The International History of the US Suffrage Movement

Sarah Redmond. From collections of the Peabody Essex Museum, MA
Figure 1. Sarah Parker Remond, ca. 1865. This portrait was taken while Remond was in England, the year before she added her name to John Stuart Mill’s petition for woman suffrage.

Albumen print, Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of Miss Cecelia R. Babcock, PH322. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

By Katherine M. Marino

The history of the US woman suffrage movement is usually told as a national one. It begins with the
1848 Seneca Falls convention; follows numerous state campaigns, court battles, and petitions to Congress; and culminates in the marches and protests that led to the Nineteenth Amendment. This narrative, however, overlooks how profoundly international the struggle was from the start. Suffragists from the United States and other parts of the world collaborated across national borders. They wrote to each other; shared strategies and encouragement; and spearheaded international organizations, conferences, and publications that in turn spread information and ideas. Many were internationalist, understanding the right to vote as a global goal.

Enlightenment concepts, socialism, and the abolitionist movement helped US suffragists universalize women’s rights long before Seneca Falls. They drew their inspiration not only from the American Revolution, but from the French and Haitian Revolutions, and later from the Mexican and Russian Revolutions. Many were immigrants who brought ideas from their homelands. Others capitalized on the Spanish-American War and the First World War to underscore contradictions between the United States’ growing global power and its denial of woman suffrage. A number of women of color used the international stage to challenge US claims to democracy, not only in terms of women’s rights but also in terms of racism in the United States and in the suffrage movement itself. The complex international connections and strategies that suffragists cultivated reveal tensions in feminist organizing that reverberated in later movements and are instructive today.


These multiple, and sometimes conflicting, international strands worked in synergy, bolstering the suffrage cause and expanding the women’s rights agenda. The resources that women shared with each other across national borders allowed suffrage movements to overcome political marginalization and hostility in their own countries.[1] A radical challenge to power, the US movement for women’s voting rights required transnational support to thrive.

Abolitionism and the Transnational Origins of Women’s Rights
Although the American Revolution and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), which circulated in the United States, activated discussion of women’s rights, it was the transatlantic crucible of abolitionism that truly galvanized the US women’s rights movement.[2] The antislavery movement, which Frederick Douglass called “peculiarly woman’s cause,” provided broad ideals of “liberty” as well as key political strategies that suffragists would use for the next fifty years—the mass petition, public speaking, and the boycott. Transatlantic networks of organizations, conferences, and publications drove abolitionism. Women in the United States looked to their British sisters, who in 1826 made the first formal demand for an immediate rather than gradual end to slavery.

Boston reformer and African American abolitionist Maria Stewart, one of the first US women to publicly call for women’s rights before a mixed-race and mixed-sex audience, embraced a diasporic vision of freedom when she asked in 1832, “How long shall the fair daughters of Africa be compelled to bury their minds and talents beneath a load of iron pots and kettles?”[3] Her vision of rights for African American women, specifically, in the face of economic marginalization, segregation, and slavery, drew upon universal rights that she found expressed not only in the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence but in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Haitian Revolution, the largest slave uprising, from 1791 to 1804.[4]
Cover of the Union Signal, WCTU's paper, March 17 1921
Figure 2. The WCTU’s global vision of suffrage, as well as the connections it drew between suffrage, domesticity, and temperance are illustrated in this cover of the Union Signal, the official organ of the US WCTU, March 17, 1921.
The hostility that Stewart and other female abolitionists faced for overstepping boundaries of female propriety by speaking out in public threw into sharp relief that, as abolitionist Angelina Grimké put it, “the manumission of the slave and the elevation of the woman” should be indivisible goals.[5] At the 1837 First Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, an interracial group of two hundred women called for women’s rights. When Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and other female delegates were excluded from the 1840 World Antislavery Congress in London, Stanton hatched the idea for a separate women’s rights convention.

The resulting 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and its demands for women’s rights were only possible because of abolitionists’ groundwork and the broad meanings of emancipation flourishing in the United States and in Europe, where revolutions had broken out that year. Stanton’s idea to include the right to vote in the convention’s Declaration of Sentiments was directly inspired by calls for universal suffrage made by British Chartists, the first mass working-class movement in England.[6] Quaker minister and abolitionist Lucretia Mott explicitly connected the Declaration to the 1848 abolition of slavery in the French West Indies, opposition to the US war with Mexico, and Native American rights. She and Stanton also found models in the matrilineal communities of the Seneca people, in which women held political power.[7] The right to vote proved to be the convention’s most controversial demand, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of its most avid proponents.

