Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association

Alternative names

Hide Profile

The MWSA was founded in 1881 to coordinate statewide and local efforts to obtain universal equal suffrage for women. After the Minnesota legislature ratified the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in September, 1919, it reorganized to form the Minnesota League of Women Voters.

From the description of Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association records, 1894-1923 [microform]. (Minnesota Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 313842893

The Minnesota Woman, Suffrage Association (MWSA) was founded in Hastings, Minnesota, in 1881. The establishment of this group marked the beginning of a united effort to gain equal suffrage for women in Minnesota. Prior to this time, suffrage was an issue that had met with only sporadic success in Minnesota. Several special laws and an amendment to the state constitution had been passed that permitted women to vote for designated local candidates and issues. This early legislation was enacted in spite of the absence of a systematic organizational effort to promote the suffrage movement on both the state and national levels.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the MWSA adopted a "moderate" approach to achieving equal suffrage. It promoted suffrage by distributing educational literature from suffrage booths at the Minnesota State Fair and at other expositions and by petitioning Minnesota state legislators to introduce suffrage legislation. The MWSA also began to establish local auxiliaries in communities around the state. Although these auxiliaries and other Minnesota suffrage groups shared a common goal, they were not yet linked by a statewide organizational network. Important individuals in the MWSA during this early period included Sarah Burger Stearns, first president, 1881-1883; Julia B. Nelson, fifth president, 1890-1896; Maud Stockwell, eighth president, 1900-1910; Alice Hall, tenth president, 1911-1913; and Harriet E. Bishop.

National woman suffrage groups were restructuring their organizations during this period, and the suffrage movement was gaining momentum. In 1890 the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) merged to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). These organizations were founded separately in 1869 when a dispute over strategies split the suffrage movement. The NWSA, a more militant group led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, favored amending the United States Constitution. The AWSA, a more moderate group led by Lucy Stone and Julia Ward, advocated amending state constitutions. Following their merger, the NAWSA adopted a policy of promoting amendments to both the United States Constitution and individual state constitutions. The new national organization adopted the moderate, educational approach to achieving equal suffrage but did not yet have a plan that would unite all suffragists. By 1914 the suffrage cause had not gained many victories. Only six states passed equal suffrage legislation between 1896 and 1914. Suffragists discovered that the lack of a strong organization, difficulty in amending state constitutions, outspoken opposing organizations such as the National Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, liquor interests, and a continuing division among suffragists themselves hindered the success of the movement both nationally and in the states.

In response to this situation, the NWSA and its state auxiliaries decided to focus their efforts on amending only the United States Constitution and adopted new administrative procedures that unified their organization. The new administrative structure linked the NWSA and its state affiliates in a systematic network that offered efficient communication, consistent funding, and common tactics. Professional organizers traveled around the United States, spending from a few months to several years in a state to organize its suffrage campaign.

In response to this situation, the NWSA and its state auxiliaries decided to focus their efforts on amending only the United States Constitution and adopted new administrative procedures that unified their organization. The new administrative structure linked the NWSA and its state affiliates in a systematic network that offered efficient communication, consistent funding, and common tactics. Professional organizers traveled around the United States, spending from a few months to several years in a state to organize its suffrage campaign.

Suffragists revived the movement by employing new tactics, such as suffrage parades and rallies that brought the suffrage issue into prominent national view and utilized new and existing forms of technology to serve their cause. The automobile enabled suffragists to disseminate information rapidly and to make personal visits to even the most remote areas. Signs on autos advertised "Votes for Women" daily. Suffragists captured the attention of the news as groups of women embarked on cross-country promotional auto tours. Women stunt pilots performed aerial shows; suffrage trains toured the country. The Mississippi Valley Suffrage Association sponsored a suffrage barge that plied its way down the Mississippi River from Minnesota to St. Louis, Missouri, promoting suffrage in towns along the way. Photography illustrated many of these events in various suffrage and other publications.

Under the leadership of Clara (Mrs. Andreas) Ueland, who served as president from 1914 to 1919, the MWSA followed the lead of the NAWSA. In 1915 Minnesota suffragists were encouraged to promote only the national Anthony Amendment to the United States Constitution; all efforts to amend the Minnesota State Constitution were discouraged. Despite these directives, a bill authorizing presidential suffrage was introduced and passed in the Minnesota state legislature in 1919. The MWSA also initiated an administrative reorganization in 1915. The new plan created a statewide network of community and district suffrage groups, organized by legislative district, that would hold regular meetings, recruit new members, distribute literature, lobby legislators, and sponsor fund-raising events. Fund-raising events served two purposes: new members were recruited for suffrage groups, and proceeds from these events were distributed among the local, state, and national organizations to fund their operations. By 1916 several professional organizers, notably Rene E. H. Stevens and Bertha Moller, had been hired to implement the new plan.

