This article is courtesy of the National Park Service and can be found at:
Women first organized and collectively fought for suffrage at the national level in July of 1848. Suffragists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott convened a meeting of over 300 people in Seneca Falls, New York. In the following decades, women marched, protested, lobbied, and even went to jail. By the 1870s, women pressured Congress to vote on an amendment that would recognize their suffrage rights. This amendment was sometimes known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment and became the 19th Amendment.
The amendment reads:
"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
The woman suffrage movement in New Hampshire—as in much of New England and the rest of the country—had its roots in the anti-slavery movement. Abolitionist Armenia S. White and her husband Nathaniel founded the New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association in 1868. White served as the organization’s president until 1895. She continued to hold an honorary leadership position until her death in 1916 at the age of 98. She often opened her home in Concord to suffragist gatherings and donated money to the cause.
Marilla Marks Young Ricker of Dover showed up at the local polling place for the 1870 election and demanded that she be permitted to vote as a property owner and tax-payer. She was turned away but continued to demand the ballot every year for five decades. She was admitted to the New Hampshire bar in 1890; the next year, she was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. She ran to represent New Hampshire’s 1st District in Congress in 1897 but did not win. That same year, she petitioned unsuccessfully to become Ambassador to Colombia. She also attempted to run for governor of New Hampshire in 1910 but could not get her name on the ballot because she was not a registered voter. She ran without any expectation of winning but because, she told the Grand Forks Daily Herald, she wanted “to get people in the habit of thinking of women as governors.” She thought it might take at least one hundred years before a woman might be successfully elected, but she wanted “to set the ball rolling. There isn’t a ghost of a reason why a woman should not be governor or president if she wants to be and is capable of it.”
Women in New Hampshire became eligible to serve on school committees in 1871 and won the right to vote in school elections in 1878. In 1887, a bill was introduced in the legislature to enfranchise women in municipal elections but it was defeated. Suffragists campaigned to remove the word “male” from the state constitution’s voter qualification clause during a 1902 state constitutional convention. Although the measure passed in the convention, it was defeated by New Hampshire voters in 1903. Repeated attempts to pass additional woman suffrage legislation were defeated.
These disappointments led many New Hampshire women to turn their efforts towards passing a federal woman suffrage amendment. Sally W. Hovey became chair of the New Hampshire branch of the National Woman’s Party. She participated in the group’s more aggressive lobbying tactics and demonstrations in the fight for enfranchising women through passage of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
After decades of arguments for and against women's suffrage, Congress finally approved the 19th Amendment in June 1919. After Congress passed the 19th Amendment, at least 36 states needed to vote in favor of it for it to become law. This process is called ratification.
On September 10, 1919, New Hampshire voted to ratify the 19th Amendment. By August of 1920, 36 states (including New Hampshire) ratified the amendment and it became part of the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that across the country, the right to vote could not be denied based on sex.
New Hampshire Places of Women’s Suffrage: The Eagle Hotel
Constructed in 1851, the Eagle Hotel is located across the street from the State Capitol Building. It was an important meeting place for politicians. In February of 1913, women’s suffrage organizations held a large banquet at the hotel. Suffragists from across the state attended and several notable figures spoke at the event, including Governor Samuel Felker and William J. Britton, Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Eagle Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Discover More Places of Ratification
The Eagle Hotel is an important place in the story of ratification. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sources used to make these state pages include: Ida Husted Harper's History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920, Volume 6 (1922), the National American Woman Suffrage Association papers (Library of Congress), and National Register nominations from the National Park Service. Sources for this page include Janice A. Brown's New Hampshire History Blog (www.cowhampshireblog.com), "A Brief History of the New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association and Report of the Annual Meeting in Manchester, October 25, 1907," published by the New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association and online at archive.org, and The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire.
Photo credit: Library of Congress.
Charlotte Woodward Pierce was a teenager at the Seneca Falls convention for women’s rights. She was 91 when women finally went to vote in 1920
By Kat Eschner
July 19, 2017
Years after attending the Seneca Falls convention, which occurred this week in 1848, Charlotte Woodward Pierce recalled that she was “just a young girl, little knowing the broad field awaiting laborers.”
Around 300 people attended the convention: most were locals, due to the minimal advertising, writes the Library of Congress. In a newspaper advertisement promoting the event in the Seneca County Courier, it was described simply as “A convention to discuss the social, civil and religious conditions of the rights of Woman.”
At that convention, 100 people–68 of whom were women–signed a Declaration of Sentiments that had a few things to add to the words of America’s founders: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal," they wrote.
Pierce, who was one of the farthest traveled, was one of the signers, listed as Charlotte Woodward. (She took the last name Pierce later, when she married.) Many of her fellows “eventually withdrew their names because of the intense ridicule and criticism they received after the document was made public,” Encyclopedia Britannica writes, but Pierce wasn't among them.
