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Mapping the Suffragist Years

The map below shows the voting status for American women in 1914. Sadly, after of years of fighting for voting rights most American women had only partial suffrage or no suffrage at all.

Votes for women a success : the map proves it. Map by Empire State Campaign Committee, 1914. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

Votes for women a success : the map proves it. Map by Empire State Campaign Committee, 1914. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

The exhibit Shall Not Be Denied opened June 4, 2019 at the Library of Congress. It explores the struggles that American women experienced for more than 70 years while trying to earn the right to vote. I became interested in maps related to the suffrage movement after visiting the exhibit several times to look at the manuscripts, photographs, cartoons and other materials on display. In this post I have briefly described important events that occurred from 1848 to 1920 and provided images of relevant maps.

In July 1848, a convention attended by over 300 people took place at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York. The focus was on issues of inequality for women. The organizers Jane Hunt, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Martha Wright had met at a tea party a few weeks earlier to discuss their grievances. The women drafted their concerns in a document titled Declaration of Sentiments. The document called for the right of women to vote as well as 17 other rights that were denied to them. The principal author Elizabeth Cady Stanton modeled the document upon the United States Declaration of Independence. Declaration of Sentiments was signed by 68 women and 32 men at the convention.

Featured below is a map of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York.

Women's Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York. Map by United States National Park Service, 1991. Geography and Map Division.

Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York. Map by United States National Park Service, 1991. Geography and Map Division.

National Women’s Rights Conventions took place annually during the 1850s in various cities. Their prime focus was on women’s suffrage. The first was held in 1850 at Brinley Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, and many other prominent women’s rights activists spoke at the convention. Below is a Sanborn Fire Insurance map that shows Brinley Hall at the bottom center of the map.

Detail of sheet 35, Fire Insurance map for Worcester, Massachusetts. Map by Sanborn Map Company, 1892. Geography and Map Division.

Detail of sheet 35, Fire Insurance map for Worcester, Massachusetts. Map by Sanborn Map Company, 1892. Geography and Map Division.

In 1869 two national suffrage organizations were formed. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Lucy Stone formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). In 1890 the two organizations merged and became the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

Susan B. Anthony voted in her hometown of Rochester, New York in 1872. She was later arrested and found guilty for illegal voting. The ward map below of Rochester, NY was published in the same year.

Map of Rochester : from the latest surveys. Map by Drew, Allis & Co. 1872. Geography and Map Division.

Map of Rochester : from the latest surveys. Map by Drew, Allis & Co. 1872. Geography and Map Division.

In 1913 Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the Congressional Union of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Later they shortened the name to Congressional Union. The basement of the building at 1420 F Street NW served as their first headquarters in 1913. Below is a photograph of the building. A map from a Baist real estate atlas published in 1913 shows the vicinity of 1420 F Street NW here.

First C[ongressional] U[nion] H[eadquarters]. Photo by Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C. 1913. Prints and Photographs Division.

First C[ongressional] U[nion] H[eadquarters]. Photo by Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C. 1913. Prints and Photographs Division.

The Congressional Union collected enough donations to organize a suffrage parade with speakers, floats and banners. The parade took place in Washington DC on March 3rd, 1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.

In 1916 Ms. Paul changed the name of the Congressional Union to the National Woman’s Party (NWP). Below is a map that shows routes to Chicago for the NWP convention.

National Woman’s Party supporters were arrested in 1917 for picketing the White House and sent to the Occoquan workhouse. Many went on hunger strikes and were force fed during their imprisonment. Some suffragists were physically abused at the workhouse during a “Night of Terror” which occurred November 14, 1917.

Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of NAWSA, believed that the tactics of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were too radical. Ms. Catt worked for suffrage on a state by state basis while the NWP focused exclusively on a constitutional amendment. Later, she also made a national suffrage amendment to the Constitution a top priority.

Congress passed the 19th Amendment in June 1919. At least 36 states needed to vote in favor of the amendment for it to become law. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. Politicians who were pro-suffragist wore yellow roses; politicians who were anti-suffragist wore red roses. Harry Burn, a member of the Tennessee State Legislature, wore a red rose on the day of the voting. Shortly before he was called on to vote, Mr. Burn changed his mind after he reached into his suit pocket and read a letter from his mother who urged him to vote for women’s suffrage. His vote broke the tie in favor of the women’s suffrage amendment. Finally, the 19th Amendment “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” was adopted into the United States Constitution on August 26, 1920.

In conclusion the maps below were published in 1926 to assist educators in teaching American history in secondary schools. Each map shows the progression of women’s suffrage from 1880 to 1920.

Hart American History Series, A39. Woman Suffrage. Drawn by R. Baxter Blair. Published by Denoyer Geppert Co., 1926. Geography and Map Division.

Hart American History Series, A39. Woman Suffrage. Drawn by R. Baxter Blair. Published by Denoyer Geppert Co., 1926. Geography and Map Division.

 

 

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