Despite the renewed efforts to secure suffrage, some suffragists felt that the movement was hampered by the activities of another suffrage group, the National Woman's Party. This organization, originally called the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, was founded in 1912 by Alice Paul. Its name was changed in 1916 when it was reorganized as a political party. Its members believed that tactics much more militant than those of the NAWSA were necessary to secure suffrage. Demonstrations in front of the White House in 1917 led to the arrest and jailing of women picketers, who refused to pay fines to avoid imprisonment. Their subsequent hunger strike and forced feeding received national news coverage. The NWSA and the MWSA, concerned about their image, officially disassociated themselves from any actual or implied link with the National Woman's Party.

Suffragists also viewed two other events as adverse influences on the success of the movement. Some felt that the entry of the United States into World War I diverted the efforts of some women from suffrage work to wartime social causes. Many suffragists, however, believed that this situation was mitigated by the increased employment of women in jobs formerly held only by men, which helped to improve public attitudes toward women's capabilities. In addition the widespread influenza epidemic of 1918 appeared to be a setback, since suffrage meetings were disrupted for months in Minnesota and elsewhere when all public meetings and gatherings were officially banned.

The so-called Anthony Amendment, which was first introduced in the United States Senate in 1878, finally was passed by Congress in June, 1919. After its passage, suffragists in Minnesota and around the country petitioned governors to call special legislative sessions to ratify the amendment. The Minnesota State Legislature ratified it at a special session held on September 8, 1919. The Anthony Amendment became the nineteenth amendment to the United State Constitution after the Tennessee State Legislature ratified it in August, 1920.

As each state ratified the Anthony Amendment, the NAWSA and its affiliates turned their attention to analyzing the future of the suffrage organizations. The NAWSA concluded that suffrage groups could be of service in educating newly enfranchised women and immigrants in the areas of citizenship and voting. The NAWSA, therefore, was reorganized as the American League of Women Voters (ALWV) at a national convention in St. Louis, Missouri, in March 1919. State organizations followed this lead. On October 28-29, 1919, the MWSA was reorganized into the Minnesota League of Women Voters (MLWV) with Clara Ueland as president.

