1. The US women’s suffrage movement had its roots in the abolition movement.
Portrait of American abolitionist and feminist Sojourner Truth.
In the fight for women’s suffrage, most of the earliest activists found their way to the cause through the abolition movement of the 1830s. Abolitionist groups such as the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), led by William Lloyd Garrison, provided women with opportunities to speak, write and organize on behalf of enslaved people—and in some cases gave them leadership roles. Prominent female abolitionists included the sisters Angelica and Sarah Grimké, Lucretia Mott, Harriet Beecher Stowe and the former slave Sojourner Truth, whose “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech in 1851 earned her lasting fame.
In 1840, when Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, they were forced into the gallery along with all the women who attended. Their indignation led them, eight years later, to organize the first U.S. women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York.
2. After the Civil War, many abolitionists and women’s rights activists parted ways over women’s suffrage.
In the early years of the women’s rights movement, the agenda included much more than just the right to vote. Their broad goals included equal access to education and employment, equality within marriage, and a married woman’s right to her own property and wages, custody over her children and control over her own body.
After the Civil War, debate over the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution— which would grant citizenship and suffrage to African-American men—inspired many women’s rights activists to refocus their efforts on the battle for female suffrage. Some, like Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, campaigned against any suffrage amendment that would exclude women, while some of their former allies—including Lucy Stone, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe and Frederick Douglass—argued that this was “the Negro’s hour” and female suffrage could wait.
In 1869, Stanton and Anthony founded the female-only National Woman Suffrage Association, which stood in opposition to Stone and Blackwell’s American Woman Suffrage Association. The rift between the two sides endured until 1890, when the two organizations merged to form the National American Women’s Suffrage Association.
3. Susan B. Anthony (and 15 other women) voted illegally in the presidential election of 1872.
In 1868, a group of 172 Black and white women went to the polls in Vineland, New Jersey, providing their own ballots and box in order to cast their votes in that year’s national election. Between 1870 and 1872, around 100 women tried to register and vote in the District of Columbia and states around the country.