EARLY NOTABLE INFRINGEMENTS OF WOMEN'S RIGHTS (PRIOR TO THE 1700S)
The Massachusetts Colony convicts Anne Hutchinson of sedition for her religious ideas, and she is expelled from the colony.
Mary Dyer, a Quaker, is hung for preaching in Boston.
TREMORS OF DISCONTENT (1700–1799)
Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John Adams, who is attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, asking that he and the other men—who were at work on the Declaration of Independence—"Remember the ladies" in their new code of laws. John Adams responds that the men will fight the "despotism of the petticoat." In the end, the Declaration's wording specifies that "all men are created equal." At the Constitutional Convention, voting qualifications are placed in the hands of each individual state. Effectively, women in all states except for New Jersey lose the right to vote. In her book The Vindication of the Rights of Women, British writer Mary Wollstonecraft presents an argument for the equality of the sexes.
EARLY MOVEMENT TOWARD SUFFRAGE (1800–1847)
New Jersey becomes the last state to take the right to vote away from women.
Evidence from a variety of printed sources published during this period—advice manuals, poetry and literature, sermons, and medical texts—reveals that Americans in general held highly stereotypical notions about women's and men's roles in society. Historians would later term this phenomenon "The Cult of Domesticity."
Emma Hart Willard founds the Troy Female Seminary in New York, the first endowed school for girls and the first institution to offer girls classical and scientific studies on a collegiate level.
Frances Wright of England becomes the first woman to address an American audience of both men and women. Over the next year, she travels the United States on a paid lecture tour. She promotes women's equality issues such as divorce and birth control, and attacks organized religion for the secondary status it bestows on females.
Oberlin College in Ohio becomes the first coeducational college in the United States. In 1841, Oberlin awards the first academic degrees to three women. Early graduates include Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown.
Sarah Grimké (along with her sister Angelina Grimké) begins her speaking career as an abolitionist and a women's rights advocate. She is eventually silenced by male abolitionists who consider her public speaking a liability.
The "Pastoral Letter of the General Association of Massachusetts to the Congregational Churches Under Their Care" is released, decrying women speaking in public against slavery. This letter is mainly directed toward the Grimké sisters.
The first National Female Anti-Slavery Society convention meets in New York City. Eighty-one delegates from twelve states attend.
Mary Lyon founds Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, eventually the first four-year college exclusively for women in the United States. Mt. Holyoke was followed by Vassar in 1861 and Wellesley and Smith Colleges, both in 1875. In 1873, the School Sisters of Notre Dame found a school in Baltimore, Maryland, which would eventually become the nation's first college for Catholic women.
Sarah Grimké publishes "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women."
Mississippi passes the first Married Woman's Property Act.
(June) At the World's Anti-Slavery Convention held in London, England, the female delegates from the United States are not allowed to participate. Both Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton resolve to hold a women's rights convention upon their return.
Female textile workers in Massachusetts organize the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA) and demand a 10-hour workday. This was one of the first permanent labor associations for working women in the United States.
Women in the Nineteenth Century is published by Margaret Fuller. This tome has a major influence on the development of feminist theory in the United States.
THE SENECA FALLS CONVENTION AND ITS AFTERMATH (1848–1859)
(July 19–20) The first women's rights convention in the United States is held in Seneca Falls, New York, called for by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton proposes equal suffrage, and it is adopted. Many participants sign a "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" that outlines the main issues and goals for the emerging women's movement.
(August 2) A reconvened women's rights session is held in Rochester, New York, at which Amelia Bush is selected as chair, becoming the first woman to preside over a meeting attended by both men and women. Thereafter, women's rights meetings are held on a regular basis.
The New York state legislature passes a law giving women the right to retain possession of any property owned prior to marriage.
Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery. Over the next ten years she leads many slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
Elizabeth Blackwell is graduated from Geneva College in Geneva, New York. This is the first medical degree awarded to a woman.
Amelia Jenks Bloomer begins publishing her own biweekly publication, The Lily, in which she shares her views on temperance and social issues. Soon after, she comes under the influence of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the focus shifts to broader issues of women's rights.
Amelia Bloomer launches the dress reform movement with a costume bearing her name. The Bloomer costume was later abandoned by many suffragists who feared it detracted attention from more serious women's rights issues.
(April 19–20) A women's rights convention is held in Salem, Ohio, where men are not permitted to speak during the meeting.
(October 23–24) The first National Women's Rights Convention is held in Worcester, Massachusetts. Among the attendees are Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Paulina Wright Davis, Abby Kelly Foster, and William Lloyd Garrison.
(March) Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony meet, marking the beginning of their 50-year collaboration working for rights for women.
(May 28–29) Former slave Sojourner Truth delivers her "Ain't I a Woman?" speech before a spellbound audience at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio.
(October 15–16) The second National Women's Rights Convention is held in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin, which rapidly becomes a bestseller.
Antoinette Brown Blackwell becomes the first woman to be ordained in the United States by a mainstream church. She's ordained as the minister of the First Congregational Church in Butler and Savannah, New York.
