New York Heritage’s Digital Archive on Women’s Suffrage in NY

The New York Heritage research portal has created a wide-ranging digital archive of materials on the women’s suffrage movement in New York.

This archive of records from libraries in New York and across the country touches on everything from the indigenous roots of the women’s suffrage movement to the men who backed suffrage to the Women’s March of 2017. It features original photographs, pamphlets, posters, speeches, articles and more.

The digital archive was put together by Julia Corrice,  Susan Goodier, and Sally Roesch Wagner of the South Central Regional Library Council. Their partners were the Empire State Library Network and New York Heritage Digital Collections. Humanities New York provided funding.

Explore the entire archive here.

Digital Exhibit: Arkansas Women’s Suffrage Centennial

This virtual exhibit is part of the Arkansas Women’s Suffrage Centennial, a project that “commemorates the 100th anniversary of the right to vote for women in Arkansas by promoting events, encouraging research and education programs related to women’s suffrage, and helping to preserve the history of women’s suffrage within the state.”

The exhibit features a number of galleries, which include information as well as photographs and original documents from the suffrage era and focus on topics ranging from African-American suffragists to suffrage fashion.

Of particular interest is the exhibit’s media gallery, which features documents, cartoons, drawings, and photographs and includes this delightful suffrage fashion gallery.

Online Exhibit: Motherhood, Social Service and Political Reform: Political Culture and Imagery of American Woman Suffrage

This online exhibit, “Motherhood, Social Service and Political Reform: Political Culture and Imagery of American Woman Suffrage,” follows women’s long road to the vote, focusing on the “distinct female political culture and imagery” of the suffrage movement.

The exhibit allows you either to take an in-depth look at the history of women’s suffrage or to take a shorter tour through an image gallery. The in-depth journey provides commentary, photographs, and documents of the history of the movement, including an exploration of how themes of domestic life and motherhood were used to advance movement goals. The image gallery contains 50 images of pamphlets, posters, and other paraphernalia used to rally support for the movement.

An updated image exhibit, “Creating a Female Political Culture,” curated by Edith P. Mayo and the National Women’s History Museum and released in January 2017, presents many of the same images from the bigger exhibit in slideshow format, with a main image and detailed text description on each slide.

Suffrage Teaching Resources From the National Archives

DocsTeach, a National Archives-sponsored website of resources for teaching history, is designed to provide information and lesson plans for teachers. It may also be useful for students and others looking for primary sources on women’s rights and suffrage, however.

Likely the most useful resources for teachers are two teaching activities specifically related to suffrage. These include learning objectives, detailed lesson instructions, and extension activities. There is one lesson for high school students and one for middle schoolers. Note: There are nine more suffrage teaching activities available to those who register with the site. Registration is free and open even to those who aren’t teachers.

Additionally, the site contains:

Nearly all the documents include thorough citations and are copyright-free/public domain (although it’s worth looking at the Archives’ accessible and straightforward legal page before you use material from the site).

Some of the highlights include:

  • petition—sponsored by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony—asking Congress to enact a law giving US women the right to vote
  • An 1888 joint Congressional resolution proposing a constitutional amendment extending voting rights to property-holding widows and spinsters—whom Elizabeth Cady Stanton half-jokingly described to Congress as “industrious, common-sense women … who love their country (having no husbands to love) better than themselves.”
  • A 1917 letter in which National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage President Alice Wadsworth urges Congressman Charles E. Fuller to vote against the proposed 19th Amendment, which ultimately granted US women the right to vote. (You can view a NAOWS pamphlet opposing women’s voting rights here.)

The Ann Lewis Women’s Suffrage Collection

The Ann Lewis Women’s Suffrage Collection is a privately owned collection of over 1,200 postcards, books, periodicals, and more on the suffrage era.

Readers can browse the following collections:

Each item includes a detailed description, permissions, and citation information.

Some gems from the site include this 1924 clipping from The Literary Digest declaring suffrage a failure and this 1915 postage stamp labelled, “Votes for Women, Pennsylvania.”