The right to vote became key to the many US women’s rights conventions that Seneca Falls set into motion, inspiring and drawing on the support of women in Europe and elsewhere, including immigrant women in the United States. In 1851, from Paris jail cells, revolutionary women’s rights activists cheered US women’s activism. In March 1852, German immigrant and socialist Mathilde Anneke started the first women’s rights journal in the United States published by a woman, the Deutsche Frauen-Zeitung. After the Prussian victory over Germany she had fled to the United States, where she became a friend of Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.[8] Polish-born immigrant and abolitionist Ernestine Rose expressed her global vision for suffrage in 1851: “We are not contending for the rights of women in New England, or of old England, but of the world.”[9]

Such ideas resonated with Sarah Parker Remond, whose life reflects the overlapping transnational abolitionist and woman suffrage movements. In 1832 she helped found the first female antislavery group in Salem, Massachusetts. In 1859, while on an antislavery speaking tour in England, Remond reported, “I have been received here as a sister by white women for the first time in my life. . . . I have received a sympathy I never was offered before.”[10] For Remond, transnational connections became a concrete way to escape racism in the United States. She settled permanently in Italy, where she became a physician. In 1866, Remond affixed her name to John Stuart Mill’s petition to the British Parliament for woman suffrage.[11] (Figure 1)
Teresa Villarreal, cover of El Obrero. From Arte Publico Press, University of Houston, TX
Figure 3. Teresa Villarreal, cover of El Obrero (San Antonio, TX), November 17, 1910. In 1909, Villareal started this publication to enlist women and men in the revolutionary cause and new social order. The Mexican Revolution and working-class demands infused her calls for woman suffrage in the US.

Courtesy of Arte Público Press, University of Houston, Houston, TX.

Transnational Organizing and “Global Sisterhood”
Transnational connections initiated by the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement only grew in the following decades. After construction of the first transatlantic telegraph lines in the 1860s, communications, travel, and transnational print culture helped produce the first international organizations for women’s rights that drew significantly on US women: the World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1884 by US temperance leader Frances Willard; the International Council of Women (ICW), founded in 1888 by Stanton and Anthony; the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA, later renamed the International Alliance of Women), founded in 1904 and presided over by Carrie Chapman Catt (then-president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association); and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), founded by US social settlement worker Jane Addams in 1915.[12]

Alongside each organization’s particular focus—international arbitration, universal disarmament, temperance, married women’s civil rights, anti-trafficking of women, equal pay for equal work, among others—a global goal of women’s political equality drove them.[13] These organizations connected women across the lines of nation, culture, and language and had overlapping memberships.[14] They hosted international conferences, and they helped spearhead publications such as the IACW’s Jus Sufffragii and the ICW’s Bulletin, which shared information about suffrage organizing in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and other parts of the world.

Of the four, the WCTU inspired the most dramatic grassroots suffrage activism, becoming the largest women’s organization in the world, with over forty national affiliates. An outgrowth of the US Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (1874), the WCTU argued that women could use their vote to promote temperance and end men’s alcohol-infused violence. The organization transformed the goal of woman suffrage into a legible and compelling one for large numbers of women.[15] Spearheading the first organized suffrage efforts in the white British colonies of South Africa, New Zealand, and South Australia, the WCTU was responsible for the world’s first national suffrage victory in New Zealand in 1893, and in Australia in 1902.[16] (Figure 2)

Although these groups spoke of “global sisterhood,” their memberships were predominantly Anglo-American and European, and their publications usually only published in French, English, and German, in spite of demands to expand beyond these languages from women in Spanish-speaking countries and other parts of the world.[17] These international groups generally marginalized or excluded, and in the WCTU’s case segregated, US women of color.

These groups often reflected what historians have called “imperial feminism”—a belief that white, Western women will “uplift” women in “uncivilized” parts of the world.[18] This logic went hand in hand with some suffrage efforts. WCTU missionaries in Hawai'i who sought to secure woman suffrage there in the 1890s, allied with white US business and military interests establishing imperial control over the island.[19] Suffragists also demanded the vote in the United States’ imperial acquisitions from the 1898 Spanish-American War—the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba—both as part of a civilizing mission and to force discussion of a federal suffrage amendment in the United States.[20] Meanwhile, while celebrating early suffrage victories within the western United States in the same period, most white suffragists overlooked the fact that these states denied the right to vote accorded native-born white women to many Asian American, Mexican American, and Native American women.[21]

African American suffragists powerfully critiqued Anglo-American dominance on the international stage and within the US suffrage movement as they made important contributions to it. They also continued to connect global ideals of “freedom” with local women’s rights issues, expanding the international agenda to address such goals as universal suffrage for men and women, anti-lynching, and education. Former abolitionist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a pivotal African American civil rights and women’s rights leader, spoke at the 1888 founding of the ICW and oversaw the formation of many “colored WCTU” groups that contributed to school suffrage victories in several states in the 1890s.[22] On a speaking tour in England, the anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells brought global attention to WCTU president Frances Willard’s failure to defend African American men lynched on false rape accusations.[23] Wells went on to found the most vital African American woman suffrage group in the country, the Alpha Suffrage Club, in Chicago, and at the 1913 suffrage March on Washington, she refused to be relegated to the back of the procession, reserved for African American women. In 1904, Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, spoke in fluent German at the ICW meeting in Berlin, pointing out that a global women’s rights agenda must include attention to Black women’s unequal access to many rights, including education and employment. Newspapers in Germany, France, Norway, and Austria lauded her speech.[24]
Cover of the Suffragist March 24 1917
Figure 4. Starting in 1915, “America First” was a slogan used by those who wanted to keep the US out of WW I. In 1917, when this cartoon graced the cover of the National Woman’s Party organ, the Russian Revolution and its promise of equal rights for women became a lightning rod for US suffragists.

