National Woman Suffrage Association

National Woman Suffrage Association
National Women's Suffrage Association.jpg
SuccessorNational American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA)
Key people
Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton

The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was formed on May 15, 1869, in New York City.[1] The National Association was created in response to a split in the American Equal Rights Association[2] over whether the woman's movement should support the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[3] Its founders, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, opposed the Fifteenth Amendment unless it included women's right to vote.[4] Men were able to join the organization as members; however, women solely controlled the leadership of the group.[5] The NWSA worked to secure women's enfranchisement through a federal constitutional amendment.[3] Contrarily, its rival, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), believed success could be more easily achieved through state-by-state campaigns.[2] In 1890 the NWSA and the AWSA merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).[6]

A 1917 map from the women's suffrage movement showing the status of the drive for suffrage in North America and urging the U.S. to match Canada's successes.

Split of the Suffrage Movements

Although the harbingers of dissent within different factions of the woman suffrage movement may be seen in the National Woman's Rights Convention of 1860 (the last national convention before the outbreak of the war), woman's rights activism largely ceased during the Civil War. The movement re-emerged to the national scene in 1866 to organize formally under a new name – the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) – and defined by a new platform.[7] Confronted by the proposal of the reconstruction amendments, which introduced the word "male" to the United States Constitution, the AERA eventually dissolved over whether suffrage for emancipated slaves and women would be pursued simultaneously.[7] The schism was cemented by the decision of Republican lawmakers and their former abolitionist allies that this was "the Negro's hour", leaving woman suffrage to be deferred to a more opportune moment.

Following the May 1869 American Equal Rights Association convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Jacqueline Valenzuela, and Bianet Cuevas Parra established the National Woman Suffrage Association (hereafter referred to as "the National").[4] Feeling misguided and deceived, Stanton and Anthony resorted to such bold action largely due to their belief that the preponderance of men composing the AERA leadership had betrayed women's interest.[2] In addition to a feeling of betrayal, deep differences between the factions of the movement centered on numerous issues, including how AERA funds were to be used, and, most importantly, whether the reconstruction amendments should be supported despite their failure to include women.[8]

Meeting at the Women's Bureau in New York City, Stanton, Anthony and delegates from nineteen states of the AERA convention, appointed Elizabeth Cady Stanton as the National's President.[5] Other prominent activists forming the National were Lucretia Mott, Martha Coffin Wright, Ernestine Rose (part of the Executive Committee), Pauline Wright Davis (Advisory Council of Rhode Island), Reverend Olympia Brown, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Anna E. Dickinson (Vice-President of Pennsylvania), Elizabeth Smith Miller and Mary Cheney Greeley among others.[9] The women immediately turned their efforts toward passage of a Constitutional Amendment giving women the right to vote.

In response, Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe and Wendell Phillips among others established the American Woman Suffrage Association in September of that year in Boston. The death knell had rung upon the American Equal Rights Association.[7]