She lived to get a unique perspective on the suffrage movement–when women went to the federal polls for the first time 72 years later, she was the only signatory to the Seneca Falls document who was there to see it.
But back in 1848, Woodward was just 18 or 19, living in Waterloo, New York and working from home when she saw the announcement for the convention. “She ran from one house to another in her neighborhood,” historian Judith Wellman wrote, “and found other women reading it, some with amusement and incredulity, others with absorbed interest.”
Six of her friends agreed to come with her, travelling the short distance to Seneca Falls. They planned to stay at least for the first day, which was a women-only day.
“An independent seamstress at the time, she went to the convention out of a need to agitate for more opportunities for women,” writes Esther Inglis-Arkell for Gizmodo.
After the convention, she continued to work with women’s rights agitators, moving twice–once probably to Rhode Island and the second time to Philadelphia, where she lived out the rest of her life, according to the National Park Service.
In that time, as Mary Jergenson points out in the Petoskey News, Pierce lived through the Civil War and witnessed the temperance movement. She joined the American Woman Suffrage Association, and saw her acquaintance Susan B. Anthony (who belonged to the other major women’s suffrage organization, the National Woman Suffrage Association) arrested for trying to vote. And she was alive to see the tide turn.
In 1920, American women went to the polls for the first time. Pierce, aged 91, bedridden and unable to vote herself, was aware of the occasion, but sad to miss casting her own ballot. “I’m too old,” she said according to historian Judith Wellman. “I’m afraid I’ll never vote.”
She did live to send a trowel to the National Woman’s Party in 1921, bearing the inscription “In recognition for progress made by women,” and to clear up the impression that this meant she thought women should participate in women’s-only political parties.
“I think women should go into the existing parties,” she said. “My heart is with all women who vote. They have gained it now, and they should not quarrel about the method of using it.”
Photo Credit: Governor Edwin P. Morrow signing the Anthony Amendment. Kentucky was the twenty-fourth state to ratify, January 6, 1920. Frankfort, KY: Gretter Studio. League of Women Voters(U.S.) Records. Prints & Photographs Division. Source: Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/june-04/
On June 4, 1919, Congress, by joint resolution, approved the woman’s suffrage amendment and sent it to the states for ratification. The House of Representatives had voted 304-89 and the Senate 56-25 in favor of the amendment.
Disagreement on whether the best strategy was to pursue enfranchisement through a federal amendment or by individual state campaigns had divided the women’s suffrage movement in 1869. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony worked for a federal amendment under the banner of the National Woman Suffrage Association, while Lucy Stone led the American Woman Suffrage Association’s state-by-state battle for the vote.
In 1890, the two groups united to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). NAWSA combined both techniques to secure voting rights for all American women. A series of well-orchestrated state campaigns took place under the dynamic direction of Carrie Chapman Catt, while the new National Woman’s Party, led by Alice Paul, used more militant tactics to obtain a federal amendment.
In his 1916 book Woman’s Suffrage By Constitutional Amendment, Congressman Henry St. George Tucker of Virginia argued that enfranchising women by constitutional amendment would violate the Constitution:
For three-fourths of the States to attempt to compel the other one-fourth of the States of the Union, by constitutional amendment, to adopt a principle of suffrage believed to be inimical to their institutions, because they may believe it to be of advantage to themselves and righteous as a general doctrine, would be to accomplish their end by subverting a principle which has been recognized from the adoption of the Constitution of the United States to this day, viz., that the right of suffrage — more properly the privilege of suffrage — is a State privilege, emanating from the State, granted by the State, and that can be curtailed alone by the State.
Woman’s Suffrage By Constitutional Amendment, by Henry St. George Tucker. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1916. p 4. National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection. Rare Book & Special Collections Division
Henry Wade Rogers, a Yale University law professor, offered a different perspective in “Federal Action and State Rights,” an essay within the 1917 collection Woman Suffrage by Federal Constitutional Amendment, compiled by Carrie Chapman Catt. He argued that previous constitutional amendments set a precedent for the demands of suffragists:
…the Fifteenth Amendment provides that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude…” If woman suffrage is a sound principle in a republican form of government, and such I believe it to be, there is in my opinion no reason why the States should not be permitted to vote upon an Amendment to the Constitution declaring that no citizen shall be deprived of the right to vote on account of sex.
“Federal Action and State Rights,” by Henry Wade Rogers. In Woman Suffrage by Federal Constitutional Amendment. New York: published by the National Woman Suffrage Publishing Co., Inc., 1917. p 67. National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection. Rare Book & Special Collections Division
Rogers’s position prevailed. Women’s active participation in the war effort during World War I and their broadening role in society highlighted the injustice of their political powerlessness. On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified.