Nina Allender, “America First!/Russia First Universal Suffrage,” Suffragist, March 24, 1917. Courtesy of Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, home of the historic National Woman’s Party, Washington, DC.

International Influences on the Modern Suffrage Movement
At the end of the nineteenth century, a more modern and militant suffrage internationalism emerged. A growing embrace of the term “feminism”—implying a movement that demanded women’s full autonomy—along with working women’s strong public presence, international socialism, and the Russian Revolution, contributed to the idea of a new womanhood breaking free from old constraints.[25]

International socialism had long upheld universal, direct, and equal suffrage as a demand, but in the 1890s, German socialist firebrand Clara Zetkin revived the goal, spearheading the inclusion of woman suffrage in the 1889 Second International in Paris. This gathering of socialist and labor parties from twenty countries in turn fostered vigorous women’s movements in Germany, France, and elsewhere in Europe. In Finland, socialist feminists and the Social Democratic Party were critical to the country’s, also Europe’s first, woman suffrage victory in 1906.[26]

Socialism, and the growing numbers of working women it inspired, breathed new life into the US suffrage movement. In 1909, women workers in New York demanded women’s right to vote, launching what became International Women’s Day. Over the next six years, working women exploded in labor militancy, viewing the vote as a tool against unjust working conditions and for what Polish-born labor organizer and suffragist Rose Schneiderman called “bread and roses.” The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that claimed the lives of 145 workers, most of whom were young, immigrant women, made suffrage more urgent.[27] Collaborations with middle-class reformers helped spread many of the tactics that suffragists later employed on a wider scale: mass meetings, marches, and open-air street speaking.[28]

Immigrants and women from throughout the Americas were key to these efforts, and to connecting suffrage to broad social justice goals. In cigar factories in Tampa, Florida, the Puerto Rican anti-imperialist, anarchist, and feminist Luisa Capetillo inspired African American, Cuban American, and Italian American women workers with calls for woman suffrage, and for free love, workers’ rights, and vegetarianism.[29] From Texas, Mexican-born feminist Teresa Villarreal, who had fled the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, supported the Mexican Revolution, the Socialist Party, and woman suffrage, publishing with her sister Andrea that state’s first feminist newspaper, La Mujer Moderna (The Modern Woman) and starting the publication El Obrero (The Worker).[30] (Figure 3) In 1911, after the First Mexican Congress in Laredo, Texas, journalist Jovita Idar praised woman suffrage in La Crónica (The Chronicle) connecting it to her longstanding demands for Mexican American civil rights.[31]

Socialist, working-class suffrage militancy in England also galvanized the British Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst. This group became the driving force in the British movement for nearly two decades, influencing militant suffrage activism around the world, including in China.[32] After the US suffragist Alice Paul, one of Pankhurst’s followers, was arrested in London in 1912, she helped organize the 1913 suffrage march in Washington, DC, and founded the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, later renamed the National Woman’s Party (NWP), that focused on a federal constitutional suffrage amendment. Its sash of purple, white, and yellow was modeled on the British purple, white, and green one, and its confrontational suffrage strategies of civil disobedience and picketing government buildings were inspired in large part by WSPU activism.[33]

The First World War, and a wave of suffrage legislation in Europe, further accelerated the US suffrage movement.[34] In the five years after 1914, suffrage passed in Denmark, Iceland, Russia, Canada, Austria, Germany, Poland, and England. Although the NWP had already been picketing the White House for several months, it was only when they embarrassed President Woodrow Wilson in front of a visiting Russian delegation, whose wartime cooperation he was trying to secure, that the first six suffragists were arrested.[35] These women, held on charges of obstructing traffic, were followed by a long line of US women imprisoned for suffrage activism. The violence they faced on the picket line (for holding signs saying “Kaiser Wilson” amid rabid anti-German sentiment) and in jail, with forced feedings during hunger strikes, became international news.[36] International pressure helped compel Wilson’s January 1918 announcement of support for suffrage, as he promoted the Unites States as a beacon of democracy. By this time, the House had already passed the suffrage amendment (the Senate would still vote against it), but Wilson’s endorsement was significant to US and international public opinion. In Uruguay, suffragists utilized Wilson’s support to push their legislators toward suffrage.[37] (Figure 4)

Two more years of federal and state lobbying and organizing led to ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in August 1920. For Crystal Eastman, a pacifist, enthusiast of the Russian Revolution, and cofounder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this accomplishment represented not an end, but a new beginning—one with internationalist significance: “Now [feminists] can say what they are really after,” she announced, “and what they are after, in common with all the rest of the struggling world, is freedom.”[38]
collections of the schlesinger library, harvard university.
Figure 5. At this January 24, 1928, gathering of 200 women at the Asociación de Reporteros in Havana, Cuba, 5 US National Woman’s Party members joined Cuban suffragists to successfully plan to inject women’s rights into the 6th International Conference of American States meeting in Havana.

Courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

The International Afterlives of the US Suffrage Movement
Struggles for women’s voting rights did not end with ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which failed to eliminate the residency requirements, poll taxes, and literacy tests in the South that denied African American men and women the vote. African American women would not achieve this right until the 1965 Voting Rights Act.[39] For many, lack of rights in the United States drove new transnational activism. In the 1920s and ’30s, African American women collaborated with women from Africa, the Caribbean, and around the globe in the International Council of Women of the Darker Races (1922) and in Pan-Africanist and leftist organizing that connected demands for women’s political autonomy with those for antiracism, anticolonialism, Black nationalism, specifically viewing Black women’s self-determination as critical to broad and transformative social justice.[40]

US women’s involvement in Pan-American feminism was also an outgrowth of the US suffrage movement. In 1928, US and Cuban feminists created the Inter-American Commission of Women, the first intergovernmental organization in the world. Initially led by NWP suffrage veteran Doris Stevens, the commission forced an international treaty for women’s civil and political equal right into Pan-American and League of Nations congresses. A heterogeneous group of Latin American feminists, however, also recognized continuing efforts of US women to dominate the movement and developed their own anti-imperialist Pan-Hispanic feminism that demanded the vote. They asserted their own leadership over Pan-American feminism and used it to call for derechos humanos, which implied women’s political, civil, social, and economic rights alongside anti-imperialism and anti-fascism. At the 1945 San Francisco meeting that created the United Nations, Latin American female delegates, led by Brazilian feminist Bertha Lutz, drew on this movement to push women’s rights into the UN Charter and proposed what became the UN Commission on the Status of Women. In the wake of these events, numerous Latin American countries passed woman suffrage.[41] (Figure 5)

