Indiana AAUW
Last updated September 23, 2001, comments to

Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13

Women, Men and Suffrage

Nancy Kohlhoff, Valparaiso branch

(Ed Note: This is the tenth in a series of our exclusive publication of the manuscript written by Nancy after much research to fill in the gaps left by history books when dealing with women’s issues and their struggle to gain the vote.)

Chapter Ten

Susan Anthony did not join the gold rush to California. Instead, she turned to the Temperance movement as a way in which she might be of "service to society." She gave one speech in Canajoharie to the Daughters of Temperance. The audience applauded politely, but Susan knew it was not because the speech was outstanding but only because no other woman in Canajoharie could have made a better one.

Susan and the other women in Temperance reform were not the first to look upon the evils of drink as a scourge to society. Before them, serious-minded men began their own movement. Women, of course, were excluded from it, "partly because they were excluded from all men’s organizations, and partly because…one had to be a converted drunkard to qualify as a total abstinence orator."

The Washingtonians, as the men’s group was called, was made up entirely of "old soaks." Their confessions, no doubt, "told in lurid detail, were more thrilling to listen to than the most earnest arguments in favor of a godly, righteous and sober life." Most of them claimed to have gone through "delirium tremens" and their "battles with snakes and demons…were graphically described. If in their cups they had nearly or quite murdered a loved one, preferably a favorite child, so much the better." In the days before modern media, entertainment as well as inspiration apparently was found at the orator’s platform.

The Washingtonians became the Sons of Temperance, and the women formed the Daughters of Temperance. Susan wanted to bring the two branches together in order to make the work more efficient and the effect more stunning. In her spare time, she traveled around New York state establishing local branches and raising money for the cause. This began a life-long pattern of organized activism at which she excelled.

Convention in Albany

Early in 1852, the Sons of Temperance called a convention in Albany. Susan was sent as a delegate from Rochester. Her credentials were accepted and she was seated. However, when she rose to speak to a motion, "the chairman silenced her, saying harshly that the sisters were asked there not to speak but to listen and learn."

Blazing with indignation, Susan left the hall. A few other women followed her. Together, they went to the Albany Evening Journal headquarters and approached editor Thurlow Weed. Sympathetic to their plight, Mr. Weed published in the evening edition of his paper a notice that the women delegates to the convention would hold a public meeting the next day at the Hudson Street Presbyterian Church.

A snowstorm covered the city overnight. Despite that, the church filled with participants and spectators alike. Then, during the meeting, a stovepipe fell down and the room was filled with thick, black smoke. It did not deter Susan. She proposed a resolution "to summon at an early date a Woman’s State Temperance Convention." The resolution passed.

All the work of organizing the Woman’s State Temperance Convention was left to Susan. She wrote hundreds of letters, traveled around the state to collect money, held meetings in many towns, arranged for the hall, the ushers and the advertisement, and invited the speakers to the April Convention in Rochester. She invited Elizabeth Cady Stanton whom she had met recently while attending an abolitionist speech in Seneca Falls. Elizabeth agreed to speak at the Rochester meeting even though it meant her absence from home and her brood of children, a departure she rarely made in those early days.

So it was in 1852, four years after the Seneca Falls Convention that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton joined forces. Their friendship was instantaneous, but the work they did together over their long lives gradually changed not only the lives of its citizens but the course of history in the United States.

In the meantime, the Sons of Temperance, changing their name again to Men’s State Temperance Society, held their next convention in Syracuse. The Daughters were invited, but when Susan and another woman delegate, Amelia Bloomer, arrived, they were met by the Rev. Samuel J. May who told them he had been appointed to suggest they quietly withdraw. Delighted when they refused, the Rev. May promised to do all he could to have them recognized.

The convention opened amidst stormy cries by the clergy, "with one or two exceptions," that no business "should be transacted until those females—or rather those creatures—a hybrid species, half man and half woman, belonging to neither sex, were put out into the streets." And indeed, Susan, Amelia and the other women delegates were ejected "in a babel of abuse and insults."

It was after this event that Susan began to consider if perhaps Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott were "right in their conviction that all of woman’s freedom must be demanded before any of it was attained?" After Syracuse, "Susan’s temperance speeches included arguments for woman’s rights."

