I’m obsessed with celebrating the 19th Amendment and the celebration of 100 years since it’s ratification. The suffragettes were heroines in so many ways. The stories around the fight for the right to vote often blow my mind, but as I’ve worked in adult and children’s literature related to suffrage, I’ve noticed that there are a LOT of names that come up constantly. The suffrage movement gets a lot of flack for being very white. It was, and there were tendrils of racism in it, no doubt–but there were black women and other women of color working and marching for the vote too. Sure, people like Alice Paul and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are obviously important to the movement, but if you’re passionate about history and suffrage you need to know more than just those two names. 

To get you started, here are fifteen suffragettes you should know. Let this serve as a great jumping off point for you in your future endeavors.

Susan B Anthony

Anthony is one of the most famous figures of the suffrage movement, and for good reason. She was campaigning for equal rights for women (and for an end to slavery) since her teen years, and she was one of the co-founders of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Suffragettes “voted” several times before the 19th Amendment was passed as an act of protest. Anthony was one of the numerous suffragettes arrested for casting a ballot in Rochester, NY. She famously refused to pay a single cent of her bail or the fine levied against her for voting. The 19th Amendment is also known as the Susan B Anthony Amendment. 

Alice Stone Blackwell

Women’s rights were in Blackwell’s bones. Her mother, Lucy Stone, helped found the American Woman Suffrage Association and she was the niece of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female physician in the U.S. She served as the editor of the Woman’s Journal, a prominent suffrage publication that helped share the voice of women and promote the cause. She was also an ardent human rights advocate and passionate about sharing what was happening in places like Armenia. 

Alice Burke

Like with Caitlin, women fighting for the vote participated in lots of “stunts” to publicize the fight for the vote.  One of those was Nell Richardson and Alice Burke’s drive across the United States in a beautiful little yellow car to not only spread the word but show that women could do it all. Their car ‘The Golden Flier” got them a ton of attention along the way. They even brought a little kitten to keep them company. Burke was a member of NAWSA. When she and Richardson finished their journey, Burke did it again via train.

Claiborne Caitlin

Suffrage history is full of unique moments of women taking matters in their own hands. Caitlin is a prime example. A member of NAWSA, she helped promote the cause of suffrage in her home state of New York for decades. To help promote a suffrage rally they were planning at Tremont Temple, Caitlin rode horseback to publicize the cause. This got her a lot of attention.  That inspired her to ride horseback around the state of Massachusetts to publicize her cause. She rode over 350 miles, horseback, collecting donations and relying on the kindness of others, to publicize the fight for the vote. 

Carrie Chapman Catt

Catt is considered one of the “founding mothers” of the suffrage movement for her role in founding NAWSA and the League of Women Votes. She wrote extensively and lectured on women’s rights before working formally for suffrage across numerous states.  She was even on the ground in Tennessee when it became the final state needed for ratification! Not just focusing on American women, Catt helped found the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. 

Wilhelmine Kekelaokalaninui Widemann Dowsett

One of the fascinating aspects of suffrage is how many women had to fight to be viewed as citizens first, let alone voting citizens. Women of Hawaii knew that struggle first hand–having been given the vote under their own rule and then having it taken away when Hawaii became a territory. Dowsett was a Native Hawaiian suffragette who helped found the National Women’s Equal Suffrage Association of Hawai’i. She was instrumental in getting Hawaiians the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. 

Hazel MacKaye

The suffrage movement wasn’t just about protests and signs–they used art and pageantry to support the cause as well. MacKaye, a musician, helped create and organize pageants, including the famous Allegory pageant which took place on the steps of the Treasury building during the 1913 suffrage parade. She created several other pageants for suffrage events–including the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention. 

Inez Milholland

There are lots of “famous photographs” in history, and Milholland is the star of one of them. She led the 1913 parade astride a tall, white horse named “Gray Dawn.” Milholland was clad in a crown and long white cape and the picture is fascinating to see. Milholland led other parades during her suffrage career as well, was active in NAWSA, and was admitted to the New York bar.

Lucretia Mott

Another “founding mother” of the movement, Mott worked closely with Stanton. Mott helped write the famous 1848 Declaration of Sentiments during the Seneca Falls Convention, which she helped organize. Like many suffragists, she was also an ardent abolitionist. She met Stanton at the World Anti-Slavery Convention. The two took to each other quickly and worked for years to come on winning women the right to vote.  She’s also included in the National Women’s Hall of Fame!

Emmeline Pankhurst

While she was not an American suffragist, Pankhurst’s work in the suffrage movement shaped American suffragettes immensely. Pankhurst was known for being a very active protesters–smashing windows, going on hunger strikes, etc–which were topics of conservation and discussion around the world.  She founded the Women’s Social and Political Union and was instrumental in the 1918 Act that gave British women over the age of 30 the right to vote. While it wasn’t a perfect victory, it was a big step in the right direction. 

Alice Paul

Paul is another famous suffragette who often gets a lot of credit in the movement. She helped organize the famous 1913 Parade for Suffrage in Washington, D.C. and was one of the women who fought for the Equal Rights Amendment until her death in 1977. Like Anthony, she was also arrested for protesting–this time outside the White House itself during her on-going battle against President Wilson to get women the vote. After spending time in Britain, she became acquainted with the previously mentioned Pankhursts. Paul was arrested at least seven times while there. She was one of the “Silver Sentinels” that protested outside of the White House. 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Stanton is one of the “founding mothers” of suffrage and helped organize the Seneca Falls Convention alongside Lucretia Mott. Stanton took her honeymoon to the World Anti-Slavery Contention, where she met Mott, and Stanton was also an abolitionist. She wrote prolifically in the movement, including the Declaration of Sentiments. She is also included in the National Women’s Hall of Fame and a statue in the Capitol rotunda. 

Mary Church Terrell

Terrell, being a black women in the nation’s capital, was active not only in Civil Rights but also the suffrage movement. She was one of the first black women to earn a college degree in the U.S, was a charter member of the NAACP, and helped found the Colored Women’s League of Washington. Through her friendship with Anthony and membership in NAWSA, she gave countless moving addresses on the role of black women in the suffrage movement. When she visited Europe for one suffrage convention, she was one of the only U.S. delegates to give her speech in a European language–German. Languages were her thing! After the 19th Amendment was ratified, she continued working for Civil Rights and equality for the rest of her life. 

Sojourner Truth

Known best for her abolitionist work, Truth was also a suffragette! Born into slavery, Truth is one of the most quoted (if misquoted) abolitionists of her time. She spoke widely on the abolition of slavery and the importance of women’s rights. Then, she sold her image–via a carte de visite–to help fund her travels and speaking engagements. She’s suspected of being the first woman in the U.S. to own the copyright of her own likeness. Truth used her age, her height, and her womanhood to fight for desegregation, land rights, and other aspects of Civil Rights her entire life. 

Ida Wells-Barnett

Wells-Barnett was an avid suffragette and Civil Rights leader, especially working to publicize the horrors of lynching in the U.S. She was born into slavery, freed under the Emancipation Proclamation, and became a well-known journalist. She traveled nationally to speak on lynching, suffrage, and related topics, and helped found the Alpha Suffrage Club in response to the overwhelming whiteness of the national women’s suffrage movement. When she was told she could not march alongside white suffragettes during the 1913 parade, she did not heed their racism. Instead, she joined the marchers from Illinois mid-procession, marching til the end. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member