From the guide to the Association records, [microform]., 1894-1923., (Minnesota Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Peyton, Theresa Barbara, 1880-1929. Theresa B. Peyton papers, 1898-1917. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Farmer, Eugenia Berniaud, 1835-1924. A voice from the Civil War, 1918 / #c by Eugenia Berniaud Farmer. Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
referencedIn League of Women Voters of Minnesota. League of Women Voters of Minnesota records, 1919-1989, 1996. Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
creatorOf Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association records, 1894-1923 [microform]. Minnesota Historical Society Library
creatorOf Association records, [microform]., 1894-1923. Minnesota Historical Society.
referencedIn League of Women Voters of Minnesota records., 1919-2012. Minnesota Historical Society.
referencedIn Jaeger, Luth, 1851-1925. Luth and Nanny Mattson Jaeger papers, 1874-1933. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Howe, Jonas Holland, 1821-1899. Jonas H. Howe and family papers, 1864-1865, 1935, 1939-1940. Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
referencedIn Political Equality Club of St. Paul (Minn.). Club records, 1910-1917. Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Addams, Jane, 1860-1935. person
associatedWith American Committee of Minneapolis. corporateBody
associatedWith Blackwell, Alice Stone, 1857-1950. person
associatedWith Burnquist, J. A. A. 1879-1961. person
associatedWith Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947. person
associatedWith Christianson, Theodore, 1883-1948. person
associatedWith Clapp, Moses E. 1851-1929. person
associatedWith Equal Suffrage Association of Minneapolis. corporateBody
associatedWith Farmer, Eugenia Berniaud, 1835-1924. person
associatedWith Hall, Alice Ames. person
associatedWith Hall, Alice Ames. person
associatedWith Harper, Ida Husted, 1851-1931. person
associatedWith Hennepin County Woman Suffrage Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Howe, Jonas Holland, 1821-1899. person
associatedWith Hurd, Anna. person
associatedWith Hurd, Ethel Edgerton, 1845-1929. person
associatedWith International Woman Suffrage Alliance. corporateBody
associatedWith Jaeger, Luth, 1851-1925. person
associatedWith Johnson, Magnus, 1871-1936. person
associatedWith Jones, Effie McCollum. person
associatedWith Jones, Effie McCollum. person
associatedWith Kellog, Frank Billings, 1856-1937. person
associatedWith Kellogg, Frank B. (Frank Billings), 1856-1937 person
associatedWith League of Nations. corporateBody
associatedWith League of Women Voters of Minnesota. corporateBody
associatedWith League to Enforce Peace (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith Lind, John, 1854-1930. person
associatedWith McCulloch, Catherine. person
associatedWith McCulloch, Catherine. person
associatedWith Michigan Equal Suffrage Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan Equal Suffrage Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Minneapolis Council of Americanization. corporateBody
associatedWith Minneapolis Council of Americanization. corporateBody
associatedWith Minnesota Commission of Public Safety. corporateBody
associatedWith Minnesota Democratic Association (St. Paul, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Minnesota Federation of Women's Clubs (Minneapolis, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Minnesota League of Women Voters. corporateBody
associatedWith Minnesota Prohibition State Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Mississippi Valley Suffrage Conference. corporateBody
associatedWith Moller, Bertha. person
associatedWith Moller, Bertha. person
associatedWith National American Woman Suffrage Association. corporateBody
associatedWith National Child Labor Committee (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Woman's Party. corporateBody
associatedWith National Women's Trade Union League of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Nelson, Julia B. person
associatedWith Nelson, Julia B. person
associatedWith Nelson, Knute, 1843-1923. person
associatedWith New York State Woman Suffrage Party. corporateBody
associatedWith Ohio Woman Suffrage Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955. person
associatedWith Peyton, Theresa Barbara, 1880-1929. person
associatedWith Pillsbury, Charles Stinson, 1878-1939. person
associatedWith Political Equality Club of Minneapolis. corporateBody
associatedWith Political Equality Club of Minneapolis. corporateBody
associatedWith Political Equality Club of St. Paul (Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Preus, J. A. O. 1883-1961. person
associatedWith Ramsey County Suffrage Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Republican Women's National Executive Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Sageng, Ole O., 1872-1963. person
associatedWith Saint Paul Political Equality Club. corporateBody
associatedWith Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association (Minneapolis, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Schmahl, Julius A. 1867-1955. person
associatedWith Shaw, Anna Howard, 1847-1919. person
associatedWith Shutter, Marion D. 1853-1939. person
associatedWith Socialist Party (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith South Dakota Universal Franchise League. corporateBody
associatedWith South Dakota Universal Franchise League. corporateBody
associatedWith Stevens, Rene E. H. person
associatedWith Stevens, Rene E. H. person
associatedWith Stockwell, Maud Conkey, ca. 1860-1958. person
associatedWith Ueland, Clara, 1860-1927. person
associatedWith Upton, Harriet Taylor. person
associatedWith Van Sant, Marian. person
associatedWith Van Sant, Marian. person
associatedWith Washburn, William D. 1831-1912. person
associatedWith Wells, Marguerite M. 1872-1959. person
associatedWith Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924. person
associatedWith Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Woman Citizen. corporateBody
associatedWith Woman Citizen. corporateBody
associatedWith Woman's Christian Temperance Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Woman's Community Council (Minneapolis, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Woman's Franchise League of Indiana. corporateBody
associatedWith Woman's Occupational Bureau (Minneapolis, Minn.) corporateBody
associatedWith Woman Suffrage Club of Minneapolis. corporateBody
associatedWith Woman Suffrage Publishing Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Woman's Welfare League (St. Paul, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Women's Co-operative Alliance (Minneapolis, Minn.) corporateBody
associatedWith Women's Freedom League. corporateBody
associatedWith Women's Political Union of New Jersey. corporateBody
associatedWith World Peace Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Young Men's Christian Association (Saint Paul, Minn.) corporateBody
associatedWith Young Men's Christian Association (St. Paul, Minn.). corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Minnesota
Subject
Women
Labor laws and legislation
Legislation
Peace
Suffrage--Minnesota
Women in public life
Prohibition
Women--Legal status, laws, etc
World War, 1914-1918--War work
Suffrage
Legislation--Minnesota
Women--Minnesota
Women--Social conditions
Citizenship
Peace in literature
Women's rights
Legislation--United States
Child welfare
Women--Societies and clubs
Women--Employment
Temperance
Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919
Disarmament
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1894

Active 1923

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6935n46

Ark ID: w6935n46

SNAC ID: 26910783