In honor of the Centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote, we are featuring a piece in our local newspaper every month about a famous suffragist.
In March, Women's History Month, we featured suffragist and founder of the League of Women Voters, Carrie Chapman Catt.
The article and additional information about Carrie Chapman Catt appears below.
Carrie Chapman Catt (1859 – 1947)
By Brenda McHenry
“To the wrongs that need resistance, To the right that needs assistance,
To the future in the distance, Give yourselves.”
– Carrie Chapman Catt
Her eyes say it all. Deep set, direct, they show a woman with confidence; a leader, brilliant strategist, and organizer. Carrie Chapman Catt devoted most of her life to the cause of woman suffrage.
As a 13-year-old in Iowa, she was a participant in family discussions around the coming presidential election between Ulysses Grant and Horace Greeley. But when Election Day came, and only the men, including the mostly illiterate hired hands, headed off to vote, she was distressed to learn her mother could not join them.
She completed college, became a teacher and then school superintendent. She married twice, first to Leo Chapman, who brought her to San Francisco where she assisted with his newspaper and became the first female reporter in that city. After his death, she married the wealthy George Catt, and they settled in New York. He encouraged her participation in the woman suffrage movement.
Mrs. Catt’s oratory skills were considerable. She traveled around the country, giving speeches that galvanized her listeners into support. The National American Woman Suffrage Association tapped her as president after the retirement of Susan B. Anthony. Under her leadership, NAWSA distanced itself from other issues like temperance and votes for Negroes, focusing on women's suffrage only. She had to set aside intense criticisms in pursuit of that cause.
Carrie Catt disagreed with the methods of more radical supporters
of the women’s movement, such as Alice Paul. Her goal was to
present prepared and researched statements in the press and in her
speeches. It could be said that the two views complemented each
other in their common goal. In a sweltering Tennessee August, Catt
successfully orchestrated the hard-fought battle that resulted in the
final ratification needed to make the 19th Amendment into law.
Early in 1920, she founded the League of Women Voters, recognizing that new voters needed education in government and issues. After 100 years of service, today the League continues its work of service to voters, study of issues, and advocacy.
In her celebration speech after the Tennessee victory, Catt said:
“The vote is a power, a weapon of offense and defense, a prayer.
Understand what it means and what it can do for your country.”
That has not changed.
Sponsored by: Law Office of Jim Cherry, Law Office of Sally Chenault, Frank Russell Attorney at Law, Tuolumne County Bar Association, National Hotel and Restaurant, and Members of LWVML
Quotes from Carrie Chapman Catt
"The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guarantee of your liberty. "
" This world taught woman nothing skillful and then said her work was valueless. It permitted her no opinions and said she did not know how to think. It forbade her to speak in public and said the sex had no orators."
"When a just cause reaches its flood-tide, as ours has done in that country, whatever stands in the way must fall before its overwhelming power."
"There are two kinds of restrictions upon human liberty -- the restraint of law and that of custom. No written law has ever been more binding than unwritten custom supported by public opinion."
"There are whole precincts of voters in this country whose united intelligence does not equal that of one representative American woman."
Catt was the only woman in her graduating class at Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University).
In 1902, Catt founded the International Woman Suffrage Alliance to spread democracy around the globe.
Catt helped found the Woman’s Peace Party (1915).
She devised the "Winning Plan," which carefully coordinated state suffrage campaigns with the drive for a constitutional amendment - the plan that helped ensure final victory.
In reaction to the suffering in WWI, she organized the Committee on the Cause and Cure of War (1925).
Catt worked on behalf of German Jewish refugees and was awarded the American Hebrew Medal (1933).