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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

Women's Suffrage

Henrietta Briggs-Wall. American Woman and Her Political Peers, 1893. 1911. Postcard, Hutchinson, Kansas. National American Woman Suffrage Association Records. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

The long and difficult struggle for women's suffrage is one of the best-documented, most widely researched, and most seriously debated topics in American women's history. That historians know as much as they do about the suffrage campaign is in large part because of its participants' conscious efforts to record their movement's history. In the late 1870s, in the very midst of their campaign, leading suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage began chronicling the movement in The History of Woman Suffrage, published in three monumental volumes between 1881 and 1886. The early leaders supplemented this history by publishing various autobiographies and memoirs and by assiduously collecting clippings, books, and pamphlets about their efforts.

In 1903 Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford convinced his friend Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) to donate her collection of books and other printed matter to the national library, where they now reside in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Following receipt of these printed sources, the Library's curators began amassing manuscripts, photographs, and other papers relating to the struggle for women's rights, assembling in the process a compelling documentary history of the suffrage campaign from its early connections to the abolition and temperance campaigns to its final victory in August 1920.

Included are the papers of the movement's early pioneers, the daughters of that first generation, and the women who made the successful final push to victory, along with the records of the leading national suffrage organizations.

The following "Women's Suffrage" collections are highlighted in these sections of the guide:

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.