It is often the case that a woman’s consciousness is not raised appreciably until all the doors to self-realization are slammed shut in her face.

(Quotes from Dorr, Rheta C., Susan B. Anthony, the Woman Who Changed the Mind of a Nation, AMS Press, New York, 1928; general background from various published sources on woman’s history. Copyright 1993)

(Ed note: this and previous chapters of this series may be found on our website, click on "other links.")

Women, Men and Suffrage

Nancy Kohlhoff, Valparaiso branch

(Ed Note: This is the eleventh in a series of our exclusive publication of the manuscript written by Nancy after much research to fill in the gaps left by history books when dealing with women’s issues and their struggle to gain the vote.)

Chapter Eleven

What drove Susan B. Anthony to devote her life to reforming society for the benefit of women? She worked in many reform movements but throughout remained steadfast to woman’s rights and suffrage. Born into a hard-working but reasonably well-to-do Quaker family, for the century in which she lived she was not herself a deprived woman. Given the exceptionally liberalizing support of her father, she was encouraged to develop her intellectual strengths and pursue her life’s work as she defined it. No male authority attempted to hold her in the grip of true womanhood as prescribed by the convention of the day. Against what, then, did Susan pit herself and her honor?

Susan said she saw the degradation of women all about her. Wives and female relatives of rich men, she thought, ostensibly comfortable in their dependence, were the least able to see the injustices inflicted upon their sex. Poor women, especially working women, were doubly injured because they had neither money nor education.

While traveling through New York gathering petitions for Temperance, Susan took a room in a country tavern where the landlady was "not yet twenty years old but had an infant of a year and a half." The infant was ill and crying, yet the young mother, holding the baby, prepared supper for the travelers. All the while, her husband "sat and talked with the men in the bar room, not even caring for the baby." Before six the next morning, the young mother prepared breakfast for the lodgers which consisted of "fried pork, mashed potatoes, mince pie…baked apples and a pitcher of rich milk." When the travelers stepped up to pay for their meals and night’s lodging, the "dolt of a husband took our money." Susan wrote in her diary, "…yet the law gives him the right to every dollar she earns, and when she needs two cents to buy a darning needle she has to ask him and explain what she wants it for."

Susan Worked Alone

One might think that contemporary women would rally behind Susan’s plans to grant them not only the vote but legal rights to their children, property and their own wages. Such was not the case. Often, as she canvassed the states to get petitions signed which urged legislators to pass laws more equitable to women, she met with women who "half the time slammed the door" in her face with the "smug remark that they had husbands, thank God, to look after their interests, and they needed no new laws to protect their rights!"

But she never gave up. On her own and with the help of Elizabeth Stanton, Lucy Stone and many other women and men, Susan called conventions, canvassed states, wrote and gave speeches, collected petitions and funds, lobbied state and federal politicians, formed organizations and wrote and published her views on equality. As she grew older, she became more liberal, not more conservative.

The National American Woman’s Suffrage Association which she headed for many years, however, did not always follow suit. As the movement became more mainstream, middle class women within attempted to give it middle class respectability. That meant, among other petty notions, passing a resolution to disassociate themselves from Elizabeth Stanton’s Woman’s Bible because of its heretical views and also publicly expressing antagonism against the seating of Senator-elect Brigham H. Roberts of Utah because he was a Mormon. Susan warned that such intolerance would lead women into the very tyrannical oppression they themselves were trying desperately to escape.

In her foreward (sic) to the last volume of the History of Woman Suffrage she wrote, "[Women] are even more conservative than men, because of the narrowness and isolation of their lives, the subjection in which they have always been held, the severe punishment inflicted by society on those who dare step outside the prescribed sphere, and stronger than all perhaps, their religious tendencies through which it has been impressed upon them that their subjected position was assigned by the Divine will."

Despite her warnings and analyses, at the time of her death in 1906, the Association had lost most of its militancy out of fear of offending male suffrage friends, it took another generation of young, aggressive women to startle Congress into passing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the "Anthony Amendment."

