Through the efforts of Alice Stone Blackwell, Harriot Stanton Blatch, and others, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) came into existence in 1890 and exerted an immediate impact on the movement, leading to suffrage victories in Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah in the 1890s. Although most of the material in the NAWSA records (26,700 items; 1839-1961) dates from 1890 to 1930, the collection includes some information on the movement's early pioneers, including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sarah M. Grimké, Julia Ward Howe, Mary A. Livermore, Lucretia Mott, and Emma Willard. More recent leaders include Ida Husted Harper, Mary Garrett Hay, Belle Case La Follette, Maud Wood Park, Mary Gray Peck, Rosika Schwimmer, and Anna Howard Shaw. Of particular note in the records are progress reports from affiliated state and local suffrage organizations, papers relating to the work of the Congressional Union (which later became the National Woman's Party), literature on antisuffrage groups, information about international suffrage leaders and alliances, and files relating to suffrage songs and plays. (The Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds the NAWSA's Library.)
Included among the NAWSA manuscript materials are items relating to the Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission, which was established by NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) with a one-million-dollar bequest she inherited in 1914 from newspaper publisher Miriam Florence Leslie. Catt appointed journalist Ida Husted Harper to the commission's newly created Leslie Bureau of Suffrage Education, with the job of generating press releases and reports in favor of the federal suffrage amendment and responding to editorials critical of women's suffrage and of the tactics used by the NAWSA's militant offshoot organization, the National Woman's Party. In addition to the NAWSA materials, Harper's work is documented in a separate Manuscript Division collection of Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission Records (1,200 items; 1911-18).
The records of the National Woman's Party (438,400 items; 1891-1974) trace the development of that organization from its beginnings in late 1912 when Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, young Americans who had worked with Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst in the British suffrage movement, sought appointments on the lethargic NAWSA Congressional Committee so that they could work toward passage of a federal suffrage amendment. Their first activity was to organize the massive March 3, 1913, national suffrage parade (see “Marching for the Vote”), which was followed by other efforts to increase pressure on Congress and President Woodrow Wilson. Finding themselves at odds with the NAWSA leadership, Paul and Burns left the Congressional Committee in late 1913 to form the Congressional Union, a NAWSA affiliate that became independent of the parent body in February 1914 and was later reorganized as the National Woman's Party (NWP) in June 1916.
The NWP records held by the Manuscript Division are divided into four major groups:
In addition to its campaigns for women's suffrage and the ERA, the NWP also fought successfully for more favorable nationality laws and equal citizenship rights for women, including the Cable Act of 1922 and its subsequent revisions, the Dickstein-Copeland Bill of 1934 and the Equal Nationality Treaty of 1934. State laws also came under the NWP's review, and the organization's Legal Research Department prepared extensive reports on women's legal status in each state and drafted bills for state legislatures concerning parents' custody rights, jury service, property rights, reinstatement of maiden name after marriage, divorce rights, estate administration, and guardianship issues. The dissolution of the NWP in the early 1990s, following a contentious internal legal fight, may be traced in the records of the Woman's Party Corporation (11,480 items; 1918-98; bulk 1985-95). A digital version of Group I and Group II of the National Woman's Party records is also available via the subscription database ProQuest History Vault.
The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.
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