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Women's Suffrage the History of Women's Suffrage Research Paper

Pages:4 (1334 words)



Topic:Women Suffrage

Document Type:Research Paper


Women's Suffrage

The history of Women's suffrage in American can trace its roots back to the 1630's, and Anne Hutchinson who was convicted of sedition and expelled from the Massachusetts colony for her religious ideas. One of which was the idea that women should be involved in religious discussions and decision-making within the church. But it was the Quakers who really made a significant contribution to women's suffrage by preaching equality, not only among the sexes, but among all human beings. The subject lingered until the American colonies declared their independence from Britain. Then, during the Continental Congress, John Adams' wife, Abigail, wrote to her husband begging him to remember the ladies in the new laws he was instrumental in writing. Following this ideal, the state of New Jersey, in 1790, granted the vote to all free inhabitants, but rescinded that right to women when a politician was almost defeated by a group of female voters who opposed his candidacy. In retaliation, the state repealed their law allowing all free inhabitants to vote and restricted voting to free men.

The real impetus for the women's suffrage movement came in 1838 when Sarah Grimke published "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women." Along with her sister, Angelina, the Grimkes were instrumental in organizing the early women's rights groups. Two other women who were also instrumental were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott. These two organized the first ever convention to "discuss the social, civil, and religious rights of woman." (Keyssar, 2000, p. 173) The convention was held in Seneca Falls New York in 1848, with over 300 people in attendance including Amelia Bloomer, Charlotte Woodward, and even the abolitionist Frederick Douglas.

Why would the abolitionist Frederick Douglas attend a convention discussing the rights of women? Because the women's suffrage movement was an offshoot of the Abolitionist movement. Abolitionists were the very few people who allowed women to participate in public events, like political discussions about slavery. Some women became, not just participants in the Abolitionist movement, but leaders. For the first time, women engaged in petition drives, public speaking, writing articles, and organizing other women to do the same.

This type of activity was definitely outside what was considered the "proper place" for women. During the mid-1800's, women were expected to be seen, but not heard. Women were extensions of their husbands, or fathers, and were completely dependent upon them for everything. Women were not supposed to go out in public without a male chaperone, were not to engage in politics, or any other public discourse. In some places, they did not have the right own property, engage in business, or legal transactions, could not sue in court and were generally excluded from all activities in the public sphere.

It was the abolitionists who first allowed women to not only participate in public debates over slavery, but to lead groups against it. And as women began to participate in the fight against the enslavement of African-Americans, some within the Abolitionist movement began to draw parallels between the struggle for the freedom of slaves, and the struggle for Women's Rights. And at the World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London in 1840, this discrepancy between the rights of women and the rights of men became quite apparent as two American women were barred from participating in the convention because of their gender. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott were turned away from the anti-slavery convention, but returned to America and began working on holding a Women's Rights convention in America. This turned into the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, the "first women's rights convention ever held in the world." (Pankhurst, 1977, p. 95)

While women did receive some rights in the mid-1800's, it was not until 1869 that the territory of Wyoming granted unrestricted suffrage to women. Other states soon followed suit, like Utah in 1870, Washington territory in 1883, but eastern states did not. An 1887 referendum in Rhode Island failed to pass, and…

Sample Source(s) Used


"35 Years of Ensuring the Promise of Opportunity." Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved from

Jorgensen-Earp, Cheryl. (1999). Speeches and Trials of the Militant Suffragettes. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses.

Keyssar, Alexander. (2000). The Right To Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books.

"19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote (1920)." Retrieved from

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