Source: Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/june-04/
Friday, March 1, 2019
On September 9, 1919 NH Governor John H. Bartlett called a special session of the Legislature to vote on the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment would ensure that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The Legislature passed it that day, and the Governor signed it the next, making NH the 16th state of the 36 necessary to add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The 19th Amendment had first been introduced in Congress in 1871. But Congress’ unwillingness to pass it meant women could only vote in states that had passed woman’s suffrage laws. By 1919 that had come to include 27 states, but not New Hampshire. Granite state women would have to wait for the state of Tennessee to become the 36th state to pass the 19th Amendment before they could vote for President in 1920.
Over the next two years (2019 and 2020), New Hampshire Humanities, the New Hampshire Historical Society, New Hampshire Public Radio, educational institutions, and many other organizations around the state will be commemorating the 19th Amendment and discussing its legacy. We will coordinate efforts though a common logo, website and hashtag. We want you to join in an exploration of the power and meaning of the vote, of how social change happens, and the unfinished business that getting the vote did not fully solve for diverse groups of women.
Saint Anselm College began its exploration in January with a discussion of black women’s fight for suffrage and how issues of race and class made a unified fight for women’s rights more complicated. Next up at Saint Anselm, on March 20 at 7:30 pm, Carnegie Mellon University Professor of History Lisa Tetrault will give a talk on how our memory of the suffrage movement was carefully created by one group of suffragists after the Civil War (from her book The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898). By giving the movement a common origin point, one faction in the suffrage movement could claim to be its founding mothers and control the narrative moving forward, eking out an advantage among competing suffrage factions.
Throughout March, which is Women’s History month, Saint Anselm College will be encouraging students and the broader community to explore the impact of the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments, often seen (as Dr. Tetrault will explore) as the origin of the suffrage movement. Signed by 100 black and white women and men at Seneca Falls, NY, (including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass), the Declaration argued that all men and women were created equal. It laid out a series of complaints against women’s rulers (men), mirroring those charges the founding fathers laid against the British king.
Readers today would recognize issues that have changed, including women’s exclusion from higher education, law and medical schools, and most professions, and many that have not, including women’s exclusion from the ministry in some traditions, a sexual double standard, and what we would now call sexual harassment.
We forget that the suffrage movement was incredibly contentious. Different groups pursued varied strategies from state-level referendums to a federal amendment. Some suffragists argued women were equal to men and thus should have equal rights. Others argued women were fundamentally different from men and both aspects of humanity – male and female, public and private, war-mongering and peace-loving – had to be represented in national votes. A few suffragists claimed the vote primarily to provide a white bulwark against the votes of Catholic immigrant or African-American men whom they thought would undermine a white, Protestant nation. And of course, millions of women (and more men) were anti-suffragists, arguing that female voting would undermine women’s essential femininity and their key roles as apolitical arbiters of America’s morals. New Hampshire Humanities and its partner organizations will be exploring many of these issues over the next two years, and invite you to participate as an attendee, or by applying for a grant to discuss these issues in ways relevant to your community.
For more information on Saint Anselm’s initiative and Dr. Tetrault’s talk, visit www.anselm.edu/women100events.
Dr. Beth Salerno is Professor & History Department Chair at Saint Anselm College. She earned her Ph.D. in U.S. and Comparative Women’s History at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Salerno previously served on New Hampshire Humanities Board of Directors and as Chair of its Program Committee.
New Hampshire Humanities is currently seeking proposals for our popular statewide Humanities to Go programs. Humanities to Go is an award-winning traveling speakers bureau offering engaging and informative programs on a wide range of topics through the lens of the humanities.
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote in New Hampshire and the United States, New Hampshire Humanities is seeking proposals for new programs related to the women’s suffrage movement and the expansion of voting rights. Many of New Hampshire’s educational and cultural organizations are joining together to commemorate this anniversary in 2019 and 2020.
We are looking for proposals on any of the following topics:
the Nineteenth Amendment
the Voting Rights Act of 1965
the Equal Rights Amendment
the women’s suffrage movement in the US and abroad
voting rights in New Hampshire
the expansion and restriction of voting rights in US history
Speakers applying to Humanities to Go should hold an advanced degree (M.A. or Ph.D.) in one of the humanities disciplines; however, New Hampshire Humanities recognizes that scholarship and knowledge gathering can be defined differently and respects such diversity of training and preparation. We expect applicants to have public speaking experience. The ability to engage diverse audiences and learners in compelling conversation about the program’s theme is crucial.
Humanities to Go speakers receive a stipend and mileage for each booked presentation. Our programs are presented to audiences at libraries, historical societies, museums, and civic and community programs. Through our new initiative, Humanities@Work, we also provide high quality humanities programming in the workplace. Programs are typically 60 minutes in length and include interactive elements and audience discussion. We are only accepting proposals related to the theme outlined above at this time.
To submit a proposal, please send an email with a brief program description and a resume/CV to Dr. Tricia Peone, HTG Program Manager, email@example.com. We will begin accepting proposals in April 2019 and continue until filled.