Carrie Chapman Catt
Today marks the birthday of one of the great leaders of the suffrage movement, Carrie Chapman Catt. Born January 9, 1859, Catt was devoted to the suffrage cause, and spent most of her life working towards the goal of political equality for all.
Catt was not a contemporary of the founders of the movement; Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were quite a bit older than she. While she certainly espoused their values, hers was a different time, calling for different responses to 20th century challenges.
In 1900 she was elected to succeed Susan B. Anthony as President of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) but was forced to resign in 1904 when her husband became ill. After he died in 1905 she again immersed herself in the movement, and was again elected President in 1916.
By that time the woman suffrage movement faced new challenges from younger women such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns who were tired of the conservative methods of the older suffragists, and espoused pursuing a more militant plan of action. Catt was able to join these divergent conservative and liberal forces together under her “Winning Plan,” that called for continuing to seek suffrage on a state-by-state basis, while also working diligently for a national amendment. While she never really came around to the militant stance of Alice Paul and the Congressional Union, she was none-the-less able to act as a conciliatory bridge between the two warring factions, at the same time assuring President Wilson of NAWSA’s support for the World War I war effort, not an easy task.
After the vote for women was achieved Catt turned her attention to creating the League of Women Voters. She died in 1947.