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.

Library of Congress Archives of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton

The Library of Congress digitized and organized thousands of documents of suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The collection spans the years 1840 to 1906, and includes 500 items from Anthony’s papers and 1,000 items from Stanton’s papers.

The Library of Congress wrote about some of the highlights included in the archives:

  • An official report and newspaper clippings of the historic 1848 convention for women’s rights in Seneca Falls, New York;
  • A pamphlet printed by Frederick Douglass’ North Star newspaper after Douglass attended the convention and spoke forcefully for women’s suffrage;
  • Stanton’s handwritten draft of her controversial “The Woman’s Bible,” which nearly divided the suffrage movement when it was published in 1895;
  • Twenty-five volumes of handwritten diaries kept by Anthony on her activities and events of the day, such as President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination;
  • Scrapbooks with newspaper clippings, programs and other accounts of the time that would be impossible to re-create today;
  • Correspondence on the multivolume “History of Woman Suffrage,” the first three volumes of which the two women co-edited with Matilda Joslyn Gage;
  • Speeches and correspondence on the temperance and antislavery movements.

Browse the Stanton papers here. Read the Anthony papers here. Each link includes finding aids for the archives as well as teaching resources.


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.

Humanities New York Resource Guide: NYS Women’s Suffrage Centennial

This 31-page document (click the button below to download it as a PDF) contains myriad useful resources for those interested in teaching—or learning—about the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in New York State. It may also be of use to those already familiar with the topic, as it offers an admirably condensed overview of the various events that both public and private organizations will be staging over the course of 2017 in celebration of the centennial (see the document’s “Centennial Calendars of Events” section starting on p. 6).

The guide’s Educator Resources section contains a range of teaching materials, variously aimed at elementary school, junior high, high school, and even undergraduate students. These include:

The guide also contains a wealth of resources in addition to those meant just for teachers, including lists of books and films pertaining to suffrage and women’s rights, conversation starters, tips on how to host a speaker or a traveling exhibition, and research support. 

From the guide, a description of the organization that put the project together:

Humanities New York is bringing the people, places and ideas of the women’s suffrage movement to life. As of May 2017, Humanities New York has invested over $344K in Centennial-themed activities that explore the diversity of individuals and ideas that contributed to this grassroots movement. In particular, Humanities New York has supported projects that connect contemporary concerns (civil rights, gender diversity, equality, and civic engagement) to the history of women’s suffrage.

Library of Congress National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection

This extensive digitized collection from the Library of Congress contains hundreds of suffrage-era resources related to the National American Woman Suffrage Association, a prominent American suffrage organization whose founders included Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The collection consists of a wide array of media, including books, pamphlets, scrapbooks, newspapers, and posters.

The following description comes from the Library of Congress overview of the collection:

The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Collection is a library of nearly 800 books and pamphlets documenting the suffrage campaign. They were collected between 1890 and 1938 by members of NAWSA and donated to the Rare Books Division of the Library of Congress on November 1, 1938. The bulk of the collection is derived from the library of Carrie Chapman Catt, president of NAWSA from 1900-1904, and again from 1915-1920. Additional materials were donated to the NAWSA Collection from the libraries of other members and officers, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Alice Stone Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe, Elizabeth Smith Miller, and Mary A. Livermore.

The complete collection consists of a variety of materials—newspapers, books, pamphlets, memorials, scrapbooks, and proceedings from the meetings of various women’s organizations—documenting the suffrage fight.

The materials in the collection amount to approximately 65,683 pages and can be broken down as follows:

Books . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37,382

Memorials . . . . . . . . . . . . 278

Pamphlets . . . . . . . . . . . 4,165

Proceedings/Reports . . . 2,058

Serials . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21,800

TOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . 65,683

This online selection was based on a number of user groups in mind: students at both the high school and college levels interested in developing a basic understanding of the suffrage movement; teachers of courses at these levels; and advanced scholars engaged in research. In all cases, materials were selected that  best represented the NAWSA organization and its place in the woman suffrage campaign.

Users should note that the collection mirrors the biases of NAWSA’s membership. For the most part, it represents the concerns of well-educated, middle- and upper-class white women living in the North, and especially in New England. There is little in the collection to document the role of Southern women or women of color. Working-class women receive a slightly larger share of attention, but, for the most part, the collection details the experiences of the affluent white women who formed the suffrage campaign’s leadership cadre.

Click here to view other NAWSA-related resources from Women’s Suffrage and the Media.

How Were Suffragettes Treated by the Media?

In this Bustle article, J.R. Thorpe dissects how suffragettes were treated by the media of their time. Using primary sources from the era, Thorpe argues that suffragettes were depicted as neglectful, violent, and disgusting, and further were accused of war-mongering and inciting the downfall of society.

For more primary materials, such as postcards and posters, depicting suffragettes see The Suffrage Postcard Project and American Women Suffrage Postcards.

John Stuart Mill Speech: On the Admission of Women to the Electoral Franchise

John Stuart Mill, the 19th-century British philosopher and economist best known for his writings on liberalism and utilitarianism, was also an early male advocate of women’s rights and enfranchisement.

In 1866, Mill—on behalf of two women’s rights pioneers, Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson—presented the House of Commons with the first mass petition in favor of women’s suffrage. The petition’s origins are described in a UK Parliament article about the document:

The Liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill MP (1806-1873) was elected MP for the City of Westminster in 1865 on a platform including votes for women. Mill’s thinking on women’s rights was influenced by his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill (1807-1858). In 1869 Mill published his famous essay “The Subjection of Women“, in favour of equality of the sexes.

