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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

The Early Leaders

L. Prang & Co. Representative Women. Circa 1870. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Among the first suffrage manuscripts acquired by the Library of Congress were the papers of Susan B. Anthony's close friend and colleague Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), who had launched the suffrage campaign by “sending forth that daring declaration of rights” at the country's first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848.7 Four portfolios of Stanton documents accompanied Anthony's gift to the Library in 1903, to which the Library added other items donated by Stanton's children or purchased from dealers. Today, the Stanton Papers (1,000 items; 1814-1946; bulk 1840-1902) document her efforts on behalf of women's legal status and women's suffrage, the abolition of slavery, civil rights for African Americans, and other nineteenth-century social reform movements. The collection includes an official report and contemporary newspaper clippings relating to the historic 1848 convention, drafts of Stanton's memoirs Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences, 1815-1897, and a draft of her controversial The Woman's Bible, a critical attack on church authority, which nearly splintered the suffrage movement when published in 1895.

Susan B. Anthony's personal papers (500 items; 1846-1934; bulk 1846-1906) did not join her book collection at the Library until 1940, when her niece, Lucy E. Anthony, donated a small collection relating to her aunt's interests in abolition and women's education, her campaign for women's property rights and suffrage in New York, and her work with the National Woman Suffrage Association, the organization Anthony and Stanton founded in 1869 when the suffrage movement split into two rival camps at odds about whether to press for a federal women's suffrage amendment or to seek state-by-state enfranchisement. Also included are six scrapbooks compiled by Anthony's younger sister Mary, containing a valuable compilation of newspaper clippings, convention programs, and other contemporary accounts, which would be impossible to reassemble today.

A six-volume series, The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, 1997-2013; HQ1410.A2525), edited by Ann D. Gordon, includes documents from the Library of Congress's Stanton and Anthony Papers. In addition, the microfilm edition of The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (Wilmington, Del. : Scholarly Resources, c1991; 45 reels), compiled by Patricia G. Holland and Ann D. Gordon from various manuscript repositories, and accompanying guide (Z6616.S689P37 1992), are available in the Manuscript Reading Room.

Lucy Stone, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing right. Between 1840 and 1860. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Joining Stanton and Anthony as the third member of the nineteenth-century suffrage triumvirate was Lucy Stone (1818-1893). Two years after Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the 1848 convention, Stone helped coordinate the first national American women's rights convention, held in Worcester, Massachusetts. For many years, Stone earned a living as an antislavery and women's rights lecturer, and from 1872 until her death in 1893, she coedited with her husband, Henry Brown Blackwell, the premier women's suffrage newspaper, the Woman's Journal.

Stone's papers and those of her husband are held in the division's Blackwell Family Papers (29,000 items; 1759-1960; bulk 1845-90). They include information about the couple's famous wedding ceremony, in which they eliminated the bridal vow “to obey” and circulated a written protest against nineteenth-century marriage laws, which denied women all legal standing. The collection is an important source on the early suffrage movement, its connections to the abolitionist cause, and its unsuccessful campaign for a universal suffrage amendment as part of the American Equal Rights Association. Also documented is the movement's split after the Civil War into the American Woman Suffrage Association led by Stone, Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe, and the National Woman Suffrage Association led by Stanton and Anthony.

The Blackwell Family Papers document the national suffrage movement with a special emphasis on New England, whereas the papers (300 items; 1869-1905) of Michigan suffragist Olivia Bigelow Hall (1823-1908?) provide a picture of the local suffrage scene. In the last third of the nineteenth century, Hall organized meetings in her hometown of Ann Arbor, obtained speakers for rallies there, and corresponded with national leaders Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, Carrie Chapman Catt, and members of the American Equal Rights Association and National Woman Suffrage Association.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link 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.


  1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “On the Social, Educational, Religious, and Political Position of Women in America,” June 25, 1883, speech delivered at Princess Hall, London, England, container 6, Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Back to text