(The following is a guest post by Elizabeth Gettins, Library of Congress digital library specialist.)
“Roll up your sleeves, set your mind to making history.”
Carrie Chapman Catt
Carrie Chapman Catt
March is Women’s History Month, so what better collection to highlight than the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection?
Formed in 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, or NAWSA, melded together two separate women’s organizations that employed different tactics. The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, chose to work mainly at the federal level. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), led by Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell and Julia Ward Howe, worked at the state level. NAWSA combined both of these methods, securing the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 through a series of well-orchestrated state campaigns under the dynamic direction of Carrie Chapman Catt. She drew on the talents and personalities of many accomplished women to steer the movement toward victory and the hard-won right to vote.
The NAWSA Collection, which resides in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, was based initially on the library of Chapman Catt, which she donated to the Library of Congress on November 1, 1938. Others involved with NAWSA subsequently donated their libraries to the collection, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Alice Stone Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe, Elizabeth Smith Miller and Mary A. Livermore. In total, the collection consists of nearly 800 books, pamphlets, newspapers, scrapbooks and other ephemera dating from 1890 to 1938, a selection of which is available online.
The online selection of materials was prepared with several user groups in mind: students at the high school and college levels interested in developing a basic understanding of the suffrage movement; teachers of courses at these levels; and advanced scholars engaged in research. In all cases, materials were selected that best represent NAWSA as an organization and its place in the woman suffrage campaign.
Collectively, the materials offer a view of how the suffragists worked diligently to secure the right to vote. Regardless of their approach or temperaments, in the end, we have these firebrands to thank.
Susan B. Anthony once remarked, “Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women! There is so much yet to be done.” Indeed, women have come a long way in just under 100 years, and Anthony would likely be quite proud. Yet Chapman Catt did not take victory for granted, stating, “The vote has been costly. Prize it . . . understand what it means and what it can do for your country.” Chapman Catt understood the struggle that was and that it might likely persist into the future.