The transnational legacies of the suffrage movement are evident in US women’s ongoing quests for full citizenship today. Then as now, fights for women’s rights are connected to global movements for human rights—for immigrant, racial, labor, and feminist justice.[42] The internationalist history of the woman suffrage movement shows us that activists and movements outside the United States, and a broad range of diverse, international goals, were critical to organizing for that right deemed so quintessentially American—the right to vote. It reminds us how much we in the United States have to learn from feminist struggles around the world.
Katherine M. Marino is an assistant professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement (University of North Carolina Press, 2019).
Notes:
[1] Ellen Carol DuBois, “Woman Suffrage around the World,” in Suffrage and Beyond: International Feminist Perspectives, ed. Caroline Daley and Melanie Nolan (New York: New York University Press, 1994), 254.
[2] The full quote is “When the true history of the anti-slavery cause shall be written, women will occupy a large space in its pages; for the cause of the slave has been peculiarly woman’s cause.” Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Hartford, CT: Park Publishing, 1883), 570. On Wollstonecraft, see Estelle B. Freedman, No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women (New York: Ballantine Books, 2002), 51–52.
[3] Maria W. Stewart, “Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build. Productions from the Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Steward [sic], Widow of the Late James W. Steward, of Boston,” reprinted in Maria W. Stewart, America’s First Black Woman Political Writer: Essays and Speeches, ed. Marilyn Richardson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 38; Martha S. Jones, All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Political Culture, 1830–1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 23–29; Ruth Bogan and Jean Fagan Yellin, “Introduction,” in The Abolitionist Sisterhood: Women’s Political Culture in Antebellum America, ed. Jean Fagin Yellin and John C. Van Horne (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994), 4; Christine Stansell, The Feminist Promise: 1792 to the Present (New York: Modern Library, 2013), 33–38.
[4] On the significance of the Haitian Revolution to US abolitionists and debate about slavery, see Robin Blackburn, The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation, and Human Rights (London: Verso, 2011), and Manisha Sinha, The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016), 177–178, 245–250, 454–455. On female abolitionists’ engagement with the Haitian Revolution, including that of Maria Stewart and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, see Marlene L. Daut, Tropics of Haiti: Race and Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789–1865 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015), chaps. 5 and 6, and Carla L. Peterson, “Literary Transnationalism and Diasporic History: Frances Watkins Harper’s ‘Fancy Sketches,’ 1859–60,” in Women’s Rights and Transatlantic Slavery in the Era of Emancipation, ed. Kathryn Kish Sklar and James Brewer Stewart (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 189–210.
[5] Angelina Grimké to Sarah Douglass, February 25, 1838, quoted in Annelise Orleck, Rethinking American Women’s Activism (New York: Routledge, 2016), 4; Sarah M. Grimké, “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes in Freedman (United States, 1837),” in The Essential Feminist Reader, ed. Estelle B. Freedman (New York: Modern Library, 2007), 47.
[6] Ellen Carol DuBois, “Woman Suffrage and the Left: An International Socialist-Feminist Perspective,” in Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights, ed. Ellen Carol DuBois (New York: New York University Press, 1998), 254.
[7] Nancy A. Hewitt, “From Seneca Falls to Suffrage? Reimagining a ‘Master’ Narrative in U.S. Women’s History,” in No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism, ed. Nancy A. Hewitt (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010), 24–25; Nancy A. Hewitt, “‘Seeking a Larger Liberty’: Remapping First Wave Feminism,” in Sklar and Stewart, Women’s Rights and Transatlantic Slavery in the Era of Emancipation, 266–278; Sally Roesch Wagner and Jeanne Shenandoah, Sisters in Spirit: Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Influence on Early American Feminists (Summertown, TN: Native Voices, 2001).
[8] Michaela Bank, Women of Two Countries: German-American Women, Women’s Rights and Nativism, 1848–1890 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2012), chap. 2. Her book also sheds light on the important work of German American suffragist Clara Neymann.
[9] Quote from Freedman, No Turning Back, 54. Rose was instrumental in gaining married women’s property rights in New York state. See Bonnie S. Anderson, The Rabbi’s Atheist Daughter: Ernestine Rose, International Feminist Pioneer (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). She also explained on the 1853 anniversary of West Indian emancipation, “I go for the recognition of human rights, without distinction of sect, party, sex, or color.” Quote from Ellen Carol DuBois, “Ernestine Rose’s Jewish Origins and the Varieties of Euro-American Emancipation in 1848,” in Sklar and Stewart, Women’s Rights and Transatlantic Slavery in the Era of Emancipation, 280. For her entire speech, see Morris Schappes, ed., “Ernestine Rose: Her Address on the Anniversary of West Indian Emancipation,” Journal of Negro History 34, no. 3 (July 1949): 344–355.
[10] Sarah Parker Remond, “Lecture at the Lion Hotel, Warrington (1859),” in Documenting First Wave Feminisms, vol. 1, Transnational Collaborations and Crosscurrents, ed. Maureen Moynagh and Nancy Forestell (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012), 46.
[11] Kenneth Salzer, “Great Exhibitions: Ellen Craft on the British Abolitionist Stage,” in Transatlantic Women: Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers and Great Britain, ed. Beth Lynne Lueck, Brigitte Bailey, and Lucinda L. Damon-Bach (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2012), 147; Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race, and Class (New York: Random House, 1981), 65; Sirpa Salenius, An Abolitionist Abroad: Sarah Parker Remond in Cosmopolitan Europe (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016); Elizabeth Crawford, Suffrage Centenary: A Brief History: The Diversity of the Suffrage Movement (London: Fawcett Society, 2017). On John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor see Freedman, No Turning Back, 52–54. Internationalism was also key to African American abolitionist and suffragist Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who moved to Canada after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act for fear it would endanger free Blacks like herself and enslaved people. She knit connections among her work for Black civil rights in Ontario, abolitionism, and the woman suffrage movement in the United States. Rosalyn Terborg-Penn writes that Shadd Cary was “perhaps the first African American woman suffragist to organize a suffrage organization for Black woman.” Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850–1920 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), 39.
