Article

Places of Carrie Chapman Catt

The content for this article was researched and written by Jade Ryerson, an intern with the Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education.
portrait of Carrie Chapman Catt from the Library of Congress
Carrie Chapman Catt. From the collections of the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/97500090/)

Carrie Chapman Catt first joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association in 1887. Working as a lecturer and organizer, she spoke at NAWSA’s national convention in 1890. Within five years, she became the organization’s head of field organizing. When Susan B. Anthony resigned as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) president in 1900, she selected Catt to succeed her. Catt served as NAWSA president until 1904. She stepped down to care for her ailing husband George Catt. After his death, Catt’s attention shifted to establishing the International Woman Suffrage Association. This organization supported the expansion of women’s voting rights around the world. In 1915, NAWSA elected Catt president. In her second presidency, Catt launched her “Winning Plan” to pursue suffrage at the state and federal levels. After a decades-long fight, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920, making it illegal to deny the vote based on sex. That year, Catt founded the League of Woman Voters to support women as new voters and engaged members of society.

exterior of the American Tract Society. Photo by J. Henderson, public domain
The American Tract Society building, New York City. Photo by Jim Henderson, Public Domain.

(https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amer_Tract_Society_sunny_jeh.jpg)

American Tract Society Building

Between 1900 and 1903, the American Tract Society Building in New York City housed NAWSA's national headquarters. This period overlapped with most of Catt's first presidency and her “society plan” to recruit women’s club members. Many clubwomen were white, wealthy, educated, and politically connected. With the time and resources to join civic organizations, many of these women were also experienced fundraisers and public speakers. By seeking them out, the “society plan” could enhance NAWSA’s prominence, but deepened the organization’s elitism and exclusivity.

The American Tract Society Building is a New York City Landmark; the city is a Certified Local Government.[1]

exterior of Willard hotel in DC Smithsonian Collections
Willard Hotel in about 1919. Photo by Martin A. Gruber. From the Smithsonian Collections. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Willard_Hotel_(4920326592).jpg

Willard Hotel

In January 1915, Catt and Jane Adams established the Woman’s Peace Party to oppose the outbreak of World War I in Europe. Founded at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., the party called for arms control, mediation, and resolving the war’s causes. Women’s suffrage was also part of the party’s platform. Catt believed that the suffrage movement could gain support and respectability by helping to “abolish the horrors, the waste, the barbarism, of war.” She directly linked women’s suffrage as a way to “usher in the blessings of peace” and prevent the wartime disruption of families, domestic hardships, and increased labor demands on women. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, Catt organized departments in NAWSA to support the war effort.

The Willard Hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

exterior of home. Photo by Elisa Rolle CC BY SA
Juniper Ledge, the Carrie Chapman Catt House. Photo by Elisa Rolle, CC BY SA 4.0 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carrie_Chapman_Catt_House,_New_Castle,_NY.jpg)

Juniper Ledge

Catt purchased this house near Briarcliff Manor, New York in 1919. She lived there with her partner and fellow suffragist Mary “Mollie” Garrett Hay until 1928. When Catt first visited, she loved that the property was “isolated, quiet, restful, and gives promise of fun.” While living at Juniper Ledge, Catt developed the League of Woman Voters, published a history of the suffrage movement, and founded the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War.

Juniper Ledge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Hotel Statler exterior, Orpheum theater foreground. By publichall CC BY SA
Hotel Statler, with the Orpheum Theater in the foreground. Photo by publichall, CC BY SA 3.0 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St._Louis_-_Hotel_Statler.JPG)

Hotel Statler

In March 1919, NAWSA celebrated it’s fifty-year anniversary Golden Jubilee Convention at the Hotel Statler in St. Louis, Missouri. Although NAWSA was formed by a merger of the National Woman Suffrage Association and American Woman Suffrage Association, anniversary referenced the founding of both organizations after the dissolution of the American Equal Rights Association in 1869. In her opening address at the convention, Catt proposed the creation of “a League of Women Voters to ‘Finish the Fight.’”

The Hotel Statler was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

exterior of Congress Hotel. Photo by IvoShandor CC BY SA
The Congress Hotel. Photo by IvoShandor CC BY SA 3.0. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Congress_Plaza_Hotel_-_Chicago_-_October_2012.JPG)

Congress Hotel

Catt officially established the League of Women Voters on February 13, 1920 at the Congress Hotel in Chicago. As a successor to NAWSA, this nonpartisan organization sought to promote women’s suffrage worldwide, remove legal discriminations against women, and ensure the safety of American democratic institutions. The League also aimed to involve women in public affairs once they gained the right to vote. At the time, 31 states had ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. To become law, 36 of the total 48 states needed to ratify it. By August 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the Amendment.

Originally an annex to the Auditorium Building, the Congress Hotel is part of the Historic Michigan Boulevard District.[2] The district is a Chicago Landmark in the city’s Certified Local Government.

Notes:

[1] The Certified Local Government Program is a certified partnership between federal, state, and local governments that supports local communities’ commitment to historic preservation.

[2] The Auditorium Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

Selected Sources:

Catt, Carrie Chapman. “Woman and War – September 1, 1914.” Archives of Women’s Political Communication, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Goodier, Susan and Karen Pastorello. Women Will Vote: Winning Suffrage in New York State. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2017.

Shaver, Peter D. “The Carrie Chapman Catt House, Juniper Ledge.” National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation, Albany, May 4, 2006.

Last updated: March 11, 2021