The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was determined that their organization, not the publicity-grabbing militants of the rival National Woman’s Party (NWP), would be remembered as leading the long fight for women’s votes. The suffrage story they told in their display of historical souvenirs had a deliberate beginning and end. It started in 1848 with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Declaration of Sentiments and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and recent NAWSA presidents Carrie Chapman Catt and Anna Howard Shaw. The narrowly focused display would define the Smithsonian’s narrative of woman suffrage for decades.
"There can be no question of the historical importance of the movement initiated by Miss Anthony and now carried out to a successful ending."
William Henry Holmes
Head Curator, Department of Anthropology
Smithsonian Institution, 1919
Suffrage at the Smithsonian
In June 1919 Congress approved the Nineteenth Amendment and sent it to the states for ratification. Aware of the historical significance of what they were poised to achieve, officers of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) approached the Smithsonian Institution with a portrait of Susan B. Anthony and other suffrage memorabilia. Working with Smithsonian curators, they created a display that highlighted the contributions of their leaders, especially Anthony. Her niece Lucy called the display in the national museum “the crowning glory to everything.”