[12] On the importance of the telegraph in materially connecting nineteenth-century women’s rights reformers, see Margaret H. McFadden, Golden Cables of Sympathy: The Transatlantic Sources of Nineteenth-Century Feminism (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999), 1–3. On the ICW, IWSA, and WILPF, see Leila J. Rupp, Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998). On the founding of the ICW in 1888 by Stanton and Anthony, see Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848–1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), chap. 5. These groups were preceded by Swiss leader Marie Goegg-Pouchoulin’s 1868 founding of one of the first international women’s organizations, the International Association of Women or Association internationale des femmes, whose goal was to organize women of all classes so they could enjoy the same rights as men within their own countries. Although this group included women from the United States, it was short-lived. Bob Reinalda, Routledge History of International Organizations: From 1815 to the Present Day (New York: Routledge, 2009), 150. Women from the United States also played a role in the formation of the Congrès international du droit des femmes in Paris in 1878. However, at this conference, discussion of suffrage was banned. Rupp, Worlds of Women, 14. In these years, the National Woman Suffrage Association used these groups to connect with other movements internationally, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton also worked independently of these groups to carve out important transatlantic networks. See Sandra Stanley Holton, “‘To Educate Women into Rebellion’: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Creation of a Transatlantic Network of Radical Suffragists,” American Historical Review 99, no. 4 (October 1994): 1112–1136.
[13] During the First World War, Addams and 1,150 other women from the United States and Europe gathered in The Hague to demand international peace and founded the WILPF; their declaration urged that “the exclusion of women from citizenship is contrary to the principles of civilization and human right” and as contrary to permanent peace. Jane Addams, Emily G. Balch, and Alice Hamilton, Women at The Hague: The International Congress of Women and Its Results, ed. Harriet Hyman Alonso (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 64. The original resolutions from the women at The Hague were praised by President Wilson and may have shaped his Fourteen Points in 1918. Their internationalist position was unpopular in the United States at the time, and one of the leaders, Emily Greene Balch, later winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was fired from her position as a professor at Wellesley College in 1918. Interconnected, international goals were what the IWSA had in mind when it announced in 1909, “We have been baptized in that spirit of the twentieth century which the world calls internationalism.” Quoted in Nitza Berkovitch, From Motherhood to Citizenship: Women’s Rights and International Organizations (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 18.
[14] The ICW claimed to represent four to five million women by 1907. The IWSA attained twenty-six national affiliates by 1913. Rupp, Worlds of Women, 22, 70. They also sprang from each other. Although Stanton and Anthony founded the ICW to promote suffrage, when the organization turned away from the vote soon after its creation, German suffragists Lida Gustava Heymann and Anita Augspurg helped found the IWSA with Catt, committed to “secur[ing] the enfranchisement of the women of all nations.” Rupp, Worlds of Women, 21–22. Both the ICW and IWSA would inspire national suffrage organizing in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and other countries in the world. Katherine Marino, Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming 2019), chap. 1.
[15] DuBois, “Woman Suffrage around the World,” 256.
[16] Ian Tyrrell, Woman’s World, Woman’s Empire: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880–1930 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), chap. 10.
[17] Marino, Feminism for the Americas, 24. In 1920, Spanish feminist María Espinosa criticized the IWSA for proposing to have a conference in Spain but not include sessions in Spanish. Doña María Espinosa, Influencia del feminismo en la legislación contemporánea (Madrid: Editorial Reus, 1920), 35–39. Marie Sandell discusses how these organizations increasingly included representatives from countries outside of Western Europe in the 1920s through ’40s. Maire Sandell, The Rise of Women’s Transnational Activism: Identity and Sisterhood between the World Wars (London: I. B. Tauris, 2015).
[18] On imperial feminism in these groups, see Antoinette Burton, Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865–1915 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994); Margot Badran, Feminism, Islam, and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), 108–110, 232–238; Charlotte Weber, “Unveiling Scheherazade: Feminist Orientalism in the International Alliance of Women, 1911–1950,” Feminist Studies 27, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 125–157. Imperial feminism was also pronounced at world fairs and expositions where US suffragists met with activists from other parts of the world, including the World’s Congress of Representative Women at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Hazel Carby argues that the reason that African American suffragists like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Hallie Quinn Brown, and others addressed this congress “was not the result of a practice of sisterhood or evidence of a concern to provide a black political presence but part of a discourse of exoticism that pervaded the fair.” Hazel Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 5. At the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, US suffragists juxtaposed the enfranchisement of women from what were considered “less civilized” parts of the world with US women’s lack of enfranchisement. Abigail M. Markwyn. “Encountering ‘Woman’ on the Fairgrounds of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition,” in Gendering the Fair: Histories of Women and Gender at World’s Fairs, ed. T .J. Boisseau and Abigail M. Markwyn (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010), 176–177.
