Updated: Jul 25
The women’s suffrage movement is deemed the greatest achievement of women in the Progressive Era. For over a century, women fought for the right to vote. This movement was started by women who were also active in the abolitionist movement. While the issue at hand was women gaining the right to vote, these women were fighting for equality for all second-class citizens. Women couldn’t own property, manage their funds, or vote; additionally, salary discrepancies between men and women were grossly unfair. A lack of reform for this disenfranchised group led to the world’s first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. The Seneca Falls meeting was the spark that ignited this movement. From then on, influential women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton trail-blazed a path for other leaders in this movement.
In 1890 the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) formed. This organization was the result of two major women suffrage groups merging; they implemented strategies from both organizations to tackle large issues effectively. They lobbied for women’s voting rights by addressing each state individually. Prior to the 1900’s, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho amended their constitutions and granted women the right to vote. 10 years later, 17 more states extended suffrage to women.
The Woman Suffrage Movement holds roots close to our city. The Florida chapter originated in Tampa after initiator, Ella C. Chamberlain, returned from a suffrage conference in Iowa. After her return she was granted permission to write in a News Article Column. She mainly addressed the implications of a lack of women’s suffrage and commented on its necessary presence in society.
While many states in the North and West amended their state constitutions in favor of women’s rights, states in the south were slow. This was because the same women that led the suffrage movement fought for the abolition slavery. While slavery was abolished in the south, tensions persisted in the culture. Black people and women were seen as inferior, and any attempt to alter that was considered a threat to power.
The organization and persistent grit for over a century is often times underappreciated and goes unrecognized; however, winning this uphill battle was crucial to progressing American society. Ultimately, in 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified, granting all American women citizens the right to vote. This achievement was the result of many nationwide struggles; abuse, hunger strikes, jail time, relentless legislation, and extensive protest.