In 1865 the Kensington Society was formed. A discussion group for middle-class educated women who were barred from higher education in this period, it met at the Kensington home of Indian scholar Charlotte Manning. Following a discussion on suffrage, a small informal committee was formed to draft a petition and gather signatures, led by women including Barbara Bodichon, Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett. Mill agreed to present the petition to Parliament provided it could get at least 100 signatures, and the first version was drafted by his step-daughter, Helen Taylor.

The petition sparked some Parliamentary interest in women’s suffrage and led, one year later, to the assembly’s first debate on the question. On May 20, 1867—the day he turned 61—Mill argued before the House of Commons that British women should be given the right to vote.

At the time, the Commons was considering the Second Reform Act, which eventually roughly doubled the size of the electorate in England and Wales by loosening the property qualifications Brits had to meet in order to vote. The legislation only applied to the Queen’s male subjects, however, so Mill devised a clever ploy: He proposed to amend the Act by replacing instances of the word “man” with “person,” a change that would have included (some) women in the mass of newly eligible voters. Though he later described as “perhaps the only really important public service I performed in the capacity as a Member of Parliament,” Mill’s amendment was defeated when put to a vote.

He had never expected it to succeed, however. Rather, Mill used the amendment as a pretext to debate the larger question of why women were not allowed to vote. He began his speech by refuting some obvious potential objections to his proposal, calling it an “extension of the suffrage which can excite no party or class feeling in this House” and “which cannot afflict the most timid alarmist with revolutionary terrors, or offend the most jealous democrat as an infringement of popular rights, or a privilege granted to one class of society at the expense of another.”

Having set these issues aside, Mill got to the heart of the matter, saying, “There is nothing to distract our attention from the simple question, whether there is any adequate justification for continuing to exclude an entire half of the community, not only from admission, but from the capability of being ever admitted within the pale of the Constitution.”

Women’s exclusion from the voter rolls, he argued, was an outrage against the idea of the British constitution’s universal applicability. It was predicated only on the basis of women’s sex, an immutable factor beyond anyone’s control, and had no equivalent in British law or common sense:

There is no other example of an exclusion which is absolute. If the law denied a vote to all but the possessors of £5,000 a year, the poorest man in the nation might—and now and then would—acquire the suffrage; but neither birth, nor fortune, nor merit, nor exertion, nor intellect, nor even that great disposer of human affairs, accident, can ever enable any woman to have her voice counted in those national affairs which touch her and hers as nearly as any other person in the nation …

…[J]ustice, though it does not necessarily require that we should confer political functions on every one, does require that we should not, capriciously and without cause, withhold from one what we give to another. As was most truly said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire, in the most misunderstood and misrepresented speech I ever remember; to lay a ground for refusing the suffrage to any one, it is necessary to allege either personal unfitness or public danger. Now, can either of these be alleged in the present case? Can it be pretended that women who manage an estate or conduct a business—who pay rates and taxes, often to a large amount, and frequently from their own earnings—many of whom are responsible heads of families, and some of whom, in the capacity of schoolmistresses, teach much more than a great number of the male electors have ever learnt—are not capable of a function of which every male householder is capable? Or is it feared that if they were admitted to the suffrage they would revolutionize the State—would deprive us of any of our valued institutions, or that we should have worse laws, or be in any way whatever worse governed through the effect of their suffrages? No one, Sir, believes anything of the kind.

Though it failed to achieve its purported purpose of amending the Second Reform Act, Mill’s speech proved enduring, and was used in the next century by American suffragists, including in this 1912 pamphlet distributed by the Collegiate Equal Suffrage League of New York State.

You can read Mill’s entire speech to the House of Commons—complete with the responses of some of his fellow legislators—here, or you can read just Mill’s speech here.

You can download a PDF version of the original printed text of Mill’s long essay “The Subjection of Women” below, or you can access it in various digitized formats—including Kindle versions—for free here, via Project Gutenberg.

For more on the contributions of male suffragists, see Brooke Kroeger’s book The Suffragents: How Women Used Men to Get the Vote.

The Suffrage Postcard Project

The Suffrage Postcard Project is a digital humanities initiative by Kristin Allukian, assistant professor of English at the University of South Florida and Ana Stevenson, a postdoctoral research fellow in the International Studies Group at the University of the Free State, South Africa.

This impressive compilation of images from the suffrage era is unique in its highlighting of representations of masculinity, manhood, and fatherhood—such as “Mother’s Got the Habit Now,” a print depicting a suffragette dressed in her husband’s clothing—instead of primarily focusing on representations of women.

From the site:

This project looks at illustrations and images of masculinity and fatherhood that circulated in early twentieth-century pro- and anti-suffrage postcards and utilizes a range of digital tools including Omeka, ImagePlot, Gephi, Tableau Public, and Iconclass to explore how feminist digital humanities practices engender new visual historical narratives of masculinity and manhood.

The primary goal of The Suffrage Postcard Project is to provide an easy-to-search archive for research and teaching on the suffrage era. The site provides options to browse images by title or creator, or to browse collections like this delightful Cats and Suffrage Collection. Images are downloadable and citations are provided.

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.