The International History of the U.S. Suffrage Movement

The International History of the U.S. Suffrage Movement
1848: The history of the US woman suffrage movement is usually told as a national one. It begins with the 1848 Seneca Falls convention; follows with numerous state campaigns, court battles, and petitions to Congress; and culminates in the marches and protests that led to the Nineteenth Amendment.
Abolitionism and the Transnational Origins of Women’s Rights (Nick)
1791-1804: 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 U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence but in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. It was also inspired by the Haitian Revolution, the largest slave uprising ever, from 1791 to 1804.
1792: The American Revolution and U.S. circulation of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) activated discussion of women’s rights, the transatlantic crucible of abolitionism truly galvanized the U.S. women’s rights movement.
1832: Such ideas resonated with Sarah Parker Remond, whose life reflects the overlapping transnational abolitionist and women's suffrage movements. In 1832 she helped found the first female antislavery group in Salem, Massachusetts.
1837: At the 1837 First Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, an interracial group of 200 women called for women’s rights. When Quaker minister and abolitionist Lucretia Mott and other female delegates were excluded from the
1840: 1840 World Antislavery Congress in London, Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton hatched the idea for a separate women’s rights convention.
1826: 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
1832: Boston reformer and African American abolitionist Maria Stewart—one of the first U.S. women to call publicly 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?”
1848: 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. Calls for universal suffrage from British Chartists, the first mass working-class movement in England, directly inspired Stanton’s idea to include the right to vote in the convention’s Declaration of Sentiments.
1848: Mott explicitly connected the Declaration to the 1848 abolition of slavery in the French West Indies, opposition to the U.S. war with Mexico, and Native American rights. She and Stanton also found models in the matrilineal communities of the Seneca people, wherein women held political power.
1848: After the Prussian victory over the Palatinate and the crushing of the 1848 revolutions, she fled the German lands to the United States, where she became a friend of Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
1850: 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 U.S. woman suffrage movement, founding one of the first suffrage organizations for black women in the United States.
1851: Suffrage became key to the many U.S. women’s rights conventions 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 U.S. women’s activism
1851: Polish-born immigrant and abolitionist Ernestine Rose expressed her global vision for suffrage in 1851: “We are not contending here for the rights of women of New England, or of old England, but of the world.”
1852: 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.
1859: In 1859, while on an antislavery speaking tour in England, Remond reported that she was “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.”
1866: 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.
Transnational Organizing and “Global Sisterhood”(Haykal)
The 1860s: Transnational links, sparked by the 19th-century abolitionist movement, have only evolved in the decades to come. Since the building of the first transatlantic telegraph lines in the 1860s, correspondence, transport, and transnational publishing culture helped to establish the first foreign women's rights organizations to rely heavily on U.S. women.
Organizations (1884, 1888, 1904, and 1915): These included the World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the International Council of Women (ICW), the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA, later renamed the International Alliance of Women), and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
Purpose (1884): Alongside the basic emphasis of each organization—international arbitration, universal disarmament, temperance, married women's civil rights, anti-trafficking, fair pay for equal jobs, among others—the global objective of women's political empowerment has motivated them.
(1888-1902): Among the four, the WCTU spawned the most dramatic progressive grassroots organizing, being the biggest women's organization in the country, with more than 40 national branches. Leading the first coordinated political campaign in the white British colonies of South Africa, New Zealand, and South Australia.
1888: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, pivotal African American civil rights and women's rights activist spoke at the meeting of the ICW in Washington, D.C. in 1888. And supervised the creation of several "colored WCTU" parties that led to the successes of school suffrage in many states in the 1890s.
1893 and 1902: the WCTU was responsible for the world's first national election victories—in New Zealand in 1893, and in Australia in 1902.
1898: Suffragists have called for a referendum in the U.S. Colonial Seizures of the 1898 Spanish-American War—Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba—both as part of a civilizing mission and to compel the consideration of reform of federal suffrage in the United States.
1913: On a lecture tour in England, protester Ida B. Wells took worldwide attention to WCTU President Willard's inability to protect African American men against unfounded allegations of rape. Wells also founded the most prominent African American women's suffrage party in the world, the Alpha Suffrage Club, in Chicago, and in March 1913, in Washington, D.C. she refused to be relegated to the back of the procession—reserved for African American women—and instead marched with the Illinois delegation.
1904: Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, spoke at the ICW conference in Berlin, pointed out that black women had limited access to many rights, including intelligence and jobs. Her voice was applauded by Norway and Austria.
International Influences on the Modern Suffrage Movement (Jean)
1889- German socialist firebrand Clara Zetkin revived the goal of equal suffrage as a demand spearheading the inclusion of woman suffrage in the 1889 Second International in Paris.
1903- The British Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst. This group became the driving force in the British suffrage movement for nearly two decades and influenced militant activism around the world, including in China.
1906- The gathering of socialist and labor parties from 20 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 woman suffrage victory in 1906.
1909- Women workers in New York demanded the 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.”
1910- Mexican-born feminist Teresa Villarreal, who had fled the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, supported the Mexican Revolution, the Socialist Party, and woman suffrage. With her sister Andrea, Villarreal published that state’s first feminist newspaper.
1911- The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that claimed the lives of 145 workers, most of them young, immigrant women, made suffrage more urgent. 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.
1912- 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), which focused on a federal constitutional suffrage amendment.
1914- The start of World War I unleashed a wave of suffrage legislation in Europe and accelerated the U.S. suffrage movement. In the five years after 1914, woman suffrage was adopted in Denmark, Iceland, Russia, Canada, Austria, Germany, Poland, and England.
1917- After the February Revolution, Russia granted women the right to vote and the right to hold public office.
1918- International momentum compelled Wilson to announce his support for suffrage as he promoted the United States as a beacon of democracy.
1920- The nineteenth amendment was created. This amendment prohibited the states and federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.
The International Afterlives of the U.S. Suffrage Movement (Shannyn)
Struggles for women’s voting rights did not end with ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.
The 1960s- There was still a major struggle for full enfranchisement, and that became a vital part of the Civil Rights Movement.
1965- Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that actualized the promises of the Fifteen and Nineteenth Amendments.
1922- African American women collaborated with women from Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere in the International Council of Women of the Darker Races - the new transnational activism started.
1928- the US and Cuban feminists created the Inter-American Commission of Women, the first intergovernmental organization in the world, and forced an international treaty for women’s civil and political equal rights into Pan-American and League of Nations congresses.
1945- At the San Francisco meeting that created the United Nations, Latin American female delegates drew on a movement to push women’s rights into the U.N. Charter and propose what became the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
1948- Article 1’s reading changed to: “All human beings are born free and equal” rather than “All men are born free and equal.”
1975 to 1985- Feminist activism from the global south swelled during the U.N. Decade for Women.
1979- The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty of women’s rights.
1981- Article 3 demands basic human rights and fundamental freedoms for women “on a basis of equality with men” in “political, social, economic, and cultural fields.”
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