Recognition Comes to Susan

In later years, Susan was celebrated throughout the country and the world. In 1893 in Chicago, the World’s Congress of Representative Women attended by delegates from twenty-seven countries and thousands of people paid her great homage. "When she rose to speak men and women climbed on their seats, threw hats and handkerchiefs into the air and cheered themselves hoarse before she could utter a word." Buffalo Bill, upon entering the show ring, rode directly to her box and saluted her. Soprano Lillian Nordic "asked the privilege of singing especially for Susan." Susan was moved almost to tears, although she had always maintained that she knew nothing about music and could distinguish the "national hymn from the others only because people stood up."

In 1904, at age eighty-four, Susan went to Berlin to attend the congress of the International Council of Women. There, the International Woman Suffrage Alliance was formed with Carrie Chapman Cat as president. "Thereafter, women’s full political freedom became the goal of women in every civilized country in the world." Susan met with Empress Augusta who asked that Susan be seated while she remained standing, a gesture to Susan’s stature.

Finally, Susan went back to Rochester where she shared the family home with her last living relative, her sister Mary. Friends from around the world furnished the house and set up an annuity fund, which provided for her financial security for her last years. Elisabeth Stanton, before her death, sent the library table on which she and Lucretia Mott, Martha C. Wright and Mary McClintock had written the "Declaration of Rights and Sentiments."

When she died, nearly every newspaper in the country noted a great woman had passed." But a few contended, "She was the champion of a lost cause." "Her particular views on this question will soon be forgotten." "There is reason for the belief that it will gradually subside." But throughout her crusade, Susan had said, "Failure is impossible." She was right.

(Quotes from Dorr, Rheta C., Susan B. Anthony, the Woman Who Changed the Mind of a Nation, AMS Press, New York, 1928; and Lutz, Alma, Susan B. Anthony Rebel Crusader Humanitarian, Beacon Press, Boston, 1960; general background from various published sources on woman’s history. Copyright 1993)

(Ed note: this and previous chapters of this series may be found on our website at, click on "other links.")

Women Men and Suffrage

Nancy Kohlhoff, Valparaiso branch

(Ed Note: This is the twelfth in a series of our exclusive publication of the manuscript written by Nancy after much research to fill in the gaps left by history books when dealing with women’s issues and their struggle to gain the vote.)

Chapter Twelve

After decades of relentless work followed by the frustration of entrenched resistance, the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association began to lose its momentum. Between 1889 and 1912, the year Alice Paul arrived in the Capitol to begin her work for the federal amendment, women suffragists could get little more from Congress than an annual reading of the Anthony Amendment only to have it immediately tabled or referred to an obscure committee, not to be heard of again until the next year.

But in the West, the tide was turning. In 1867, the railroad reached Cheyenne, Wyoming. Thousands of men, women and children poured into the region and established residences in tents and mud huts. With the influx of population came the curse of wide-open saloons and dance halls, houses of prostitution, gun-fights (sic), robberies and murders.

Soon, however, the "better element" of citizens began the movement for Territorial status, which, they hoped, would bring stability, law and order. In 1869, President Grant sent his representatives to the region to take charge of electing a Territorial government, which consisted of a Council (territorial Senate) and a House of Representatives.

Esther Morris was in South Pass City in 1869, a town of about three thousand people not far from Cheyenne. She had followed her husband and sons to the frontier from Illinois. Having heard Susan B. Anthony speak on woman suffrage before leaving the Midwest, Esther was an advocate of woman’s rights including the right to vote.

When Esther heard that her "town" was preparing to elect delegates to the first Territorial legislature, she invited twenty of the most influential men in the vicinity to her "shack" for dinner. During the evening, she pleaded the cause of woman suffrage so eloquently that each of the men promised, if elected, to include a woman suffrage clause in the Territorial laws and provisions.

Woman Suffrage Bill Passes

William H. Bright was elected president when the Council met in October 1869. He immediately introduced a woman suffrage bill, which was passed without discussion. In the territorial House, however, "the bill was opposed by a determined Mr. Ben Sheeks, who apparently had not been invited to Mrs. Morris’s dinner party." Finally, the bill passed with only one qualification – "a woman must be 21 years to vote."