(September 6–7) Suffragists hold a meeting in the Broadway Tabernacle at the World's Fair in New York City, later dubbed the "Mob Convention."
Property rights are granted to women by the Massachusetts legislature.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton appears before the New York state legislature to advocate for the expansion of the Married Woman's Property Law.
The successful vulcanization of rubber provides reliable condoms for the first time. The birthrate in the United States continues its downward, century-long spiral. By the late 1900s, women will raise an average of only two to three children, in contrast to the five or six children they raised at the beginning of the century.
THE CIVIL WAR AND THE FIGHT FOR EQUAL RIGHTS (1860–1879)
The American Civil War disrupts suffrage activity as women from the North and South divert their energies to "war work." The war itself, however, serves as a "training ground," as women gain important organizational and occupational skills they will later use in post-bellum organizational activity.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony organize the Women's Loyal National League, gathering 300,000 petition signatures demanding the Senate's abolition of slavery by constitutional amendment.
(December 6) Congress ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States.
Southern white women create Confederate memorial societies to help preserve the memory of the "Lost Cause." This activity propels many white Southern women into the public sphere for the first time. During this same period, newly emancipated Southern black women form thousands of organizations aimed at "uplifting the race."
(May 1) Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the American Equal Rights Association at the 11th National Women's Rights Convention in New York City. This is meant to be an organization for white and black women and men dedicated to the goal of universal suffrage. Lucretia Mott is elected president.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton runs for Congress to test a woman's constitutional right to hold public office. She receives 24 of the 12,000 votes cast.
A petition bearing 10,000 signatures is presented to Congress for an amendment prohibiting disenfranchisement on the basis of gender.
Kansas holds a state referendum on the enfranchisement of blacks and/or women. Both are voted down.
(January 8) After a falling out with longtime ally Horace Greely, the editor of the New York Tribune, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony launch the Revolution, a women's rights newspaper, in New York City. Anthony also organizes the Working Women's Association, an organization dedicated to helping women form unions in order to procure higher wages and shorter working hours.
(July 9) The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified, which extends to all citizens the protections of the Constitution against unjust state laws. This amendment was the first to define "citizens" and "voters" as "male."
The women's rights movement splits into two factions as a result of disagreements over the Fourteenth and soon-to-be-passed Fifteenth Amendments. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the more radical, New York–based National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which allows only for female membership and advocates for women's suffrage above all other issues. Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe organize the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which is centered in Boston. The AWSA supports the Fifteenth Amendment and allows men to participate.
The Wyoming Territory is organized with a woman suffrage provision. In 1890, Wyoming is admitted to the Union with its suffrage provision intact.
(January 8) The first issue of the Women's Journal is published.
The Utah Territory grants suffrage to women.
(February 3) The Fifteenth Amendment enfranchises black men, for the first time explicitly restricting voting rights to males. The NWSA refuses to work for its ratification, arguing instead that it be "scrapped" in favor of a Sixteenth Amendment providing universal suffrage. Frederick Douglass breaks with Stanton and Anthony over NWSA's position. Other suffragists such as Lucy Stone support the amendment.
The Grimké sisters and 42 other women attempt to vote in Massachusetts. Although their ballots are cast, they are ignored.
(January 11) Victoria Woodhull argues women's right to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment before the House Judiciary Committee.
Wives of prominent men, including many Civil War generals, found the Anti-Suffrage Party.
(November) Susan B. Anthony is arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, New York, for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election. At the same time, Sojourner Truth appears at a polling booth in Battle Creek, Michigan, demanding a ballot; she is turned away. At her trial, Anthony is denied the right to testify on her own behalf, is found guilty, and is fined $100, which she refuses to pay.
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded by Annie Wittenmyer. With Frances Willard at its head (1876), the WCTU becomes an important force in the fight for women's suffrage. Not surprisingly, one of the most vehement opponents to women's enfranchisement is the liquor lobby, which feared women might use the franchise to prohibit the sale of liquor.
(March 29) The Supreme Court hands down Minor v. Happersett, declaring that citizenship doesn't grant women the right to vote and that, in fact, women's political rights fall under the jurisdiction of individual states.
(July 4) "A Declaration and Protest of the Women of the United States" is written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton to be read at the centennial celebration in Philadelphia. Her request is denied, but not before Susan B. Anthony and four other women charge the speakers' rostrum, thrusting the document into the hands of Vice President Thomas W. Ferry.
A Woman Suffrage Amendment is introduced in the United States Congress. The wording is unchanged in 1919, when the amendment finally passes both houses in 1920.
THE ROAD TO SUFFRAGE AND THE NINETEENTH AMENDMENT (1880–1920)
School suffrage is granted to women in New York State, allowing women to vote in local school district elections.
Select Committees on Woman Suffrage are appointed by the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
A suffrage amendment is read on the floor of the U.S. Senate, where it is defeated two to one.
