various roles of women during the suffrage movement. 

The History of Women's Suffrage
This Web site offers a brief history of women's suffrage and is the main source used for the information above. The site is a great source for general information about Women's History Month and includes videos, timelines and additional resources.  

Political Culture and Imagery of American Woman Suffrage
This comprehensive Web site, maintained by the National Women's History Museum, walks individual through a detailed journey of the women's suffrage movement.   

Reforming Their World: Women in the Progressive Era
The National Women's History Museum Web site continues to follow the fight for women's equality into the Twentieth Century.

Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
This comprehensive Web site, sponsored by PBS, includes biographies for both Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, articles and essays related to the women's suffrage movement, various historical primary documents including the Declaration of Sentiments, suggested reading, and more.  

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: The Solitude of Self
Read Elizabeth Cady Stanton's statement to the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives advocating equal rights for women.