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Between 1910 and 1914, the NAWSA intensified its lobbying efforts and additional states extended the franchise to women: Washington, California, Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon. In Illinois, future Congresswoman of Illinois helped lead the fight for suffrage as a lobbyist in Springfield when the state legislature granted women the right to vote in 1913. This marked the first such victory for women in a state east of the Mississippi River. A year later Montana granted women the right to vote, thanks in part to the efforts of another future Congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin.

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In the wake of the Civil War, however, reformers sought to avoid marginalization as “social issues” zealots by focusing their message exclusively on the right to vote.3 In 1869 two distinct factions of the suffrage movement emerged. Stanton and Anthony created the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which directed its efforts toward changing federal law and opposed the 15th Amendment on the basis that it excluded women. Lucy Stone, a one-time Massachusetts antislavery advocate and a prominent lobbyist for women’s rights, formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).4 Leaders of the AWSA rejected the NWSA’s agenda as racially divisive and organized with the aim to continue a national reform effort at the state level. Although California Senator Aaron Sargent introduced in Congress a women’s suffrage amendment in 1878, the overall campaign stalled. Eventually, the NWSA also shifted its efforts to the individual states where reformers hoped to start a ripple effect to win voting rights at the federal level.

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The beginning of the fight for women’s suffrage in the United States, which predates entry into Congress by nearly 70 years, grew out of a larger women’s rights movement. That reform effort evolved during the 19th century, initially emphasizing a broad spectrum of goals before focusing solely on securing the franchise for women. Women’s suffrage leaders, moreover, often disagreed about the tactics and whether to prioritize federal or state reforms. Ultimately, the suffrage movement provided political training for some of the early women pioneers in Congress, but its internal divisions foreshadowed the persistent disagreements among women in Congress and among women’s rights activists after the passage of the 19th Amendment.

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Of all the varieties of suffrage memorabilia that were produced, perhaps the most popular among suffragists themselves was that of the suffrage postcard. One of the primary reasons for its popularity among activists was that the golden age of the post card, the period from 1902-1915 when post card collecting became an international past time, dovetailed quite conveniently with the final push on both sides of the Atlantic to achieve national suffrage legislation. In America the Woman’s Journal frequently published news, pictures, and advertisements of new cards as did its counterpart in England, Votes for Women. Two British organizations, the Suffrage Atelier and the Artists’ Suffrage League, which had been set up expressly to provide art work for the movement, created a number of fascinating art propaganda cards. Cards were produced in abundance not only by the suffragists themselves but also by commercial publishers. A close analysis of the themes and images of cards from both types of sources gives us an excellent picture of the issues, events, period responses to the suffrage cause.

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American and British Anti-Suffrage Cards For the most part, American publishers were gentler than their English counterparts in the way that they presented negative images of both suffragists and the movement. While there certainly were a number of exceptions to the tone of these depictions, suffragists on American cards were often young and attractive, though misinformed, they did sometimes carry rolling pins and acted as suffragette Maggies to their long suffering husbands’ Jiggs but on the whole the marriage was viable, and, when not young and attractive, suffragettes still were not the grotesques seen on some British specimens. A George Washington might be horrified at a group of suffragists before him, but they carried an umbrella and a placard and not a hatchet. A woman might be arrested for her movement activities, but she and the policeman taking her in are drawn similarly, and she is not the “other,” some creature outside the norm. Husbands do have to do the housework, but they often seemed resigned to the state of affairs.

Suffrage Postcards | Woman Suffrage Memorabilia

In 1915 Carrie Chapman Catt, a veteran suffragist since the mid-1880s and a former president of the NAWSA, again secured the organization’s top leadership post. Catt proved to be an adept administrator and organizer whose “Winning Plan” strategy called for disciplined and relentless efforts to achieve state referenda on the vote, especially in nonwestern states.9 Key victories—the first in the South and East—followed in 1917, when Arkansas and New York granted partial and full voting rights, respectively. Beginning in 1917, President Wilson (a convert to the suffrage cause) urged Congress to pass a voting rights amendment. Another crowning achievement also was reached that year when Montana’s Jeannette Rankin was sworn into the 65th Congress (1917–1919) on April 2. Elected two years after her state enfranchised women, Rankin became the first woman to serve in the national legislature.