[19] These suffrage efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. Patricia Grimshaw, ““Settler Anxieties, Indigenous Peoples, and Women’s Suffrage in the Colonies of Australia, New Zealand, and Hawai’i, 1888–1902,” in Women’s Suffrage in Asia: Gender, Nationalism, and Democracy, ed. Louise Edwards and Mina Roces (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), 220–239. For more on suffrage in Hawai'i, and on the dynamics of white settler colonialism and women’s rights there, see Rumi Yasutake, “Re-Franchising Women of Hawai’i, 1912–1920: The Politics of Gender, Sovereignty, Race, and Rank at the Crossroads of the Pacific,” in Gendering the Trans-Pacific World, ed. Catherine Ceniza Choy and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 114–139. As Ian Tyrrell has pointed out, the WCTU’s promotion of a “benign American civilization” included the “benevolent assimilation” of Native Americans, overlooking the violence of Wounded Knee—the massacre that killed over 150 men, women, and children of the Lakota on the heels of the forced removal of thousands. Tyrrell, Woman’s World, Woman’s Empire, 181.
[20] Allison L. Sneider, Suffragists in an Imperial Age: U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870–1929 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
[21] Rosalyn Terborg-Penn also connects US imperial feminism in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas to racism within the suffrage movement in “Enfranchising Women of Color: Woman Suffragists as Agents of Imperialism,” in Nation, Empire, Colony: Historicizing Gender and Race, ed. Ruth Roach Pierson and Nupur Chaudhuri (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 41–56.
[22] Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 86; Noaquia N. Callahan, “A Rare Colored Bird: Mary Church Terrell, Die Fortschritte der Farbigen Frauen, and the International Council of Women’s Congress in Berlin, Germany, 1904,” German Historical Institute Bulletin Supplement 13 (2017): 97; Michelle M. Rief, “Thinking Locally, Acting Globally: The International Agenda of African American Clubwomen, 1880–1940,” Journal of African American History 89, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 203–204. For more on Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, see Jones, All Bound Up Together, and the new edition of Harper’s Iola Leroy, Or, Shadows Uplifted, ed. Koritha Mitchell (Ontario: Broadview Editions, 2018).
[23] Patricia Ann Schecter, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform, 1888–1930 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 110–111; Mia Bay, To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells (New York: Hill and Wang, 2010), 185–189, 206–217. Also, as Callahan explains, Wells’s pamphlet The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Colombian Exposition (1893), which criticized the exclusion of African Americans from the Columbian Exposition, “sparked international debate about the limits of American citizenship when it came to race and gender.” Callahan, “Rare Colored Bird,” 100–102. On the work of the Alpha Suffrage Club, see Susan Ware, Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019), chap. 7.
[24] Fluent in German, French, Latin, and Greek in addition to her native English, Terrell overheard German women talking about how eagerly they awaited “die Negierin” (the Negress). Later Terrell recounted, “I represented not only the colored woman in my own country but, since I was the only woman taking part in the International Congress who had a drop of African blood in her veins, I represented the whole continent of Africa as well.” Brittney C. Cooper, Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2018), 78–80; Callahan, “Rare Colored Bird.”
[25] The term feminismé had first been used in its modern connotation by French suffragist Hubertine Auclert at the 1878 International Congress for the Rights of Women in Paris (Congrès international du droit des femmes), although that conference did not endorse woman suffrage itself. After 1882, she used the term in her newspaper La citoyenne. Sara L. Kimble, “Transatlantic Networks for Legal Feminism, 1888–1912,” German Historical Institute Bulletin Supplement 13 (2017): 56; Karen Offen, European Feminisms, 1700–1950: A Political History (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), 19–20; Karen Offen, “On the French Origins of the Words Feminism and Feminist,” Feminist Issues 8, no. 2 (June 1988): 45–51. For an excellent account of how the Russian Revolution infused modern suffragism, see Julia Mickenberg, “Suffragettes and Soviets: American Feminists and the Specter of Revolutionary Russia,” Journal of American History 100, no. 4 (March 2014): 1021–1051, and for the longer history of US women’s engagement with Russia, see Julia Mickenberg, American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017).
[26] DuBois, “Woman Suffrage around the World,” 265; Clara Zetkin cheered this accomplishment in 1907 at the International Socialist Conference, reiterating that “universal suffrage for both men and women” was an international goal. Clara Zetkin, “From ‘Women’s Right to Vote,’ 1907, A Resolution Introduced at the International Socialist Congress,” in Moynagh and Forestell, Documenting First Wave Feminisms, 1:137–143.
[27] Annelise Orleck, Common Sense and a Little Fire: Women and Working-Class Politics in the United States, 1900–1965 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), chap. 3. Women workers demanded maternity legislation, child care, protective labor laws, and equal representation in unions. DuBois, “Woman Suffrage and the Left,” 259.
[28] On collaborations with the WTUL see Orleck, Common Sense and a Little Fire. On the work of Stanton’s daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch’s suffrage organizing with working women in New York, see Ellen Carol DuBois, Harriot Stanton Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).
[29] Vicki L. Ruiz, “Class Acts: Latina Feminist Traditions, 1900–1930,” American Historical Review 121, no. 1 (February 2016): 1–16; Nancy A. Hewitt, “In Pursuit of Power: The Political Economy of Women’s Activism in Twentieth-Century Tampa,” in Visible Women: New Essays on Women’s Activism, ed. Nancy A. Hewitt and Suzanne Lebsock (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 199–222.