About the collector (from the website):

Ann F. Lewis was Senior Advisor to the 2008 Presidential Campaign of Hilary Rodham Clinton. She served as White House Communications Director for President Bill Clinton; as Vice President for Planned Parenthood Federation of America; as Political Director of the Democratic National Committee; and as Chief of Staff to then Congresswoman, now Senator Barbara Mikulski. Lewis has been a visiting lecturer at Brandeis University, and at the Annenberg School of the University of Pennsylvania. She was one of the founding members of the National Women’s Political Caucus.


Elisabeth Freeman and Media Stunts for Suffrage (1911-1916)

Elisabeth Freeman was an English suffragette born in 1876. She told the story of her dedication to suffrage being piqued by this incident: “I saw a big burly policeman beating up on a woman, and I ran to help her, and we were both arrested. I found out in jail what cause we were fighting for.” This rich interactive scrapbook of Freeman’s life tells the story of her struggles as a Suffragette, Civil Rights Worker, and Militant Pacifist.

Of particular relevance to those interested in suffrage and the media is the section on Freeman’s media stunts for suffrage. Freeman, adept at using the media to her advantage, became known for “finding some activity that would capture media attention and guarantee press.” She was often personally involved in protests and even got arrested a number of times. She also used other newsworthy events to “piggy back” onto another story, for instance, speaking between rounds of prize fights.

Some highlights from this fascinating repository of “stunts” include Freeman pictured with a bear and Freeman arrested at a strike.  

Historical Connections: The Weird Familiarity of 100-Year-Old Feminism Memes

This 2016 Atlantic article by Adrienne LaFrance links today’s political memes to suffrage and anti-suffrage propaganda imagery from the early 20th century. LaFrance argues that politics often clashes with gender norms, particularly when women and women’s issues are poised to make history—such as when women were fighting to get the vote or when Hillary Clinton was running for president. Both the images of yesterday (pamphlets, postcards, posters, and the like) and images of today (memes) often rely on humor to either support or oppose women’s role in politics.

You can find many examples of suffrage-era propaganda of the sort LaFrance describes in the Catherine H. Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive.

Pamphlet Distributed by the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage

This pamphlet from the Jewish Women’s Archive lists arguments by the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, or NAOWS. One of the most commonly cited arguments was simply that women did not want to vote. NAOWS was formed in New York City in 1911 and was led by Josephine Dodge. It disbanded in 1920.

You can view an NAOWS poster featuring another argument against women’s suffrage—this one predicated on a supposed connection between suffrage and socialism—here.

You can read more about the New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage here, via Encyclopedia Britannica.

You can read more about Dodge and other prominent female anti-suffragists here, via National Public Radio.

Archive: Suffrage Resources of the National Woman’s Party

The National Woman’s Party collection at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, DC has a vast collection of books, periodicals, cartoons, scrapbooks, artifacts, and ephemera from the NWP’s history.  As the site describes its collection on its homepage:

The National Woman’s Party (NWP) collection housed at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument is an important resource for the study of the suffrage movement and the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). This unique collection, including the nation’s first feminist library, documents the mass political movement for women’s full citizenship in the 20th century, both in the United States and throughout the world. The collection contains books, scrapbooks, political cartoons, textiles, photographs, organizational records, fine arts, decorative arts, and artifacts produced primarily by women, about women.

The extensive holdings outline the history of the militant wing of the women’s movement in the United States, documenting the strategies and tactics of the movement, demonstrating the use of visual images as effective publicity tactics in a pre-electronic age, and revealing the international work of the National Woman’s Party in its historic quest for complete equality for American women.

You can read more about the tactics and techniques of the NWP here.

Henry B. Blackwell Essay: Objections to Woman Suffrage Answered

Relatively early demonstrations of prominent male support for suffrage was critically important to the movement. Henry B. Blackwell (1825-1909) was among the founders of the Republican Party and of the American Woman Suffrage Association. In this essay, he cites 19 common anti-suffrage arguments and offers point-by-point refutations of each. A copy of both pages of the leaflet is appended below.

The essay appeared in the March 1896 issue of the Woman Suffrage Leaflet, a bi-monthly publication of the Woman’s Journal. Blackwell co-edited Woman’s Journal, which his wife, the suffragist Lucy Stone, founded in 1870.

You can find a free online version here, via the National Archives. (National Archives Identifier: 306657)

You can read more about the Woman’s Journal here.