Rise of the Women's Suffrage Movement
The women's suffrage movement, promoting women's right to vote, began in the late 18th century but gained momentum primarily after the Civil War. One of the earliest post-Revolutionary War voices for change was Judith Sargent Murray, with her 1779 essay, “On the Equality of the Sexes.” She argued that men and women, in nature, were intellectual equals with equal capabilities when provided equal access to education.
Leading up to the Civil War, women joined the antislavery movement and spoke across the country about women's civil rights and the rights of slaves. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were two such women. They held the first convention for women's rights in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. By the 1850s Stanton had partnered with Susan B. Anthony to hold conventions to promote women's right to vote, to be employed, and to be educated equally.
Women who had run households and businesses during and after the Civil War increasingly pushed for their right to participate in civic life as well. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1898 book, Women and Economics, is a prominent example, with her call for economic independence for women.Because women's suffrage differed between states, there was a need for action at the federal level to give women nationwide the right to vote. Anthony and Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 to pressure the federal government to pass an amendment allowing women to vote. Alongside this organization, the American Woman Suffrage Association was founded in the same year by Lucy Stone, a suffrage activist. Stone had been fighting for suffrage on a state-by-state basis. The two organizations merged to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890.