Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947), née Carrie Clinton Lane.
She gave a rousing speech for suffrage in 1916, as the National
Woman's Party was touring the country for Votes for Women.
She was trying to get women to support a federal suffrage amendment.
Her goal was to rally her suffragist troops in one of the most difficult parts of the country.
Carrie was the only woman in her class of 1880 from Iowa State College. She graduated first in her class.
She became a teacher and then Superintendent of Schools in Mason City, Iowa and married newspaper editor Leo Chapman in 1885. Chapman, sadly, died of typhoid fever a year later.
- In states that had passed legislation recognizing women's right to vote in presidential elections, mostly in the West, NAWSA sought passage of a federal suffrage (Anthony) amendment.
- In states that did not have presidential suffrage, but where there was a prospect of successfully amending their state constitution, NAWSA pressed for a referendum.
- In most other states, NAWSA worked toward presidential suffrage via the legislature.
- In Southern states, where prospects were weak, NAWSA just sought suffrage in the primaries.
Anna Howard Shaw took over NAWSA between 1904 and 1915 and by the end of her presidency NAWSA had 44 state auxiliaries, each with local branches, and more than two million members.
Atlanta Speech Excerpt
Shall we play the coward … and leave the hard knocks for our daughters, or shall we throw ourselves into the fray, bare our own shoulders to the blows, and thus bequeath to them a politically liberated womanhood.
We have taken note of our gains and of our resources! and they are all we could wish. Before the final struggle, we must take cognizance of our weaknesses. Are we prepared to grasp the victory? Alas, no! our movement is like a great Niagara with a vast volume of water tumbling over its ledge but turning no wheel. Our organized machinery is set for the propagandistic stage and not for the seizure of victory.
Our supporters are spreading the argument for our cause; they feel no sense of responsibility for the realization of our hopes. Our movement lacks cohesion, organization, unity and consequent momentum.
Behind us, in front of us, everywhere about us are suffragists–millions of them, but inactive and silent. They have been "agitated and educated" and are with us in belief.
- There are thousands of women who have at one time or another been members of our organization but they have dropped out because, to them the movement seemed negative and pointless. Many have taken up other work whose results were more immediate. Philanthropy, charity, work for corrective laws of various kinds, temperance, relief for working women and numberless similar public services have called them. Others have turned to the pleasanter avenues of club work, art or literature.
- There are thousands of other women who have never learned of the earlier struggles of our movement. They found doors of opportunity open to them on every side ... but they feel neither gratitude to those who opened the doors through which they have entered to economic liberty nor any sense of obligation to open other doors for those who come after.
- There are still others who, timorously looking over their shoulders to see if any listeners be near, will tell us they hope we will win and win soon but they are too frightened of Mother Grundy to help. There are others too occupied with the small things of life to help. They say they could find time to vote but not to work for the vote. There are men, too, millions of them, waiting to be called.
These men and women are our reserves. They are largely unorganized and untrained soldiers with little responsibility toward our movement. Yet these reserves must be mobilized. The final struggle needs their numbers and the momentum those numbers will bring.
Were never another convert made, there are suffragists enough in this country, if combined, to make so irresistible a driving force that victory might be seized at once.
How can it be done? By a simple change of mental attitude. If we are to seize the victory, that change must take place in this hall, here and now!
Morton, T. , Speed the Plough (1798). This comedy led to the contemporary catchphrase "What will Mrs Grundy say?"
National Women’s Hall of Fame, "Women of the Hall".
Turning Point Suffragist Memorial website. Plan for a suffrage memorial in Lorton, Va.
Webster’s American Biographies. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1984, pp. 67-8.