So far as known, Mistress Margaret Brent of Maryland, in 1847, was the first to demand representation, which was based on property. After several hours of heated debate her petition was denied. The first woman to present the question on the lecture platform was Frances Wright, a young Scotch woman; it met with almost universal derision. In 1836 Ernestine L. Rose, daughter of Polish rabbi, banished from her native country, came to the United States, where she lectured, advocating the full enfranchisement of women and was the first to urge the repeal of laws adverse to women’s interests. It was not till 1848 that property rights were secured for women through their efforts, ably supported by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Pauline Wright Davis, and Linda Mott.
From the beginning of the great anti-slavery movement women became its earnest supporters, and added to their appeals for the slaves, many distinguished women worked to promote the rights of women.
The first Women’s Rights Convention was held in 1848. A Declaration of Sentiments was adopted which followed precisely the form of the Declaration of Independence, substituting “all men” for the name of the king, and setting forth their grievances in the same manner as the original.
The National Woman Suffrage Association was formed in 1869 and the American Woman Suffrage Association later in the same year; these bodies united in 1889 and formed the National American Suffrage Association.
In the United States women were first granted complete suffrage in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, Arizona, Kansas, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, Montana and New York, while some other states granted part suffrage.
In foreign countries, women have full suffrage in the Australian Federation, New Zealand, the Isle of Man, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Finland, and in the latter three countries women were eligible to all offices.
They have municipal suffrage on the same terms as men throughout the British Isles and in Sweden; in 1907 women were made eligible as mayors, town and county councilors in England.
The western provinces of Canada have granted political equality to women, and they have measure of franchise rights in the other provinces. In certain districts of Austria, German, Hungary, and Russia, property owning women are allowed to cast their votes on various communal matters. In Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Roumania and Switzerland, women have no political rights, but are permitted to vote for certain administrative boards—educational, philanthropic, correctional, or industrial.
On September 30, 1918, President Wilson appeared before the United States Senate, and in an eloquent though vain appeal urged the passage of the suffrage amendment as a war measure. In the course of his address, the President said: “I regard the concurrence of the senate in the constitutional amendment proposing the extension of the suffrage to women as vitally essential to the successful prosecution of the great war of humanity in which we are engaged. We have made partners of women in this war; shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right? This war engaged or by America, if it had not been for the services of the women—services rendered in every sphere—not merely in the fields of efforts in which we have been accustomed to see them work, but wherever men have worked and upon the very skirts and edges of the battle itself. I tell you plainly that this measure which I urge upon you is vital to the winning of the war and to the energies alike of the preparation of the battle. It is vital to the right solution of the great problems which we must settle when the war is over. We shall need then in our vision of affairs, as we have never needed them before, the sympathy and insight and clear moral instinct of the women of the world.”
On June 4, 1921, The U.S. Senate voted in favor of the amendment and in 1921, after many years of struggle, women suffrage prevailed throughout the United States.
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.