When the bill came to his desk, Territorial governor John W. Campbell signed it after considerable agitation from some of the same supporters who "regretted their acts" and were "smarting under the gibes of those who looked upon woman suffrage as wholly ridiculous." As a young boy, Campbell had attended a Woman’s Rights Convention back in Salem, Ohio. Believing that justice for women had been "long deferred," he "signed the bill as gladly as Abraham Lincoln wrote his name to the Proclamation of Emancipation of the slaves."

"Of course," ex-Governor Hoyt wrote later, "the women were astounded! If a whole troop of angels had come down with flaming swords for their vindication, they would not have been much more astonished than they were when that bill became a law and the women of Wyoming were thus clothed with the habiliments of citizenship."

Shortly after the bill passed, Esther was appointed Justice of the Peace for South Pass City. The rowdies in the territory, still opposed to woman suffrage and to women’s participation in public life, tried to run her out of office. She adjudicated forty cases, however, "and administered them so justly that not one was appealed to a higher court."

Captain Nickerson, who was elected governor of the Territory in 1871, wrote Esther’s story many years later. He said she deserved the credit for the Territory’s passing the woman suffrage bill. In order that her story would be preserved for the historical record, Nickerson "filed his documentary evidence at the County Seat of Sweetwater County."

Women Exercise their Rights

From 1869 on, women in Wyoming voted without catastrophic results. They also participated in other public events including jury duty. After a few years of female participation, a story appeared in the Boston newspapers reported by a "prominent gentlemen from Wyoming." He testified that all the suspected horrors associated with woman suffrage had been experienced in the Territory. Someone telegraphed the Mayor of Cheyenne seeking "the particulars concerning this prominent gentleman." The Mayor wired back, "A horse thief convicted by a jury half of whom were women."

In 1890, Wyoming was admitted to statehood by the federal government. During the debates, however, much controversy surrounded its practice of allowing women to vote. When it looked as though Congress "would not consent to the admission of Wyoming with woman suffrage in its constitution," James Carey, the Territory’s delegate, wired the Territorial legislature, which happened to be in session, to ask what should be done. "Tell them," the answer came back, "that Wyoming will remain out of the Union a hundred years rather than come in without the women!"

(Quotes from Catt, Carrie Chapman, and Shuler, Nettie Rogers, Woman Suffrage and Politics, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1926; general background from various published sources on woman’s history. Copyright 1993)

Women Men and Suffrage

Nancy Kohlhoff, Valparaiso branch

(Ed Note: This is the thirteenth in a series of our exclusive publication of the manuscript written by Nancy after much research to fill in the gaps left by history books when dealing with women’s issues and their struggle to gain the vote.)

Chapter Thirteen

Of all the colorful, endearing characters connected with the Suffrage story, none provoked more interest, hilarity and consternation than Victoria C. Woodhull and her sister, Tennie C. Claflin, who was known simply as "Tennessee."

During the mid-19th century, the itinerant Claflin family wandered the Midwest like a clan of gypsies. Reuben Buckman Claflin, the one-eyed father whom everyone called "Buck," was the inventor and salesman of the Elixir of Life, a cure for everything from cancer to cramps. Mother Claflin, familiarly known as Roxy, dabbled in spiritualism and mesmerism. Originally, there had been ten children, but only seven lived, among whom were the very intelligent, beautiful and conniving Victoria and Tennessee, heiresses to mother Roxy’s supernatural powers.

By 1870, the Claflin tribe found its way to New York City and, to the Amazement of everyone, attached themselves to none other than Cornelius Vanderbilt. Spiritualism being much in vogue, the Commodore like to have Victoria call up the spirits of his dead relatives and friends, and also, by the way, to foretell the ups and downs of the stock market while in trance. On one occasion when Victoria called up the spirit of the Commodore’s dead wife, Sophia, he refused to speak to her. "Business before pleasure," he said. "Let me speak to Jim Fisk."

Because the sisters were not "respectable," the aging Commodore, "who did not stand on ceremony," loved their company. The vivacious Tennessee often "slapped him on the back and tugged at his whiskers" crying, "Wake up, old boy!" at one time when she teased, "Didn’t you promise to marry me?" he responded, "Yes, but the family interfered."