(January 25) The first vote on women suffrage is defeated in the Senate 34 to 16.
Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton publish the first three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage.
The International Council for Women is founded. Its first meeting is held in Washington, D.C.
Following several years of negotiations, the NWSA and the AWSA are reunited as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone.
Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr found Hull House, a settlement house project in Chicago's 19th Ward. Within one year, there are more than a hundred settlement houses—largely operated by women—throughout the United States. The settlement house movement and the Progressive campaign of which it was a part propel thousands of college-educated white women and a number of women of color into lifetime careers in social work. It also renders women an important voice to be reckoned with in American politics.
New Zealand is the first nation to give women suffrage.
Ida B. Wells launches her nationwide anti-lynching campaign after the murder of three black businessmen in Memphis, Tennessee.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton resigns and Susan B. Anthony becomes president of the NAWSA.
Hannah Greenbaum Solomon founds the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) after a meeting of the Jewish Women's Congress at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.
Colorado becomes the first state to adopt a state amendment enfranchising women after a vigorous campaign led by Carrie Chapman Catt.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Woman's Bible, which critically examines the Bible's teachings regarding women. After its publication, NAWSA moves to distance itself from Stanton because many conservative suffragists consider her to be too radical and thus potentially damaging to the suffrage campaign. From this time forward, Stanton is no longer invited to sit on the stage at NAWSA conventions.
Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Margaret Murray Washington, Fanny Jackson Coppin, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Charlotte Forten Grimké, and former slave Harriet Tubman meet in Washington, D.C., to form the National Association of Colored Women (NACW).
Carrie Chapman Catt succeeds Susan B. Anthony as president of the NAWSA.
Mary Dreier, Rheta Childe Dorr, Leonora O'Reilly, and others form the Women's Trade Union League of New York, an organization of middle- and working-class women dedicated to unionization for working women and to woman suffrage. This group later became a nucleus of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).
The daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Stanton Blatch, founds the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, later called the Women's Political Union (1910). She introduces to the movement the English suffragists' tactics of parades, street speakers, and picketers.
The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) is organized. Led by Mrs. Arthur Dodge, its members include wealthy, influential women and some Catholic clergymen—including Cardinal Gibbons who, in 1916, sends an address to NAOWS's convention in Washington, D.C. In addition to the distillers and brewers, who work largely behind the scenes, they also draw support from urban political machines, Southern congressmen, and corporate capitalists—like railroad magnates and meatpackers—who support them by contributing to their war chests.
Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive (Bull Moose/Republican) Party becomes the first national political party to adopt a woman suffrage plank.
Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon pass suffrage referendums.
Alice Paul and Lucy Burns organize the Congressional Union, later known as the National Women's Party (1916). Borrowing the tactics of the radical, militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in England, members of the Woman's Party participate in hunger strikes, picket the White House, and engage in other forms of civil disobedience to publicize the suffrage cause. A suffrage parade is even organized in Washington, D.C., on Woodrow Wilson's inauguration day and is attacked by a mob, leaving hundreds of women injured.
The National Federation of Women's Clubs—which by this time included more than two million white women and women of color throughout the United States—formally endorses the suffrage campaign.
Montana and Nevada grant voting rights to women.
(August) NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt unveils her "winning plan" for suffrage victory at a convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Catt's plan required the coordination of activities by a vast cadre of suffrage workers in both state and local associations.
Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first American woman elected to represent her state in the U.S. House of Representatives.
(January 10) The National Women's Party begins posting silent "Sentinels of Liberty" at the White House, leading to hundreds of arrests, many resulting in jail time. All the jailed suffragists are released from prison in 1918 and an appellate court rules the arrests illegal.
The Great War (World War I) slows down the suffrage campaign as some, but not all, suffragists decide to shelve their suffrage activism in favor of "war work." In the long run, however, this decision proves to be a prudent one, as it adds yet another reason to why women deserve the vote.
The House of Representatives passes a resolution in favor of a women's suffrage amendment, which is eventually defeated by the Senate.
(January 6) The National Women's Party lights and guards a "Watchfire for Freedom," which is maintained until the passing of the suffrage amendment.
(June 4) A joint resolution of Congress passes the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote and sends it to the states for ratification. This amendment is called the "Susan B. Anthony Amendment."
(August 26) The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified by Tennessee and women suffrage in the United States becomes law. Its victory accomplished, NAWSA ceases to exist, but its organization becomes the nucleus of the League of Women Voters.
THE FIGHT GOES ON: THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT (1921–PRESENT)
At the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention, the National Woman's Party first proposes the Equal Rights Amendment to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender.
Birth control is ruled legal beyond just a preventive measure against disease.
Both Democratic and Republican parties move to eliminate separate women's divisions.
The National Organization for Women, founded by Betty Friedan, pushes for the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion rights, and childcare for working mothers.
After almost 50 years, the Equal Rights Amendment finally passes both the House and Senate and is signed by President Richard Nixon. It is sent for state ratification.
The deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment runs out three states short of adoption into law.