Completing the Story
In the 1970s curators began expanding the museum’s suffrage collections to include the women whose contributions were marginalized, left out, or unknown in the National Woman Suffrage Association’s (NAWSA) story of suffrage. They were aided by families and organizations happy to have their own heroines take their rightful places among the better-known icons. Curators’ search for stories and objects, especially from women of color, is ongoing.
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
A Medal of Honor recipient for her Civil War service as a physician, Mary Walker was a prominent member of both the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). In her 1873 book, Walker reasoned against a woman suffrage amendment. She contended that, as citizens, women already had the vote—Congress just needed to recognize that right. This, along with supporting divorce and wearing men’s style suits, damaged Walker’s relationship with Anthony. She is conspicuously absent from The History of Woman Suffrage.
Nannie Helen Burroughs
Nannie Helen Burroughs made a name for herself at the age of twenty-one with her speech “How Sisters are Hindered from Helping” at the 1900 meeting of the National Baptist Convention. She became a prolific speaker and writer on political and social issues affecting African American women. Burroughs believed that voting rights were part of African American women’s fight for full equality. A believer in individual and community empowerment, in 1909 she founded the National Training School for Women and Girls. The Washington, D.C., school provided academic and vocational training for African American girls.
In 1912 Alice Paul returned from England and energized the American suffrage movement with confrontational techniques, including hunger strikes, learned from British suffragettes. Establishing the Congressional Union within NAWSA, she alternately inspired and irritated its leaders. In 1917 Paul formed the National Woman’s Party (NWP). The two organizations became bitter rivals. A fearless tactician, Paul led NWP picketing of the White House (incurring imprisonment) and pressuring President Woodrow Wilson and Congress to support woman suffrage. Paul authored the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923.
Abolitionist and popular feminist lecturer Lucy Stone led the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). For years it was larger and more successful than Stanton and Anthony’s National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Stone also founded and published the Woman’s Journal, the leading periodical of the suffrage movement. In 1890 Stone merged AWSA with Stanton and Anthony’s National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) to create NAWSA. Ill health prevented Stone from playing an active role in the new organization and Anthony minimized her contributions in The History of Woman Suffrage.