Carrie Chapman Catt
Woman’s Suffrage Leader
Carrie Chapman Catt was a key coordinator of the suffrage movement and skillful political strategist that played a leading role in gaining the vote for women in 1920. Her talent for public speaking and her organizational skills put her at the top of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), enabling her to put her secret “winning plan” into affect, securing voting rights for women by the passage of the nineteenth amendment. More than any other woman, except for Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt was responsible for the amendment’s passage in 1920.
Carrie Chapman Catt was born as Carrie Lane on January 9, 1859 in Ripon, Wisconsin. She was the daughter of Lucius and Maria Clinton Lane. Her parents both graduated from Potsdam Academy, Potsdam, New York. Her parents moved west in 1855 and started their family after settling in Wisconsin. When Carrie was seven years old, her family moved to Iowa where she spent the rest of her childhood.
While in Iowa, Carrie began preparatory school where she trained as a teacher. She also studied law briefly and was appointed a high school principal a year after she graduated from Iowa State College.
In February of 1885, Carrie married Leo Chapman, editor and publisher of the “Mason City Republican”. The couple moved to California, but Leo died shortly thereafter of typhoid fever, leaving Carrie to make her own living. She found work as a newspaper reporter, becoming the San Francisco’s first female news reporter.
Carrie soon joined the suffrage movement as a lecturer, moving back to Iowa where she joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association. In 1890 she was elected delegate at the newly formed National American Woman Suffrage Association and that same year she married wealthy engineer George W. Catt. Carrie had originally met Catt in college and then met him again while she was in San Francisco. Before the marriage they signed a prenuptial agreement, which guaranteed her time for her suffrage work. They agreed to two months in the spring and two in the fall for her suffrage work. George was very supportive in her efforts towards woman suffrage. They had no children.
Carrie became an excellent public speaker and organizer. Her hard work, writing and speaking engagements established Carrie’s reputation as a leading suffragist. Carrie worked with the NAWSA from 1890 to 1900 when she succeeded Susan B. Anthony as president of the group. From that time on she primarily focused on lecturing, planning campaigns, organizing women, and gaining political knowledge and experience. She led the campaign to win women’s suffrage with a federal amendment to the constitution in 1920.
In 1902 Catt helped organize the IWSA (International Woman Suffrage Alliance), but in 1904 she resigned the presidency from NAWSA to tend to her sick husband. Her husband died in October 1905 and she received another blow at the death of her friend and fellow worker Susan B. Anthony in 1906. After the death of Anthony, Carrie was encouraged by her doctors and friends to travel abroad. She spent the next nine years abroad as president of IWSA promoting equal-suffrage rights worldwide.
Upon returning to the United States in 1915, Catt resumed leadership of the NAWSA, which had become badly divided under the leadership of Anna Howard Shaw. Under the dynamic leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt, the NAWSA won the backing of the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as state support for the ratification of the amendment. On August 26, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment officially became part of the U.S. Constitution, due to the tireless work of this great woman. Carrie Chapman Catt died of heart failure in New Rochelle, New York on March 9, 1946 at the age of eighty-six.
This article may be reprinted as long as it includes the following resource box: Patricia Chadwick is a freelance writer and creator of History’s Women Website at www.HistorysWomen.com. Visit her site and sign up for her FREE weekly newsletter. Patti is also author of the newly released book “History’s Women – The Unsung Heroines” in both e-book and print formats at: https://www.pcpublications.org/hw/form.html