Victoria’s and Tennessee’s Business

Vanderbilt, it was assumed, set the sisters up in a brokerage firm close to Wall Street. Businessmen flocked to their "banking house" out of curiosity and the hope of picking up an insider-trading tip. On the door leading to their private quarters was a sign: All Gentlemen Will State Their Business and Retire at Once. "There were the skeptical who were convinced the austere injunction was not intended to be taken too seriously."

All might have gone well if the sisters had had the good sense not to publish Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, a "radical, reformatory paper" with the motto, "Upward and Onward!" in it, Victoria found her voice, and to the glee of many and the consternation of most, she lectured her readers on Spiritualism and Free Love.

Victoria married first at the age of fourteen to "Doctor" Canning Woodhull who drank heavily and used morphine. Divorced in 1864, Victoria then married "Colonel" James H. Blood, a "man of many parts." Both the ex- and current husband lived with all the extended Claflins in one house, though Victoria always referred to herself as Mrs. Woodhull. In the Weekly she stated, "The highest order of humanity results from sexual relations in which love is the only element present." As biographer Marberry put it, "Women and men from coast to coast gasped."

Victoria goes to Washington

It was not long before the Suffrage movement attracted the attention of the free lover, Spiritualist, Communist and radical Mrs. Woodhull. In 1871, the New York publisher and "woman of financial means" went to Washington, D.C., to read before the Senate Judiciary committee a Memorial demanding the vote for women. It just so happened that the National Women’s Suffrage Association was holding its annual convention at the same time.

One can imagine Susan Anthony’s incredulity to discover that the notorious Mrs. Woodhull was on her side. However, advised by Senator Samuel C. Pomeroy of Kansas that "Men could never work in a political party if they stopped to investigate each member’s antecedents and associates," the regular suffragists allowed Mrs. Woodhull into their midst. Not only was Mrs. Woodhull’s performance before the Judiciary Committee outstanding, she announced to the National that she would "be privileged to subscribe $10,000" to the cause.

"Most of the rank-and-file suffragists were delighted with the acquisition of Victoria, plus her newspaper, but a few professed to be shocked. It was whispered that Victoria’s greatest Memorial was the bastard child of old wall-eyed General Benjamin F. Butler, Civil War firebrand known through the South as Beast Butler."

Convention meets in New York

Things quieted down for awhile, but in the spring of 1872, Mrs. Woodhull announced in the Weekly that a National Woman Suffrage Association Convention would be held in New York in May. She listed as the "undersigned" all the big names in the movement even though she had not consulted any of them.

Elizabeth Stanton, thinking to make the best of it, chaired the meeting. She directed Mrs. Woodhull to sit on the platform between herself and the revered Lucretia Mott. It quieted the suspicious contingent for a moment. Upon Mrs. Stanton’s calling the meeting to order, however, Mrs. Woodhull arose and asked for the floor. She proposed a newly formed "People’s Party" to join with the National. She said she envisioned a great future for the cause, but her unstated objective was that the two "powerful bodies" would support her run for President of the United States! It apparently was no obstacle to Mrs. Woodhull that women could not even vote.

Not surprisingly, Susan Anthony was on her feet instantly. She "barred the twin convention and demanded the People’s Party adherents be evicted" from the hall. Undaunted, "Victoria put the motion again…but the wily Miss Anthony…stopped the secession by ordering the janitor to turn out the gaslights."

The sisters’ lives make a truly amazing story of which this brief account barely scratches the surface. Eventually, Victoria lost interest in the regular Suffrage movement, but thereafter she was active in "political parties" which she induced somehow to sponsor her candidacy for President on four different occasions, never once having garnered a vote. She spent most of her last years living in England where she married a wealthy British banker after his mother, who threatened to disinherit him for consorting with Victoria, died. Unbelievable but true, Tennessee married a Lord of Great Britain who was immensely wealthy and nearly twice her age. When she died, she was known throughout Europe and the U.S. and the eccentric but beneficent Lady Cook.

(Quotes from Marberry, M. M., Vicky A Biography of Victoria C. Woodhull, Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1967; general background from various published sources on woman’s history. Copyright 1993)

(Ed note: this and previous chapters of this series may be found on our website, click on "other links.")

Previous chapters