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Literature Study GuidesAddress To Congress On Womens Suffrage

Address to Congress on Women's Suffrage | Study Guide

Carrie Chapman Catt

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Carrie Chapman Catt

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At a Glance

  • In November 1917, Carrie Chapman Catt delivered an address to both houses of Congress, urging them to pass a federal amendment on suffrage.
  • The speech came at a pivotal time for suffrage; after decades of advocating for women's right to vote, suffragists had adopted more targeted tactics. They engaged in civil disobedience, and they were being arrested in larger numbers. States had begun to respond, with several granting women the vote. This suffrage trend included New York State, which gave women the right to vote shortly before Chapman Catt addressed Congress.
  • In her speech, Chapman Catt argues that the lack of women's suffrage created a fundamental division in U.S. politics, which rendered women voiceless and unrepresented on a national level and diminished in society.

This lack of suffrage, according to Chapman Catt, weakened U.S. democracy by undermining the principles on which the country was built.

  • She goes on to argue that states have made progress on securing the vote for women, and therefore women's suffrage is inevitable.
  • She calls on Congress to pass the Federal Suffrage Amendment and to advocate for it in their own states, so as to ensure the United States upholds its own ideals and does not fall behind allies like Great Britain.
  • She also invokes World War I, which the United States had recently entered, and the rhetoric of democracy used to justify and explain U.S. involvement. If leaders truly supported democracy, she argues, then they are compelled to support women's suffrage. Congressional leaders, all of whom were men, therefore had the choice to support suffrage or be remembered by history as being an opponent of democratic progress.


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