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Susan B. Anthony’s 1881 National Woman Suffrage Association Convention Agenda
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the right of suffrage should be based on citizenship, without distinction of sex, and woman should be protected by the National Government in the exercise of this right

On May 26-27, 1881, the NWSA held its thirteenth annual meeting at Tremont Temple in Boston, including delegates from at least ten states.

[SUSAN B. ANTHONY]. Newspaper. New-York Tribune, May 28, 1881. 8 pp.

Inventory #25468       Price: $375

Excerpt:

Susan B. Anthony presented a series of resolutions as the platform for the Convention, setting forth that it is the duty of Congress to submit a proposition for a sixteenth amendment to the National Constitution that shall prohibit the several States from disfranchising their citizens on account of sex, and thus place this vital question of citizenship where it may be adjusted by the most educated and responsible men in the nation; that, in submitting the proposed Woman Suffrage amendments in the States of Indiana, Oregon and Nebraska, women have clearly the right to vote on the question; that it is the duty of the women of Texas to avail themselves of their acknowledged right to vote; that the right of suffrage should be based on citizenship, without distinction of sex, and woman should be protected by the National Government in the exercise of this right.” (p1/c5)

Additional Content

An update on the special elections after both U.S. Senators from New York resigned in protest of President James A. Garfield’s federal appointments (p1/c1-3); editorials against Roscoe Conkling and supportive of Garfield (p4/c2); a report on the spread of smallpox in Hawaii (p4/c6); “What the Sioux Chiefs Want” (p5/c4); a report of a running race for boys under 18, many of them telegraph company messengers, at Madison Square Garden (p8/c1); a Roman procession by the sophomore class of Columbia College to celebrate their victory over Legendre, “the most odious textbook of the first two years’ course of study” (p8/c1-2); and many other items of news and advertisements.

Historical Background

Elizabeth Cady Stanton presided over the meeting, and Massachusetts’ Republican Governor John Davis Long (1838-1915) hosted the delegates in a reception at the state capitol.

Anthony’s reference to Texas women’s “acknowledged right to vote” seems more wishful thinking than fact based. Some Texans had petitioned the state’s 1875 constitutional convention, and delegates introduced two women’s suffrage resolutions, but these died in committee. The new state constitution undid Reconstruction by conferring suffrage rights on “every male person” over the age of 21, who was a citizen of the United States, a resident, and not otherwise disqualified. Texas women did not gain the right to vote in primaries until 1918, and full was gained only with ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.[1]

The proposed suffrage amendments in Indiana, Oregon, and Nebraska each failed. The Indiana Constitution required that proposed amendments pass in two successive General Assemblies; it did at first in 1881, but controversy over prohibition derailed it the next year. In Oregon, suffrage first appeared on the ballot in 1884, losing by a two-to-one margin; it too five more tries until women obtained the franchise there in 1912. In November 1882, male voters in Nebraska rejected women’s suffrage by a two-to-one margin; women first gained limited suffrage in that state in 1917.

After the U.S. Senate voted against a federal suffrage amendment in 1887, the NWSA turned its attention to the state level. Hundreds of campaigns in 33 states led to only 17 instances of the issue being placed on the ballot, winning only in Colorado and Idaho.

Nearly four decades after the meeting highlighted here, in June 1919, Congress passed a proposed Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and submitted it to the states for ratification. The proposed amendment prohibited the denial of the right to vote on the basis of sex. The necessary three quarters of the states had ratified the amendment by just over a year later, in August 1920.

New-York Tribune (1841-1924) was established as a daily newspaper in 1841 by Horace Greeley (1811-1872). By the 1850s, it reached a circulation of 200,000 copies, making it the largest daily newspaper in New York City at the time. Greeley also published weekly and semi-weekly issues through much of his tenure. The New-York Tribune became the dominant Whig and then Republican newspaper in the country, helping to shape public opinion. It was one of the first newspapers to send reporters to cover the campaigns of the Civil War. Greeley used his platform to support many reforms, including abolitionism, pacifism, socialism (for a time), and feminism. After Greeley’s failed campaign as the Liberal Republican candidate for President, Whitelaw Reid (1837-1912) assumed control of the Tribune until his death. His son, Ogden Mills Reid (1882-1947), acquired the New York Herald and merged the papers in 1924.


[1] A. Elizabeth Taylor, “The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas,” Journal of Southern History 17 (May 1951), 194-215.


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