[30] Vicki L. Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 99. This was the first feminist newspaper in Texas. Leonor Villegas de Magnón, The Rebel (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1994), xv. For more on Teresa Villareal and her sister Andrea, see Maylei Blackwell, ¡Chicana Power! Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011), 107–109; Emma Pérez, The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), 67–69; Nicolás Kanellos, “Envisioning and Re-visioning the Nation: Latino Intellectual Traditions,” American Latino Theme Study, National Park Services website.
[31] Jovita Idar, a journalist and civil rights leader from Laredo, Texas, founded the League of Mexican Women, which promoted woman suffrage, educated poor children, promoted the Spanish language, and spoke out against discrimination and violence against Mexican Americans. Gabriela González, “Jovita Idar: The Ideological Origins of a Transnational Advocate for La Raza,” in Texas Women: Their Histories, Their Lives, ed. Elizabeth Haynes Turner, Stephanie Cole, and Rebecca Sharpless (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015), 225–248. For more on her and Villareal, see Gabriela González, Redeeming la Raza: Transborder Modernity, Race, Respectability, and Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 21, 24–26, 37, 41–42.
[32] DuBois, “Woman Suffrage and the Left,” 266. The working-class based suffrage movement of Lancashire textile workers in the 1890s helped inspire the militant tactics and public agitation of the middle-class women. Pankhurst’s group was founded in Manchester and moved in London in 1906. On suffrage activism in China, see Louise Edwards, Gender, Politics, and Democracy: Women’s Suffrage in China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008) and Louise Edwards, “Chinese Women’s Campaigns for Suffrage: Nationalism, Confucianism, and Political Agency,” in Edwards and Roces, Women’s Suffrage in Asia, 59–78.
[33] Some US suffragists even took on the British term “suffragette,” initially coined by the Daily Mail as an epithet, to signal their radicalism. The “American Suffragettes” in New York became the first group to “distribute literature in Yiddish to the women of the Lower East Side.” Orleck, Common Sense and a Little Fire, 94. See “suffragette” in Cheris Kramarae and Paula A. Treichler, A Feminist Dictionary (Boston: Pandora Press, 1985), 435. See also Kenneth Florey, Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013), 221n32.
[34] For an excellent history of the way the war accelerated the phenomenon of the “new woman” and suffrage debate, and on connections between women’s war work and suffrage, see Lynn Dumenil, The Second Line of Defense: American Women and World War I (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), especially chap. 1.
[35] Mickenberg, “Suffragettes and Soviets,” 1021.
[36] Nancy F. Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), 59.
[37] Marino, Feminism for the Americas, 247n35; Paulina Luisi, Movimiento sufragista: Conferencia leída en el Augusteo de Buenos Aires, el 21 de febrero 1919, a pedido de la Unión Feminista Nacional Argentina (Montevideo, Urug: Imp. “El Siglo Ilustrado,” de Gregorio V. Mariño, 1919). In 1917, Uruguayans had already supported a constitution that included a mechanism for enacting woman suffrage, before a federal amendment was in the offing in the United States. As historian Francesca Miller has noted, this made Uruguay “in theory, the first of all Western Hemisphere nations to recognize female suffrage,” though suffrage did not pass there until 1934. Francesca Miller, Latin American Women and the Search for Social Justice (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1991), 98.
[38] Quoted in Mickenberg, “Suffragettes and Soviets,” 1048.
[39] In addition, as Nancy Hewitt has written, “millions of Asian and Mexican Americans in the West and American Indians across the country were denied suffrage until the 1940s, and some waited until the Voting Rights Act and its extension in 1970 addressed the bilingual needs of Spanish-speaking citizens.” Hewitt, “From Seneca Falls to Suffrage?,” 11.
[40] Rief, “Thinking Locally, Acting Globally,” and Michelle M. Rief, “‘Banded Close Together’: An Afrocentric Study of African American Women’s International Activism, 1850–1940, and the International Council of Women of the Darker Races” (PhD diss., Temple University, 2003); Keisha N. Blain, Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). For more on Black women’s internationalism, see Erik S. McDuffie, Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011); Dayo Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War (New York: New York University Press, 2011); Brandy Thomas Wells, “‘She Pieced and Stitched and Quilted, Never Wavering nor Doubting’: A Historical Tapestry of African American Women’s Internationalism, 1890s–1960s” (PhD diss., Ohio State University, 2015); and Lisa G. Materson, “African American Women’s Global Journeys and the Construction of Cross-Ethnic Racial Identity,” Women’s Studies International Forum 32, no. 1 (January–February 2009): 35–42.
[41] Marino, Feminism for the Americas. On US women’s dominance in Pan-American organizing in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Uruguay, respectively, see Megan Threlkeld, Pan American Women: U.S. Internationalists and Revolutionary Mexico (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014); Gladys Jiménez-Muñoz, “Deconstructing Colonialist Discourses: Links between the Suffrage Movements in the United States and Puerto Rico,” Phoebe: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Feminist Scholarship, Theory, and Aesthetics 5, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 9–34; Christine Ehrick, “‘Madrinas’ and Missionaries: Uruguay and the Pan-American Women’s Movement,” Gender and History 10, no. 3 (November 1998): 406–424.
[42] For internationalist and transnational histories of US women’s activism in the late twentieth century, see Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013); Jocelyn Olcott, International Women’s Year: The Greatest Consciousness-Raising Event in History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017); Blackwell, ¡Chicana Power!; Ashley D. Farmer, Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017); Emily Hobson, Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016); Lisa Levenstein, “A Social Movement for a Global Age: U.S. Feminism and the Beijing Women’s Conference of 1995,” Journal of American History 105, no. 2 (September 2018): 336–365, among others.
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Last updated: October 10, 2019