Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage

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The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage was an American organization formed in 1913 led by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns to campaign for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage. It was inspired by the United Kingdom's suffragette movement, which Paul and Burns had taken part in. Their continuous campaigning drew attention from congressmen, and in 1914 they were successful in forcing the amendment onto the floor for the first time in decades. Early history Alice Paul created the Congressional Union after joining the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and gaining leadership of its Congressional Committee.The CU was initiated to assist the NAWSA Congressional Committee and its officers were part of that committee. The CU shared the same goal with NAWSA, to gain an amendment to the United States Constitution giving all women the right to vote. In the beginning, the CU worked within NAWSA to strengthen the declining Congressional Committee. In March 1913, after realizing the amount of work to be done, the CU became in charge of their own operations and funding but still remained affiliated with NAWSA. In the fall of 1913, Carrie Chapman Catt of NAWSA accused the CU of insubordination and financial irregularities, allegations which she later retracted. The strategies of the two organizations were conflicting and NAWSA's leadership felt threatened. In December 1913, the National American Woman Suffrage Association selected a new Congressional Committee and formally cut ties with the Congressional Union. Initiative The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage appealed to young women with a new approach in the fight for women's suffrage, inspired by the British suffragettes. Alice Paul believed women should not have to beg for their rights. Paul introduced some of the militant methods used by the Women's Social and Political Union in Britain to the CU and its members. These included direct actions, organizing huge demonstrations, and the daily picketing of the White House. The CU had 4,500 members and had raised more than $50,000 in funds by 1914. Over time, the efforts of hundreds of members led to their arrest and sometimes imprisonment. Organization The Congressional Union's headquarters were located on F Street in Washington, D.C. near the Willard Hotel in a highly visible office which they paid for themselves. They started women's "suffrage schools" to spread awareness about their cause and held multiple meetings each day. The CU was never organized by states or districts, but there were different branches of the organization in a number of states. The Washington headquarters was central to their work but they were also a mobile organization. The CU published a newspaper called The Suffragist, featuring articles by prominent members including Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and Inez Milholland. The newspaper employed Nina Allender as its main cartoonist, and also published cartoons by artists such as Cornelia Barns, Boardman Robinson and Marietta Andrews. Campaigning The Congressional Union actively campaigned for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing universal woman suffrage. Following the methods used by suffragettes in Britain, the CU fully blamed the majority party for failure to advance the Federal Suffrage Amendment. The majority party at the time was the Democratic Party, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson was president. Members traveled west and campaigned against Democrats in hopes of impeding their reelection. They even campaigned against Democrats who approved women's suffrage, despite criticism from the National American Woman Suffrage Association. They traveled through the west by train while using a number of tactics to increase their visibility and their whistle-stop speeches attracted the attention of reporters. Their campaign resulted in the defeat of 20 democrats who supported suffrage, much to the dismay of NAWSA. National Woman's Party Main article: National Woman's Party The Congressional Union created the National Woman's Party at a meeting in Chicago in 1916. The party included members of the Congressional Union, and Alice Paul was in charge. A Campaign Committee was formed within the party with Anne Martin serving as chairman. In 1917, the two organizations officially joined together to form the National Woman's Party (NWP) and elected Alice Paul as their chairman.
Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Papers, 1785, 1805-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lindseth collection of American woman suffrage, [ca. 1820-1920]. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Papers, 1867, 1895, 1902-1948 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Jane Norman Smith, 1913-1953 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Helen Brewster Owens, 1867-1948 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Grace A. Johnson in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1840-1952: Subseries A-E, 1840-1952 (inclusive) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1882-1930. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1904-1947 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Alice Paul, 1785-1985 (inclusive), 1805-1985 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lucia Isabelle Voorhees Grimes Papers, 1900-1977 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Papers of Doris Stevens, 1884-1983 (inclusive), 1920-1960 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Johnson, Grace A. (Grace Allen), 1871-1952. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1840-1952 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Foley, Margaret, 1875-1957. Papers, 1847-1968 (inclusive), 1909-1929 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Raynolds, Sara Ann Robbins. Diaries, 1913-1961 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Ames, Blanche. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1913-1940 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Stevens, Doris, 1888-1963. Papers, 1884-1983 (inclusive), 1920-1960 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1904-1947 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Suffragists Oral History Project (Bancroft Library). Transcripts of oral history project, 1959-1974 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Ames, Blanche, 1878-1969. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1913-1940 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Katzenstein, Caroline. Caroline Katzenstein papers 1850-1965 bulk 1909-1965. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Papers of Jane Norman Smith, 1913-1953 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Foley, Margaret, 1875-1957. Papers, 1847-1968 (bulk: 1909-1929) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Grimes, Lucia Isabelle Voorhees, 1877-1978. Lucia I.V. Grimes papers, 1912-1949. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Minnesota Equal Franchise League. Equal Franchise League papers, 1911-1917. Minnesota Historical Society Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith ALICE PAUL, 1885-1977 person
associatedWith Ames, Blanche. person
associatedWith Blanche (Ames) Ames, 1878-1969 person
associatedWith Carrie (Lane) Chapman Catt, 1859-1947 person
associatedWith Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947. person
associatedWith Doris Stevens person
associatedWith Foley, Margaret, 1875-1957 person
associatedWith Foley, Margaret, 1875-1957. person
associatedWith Grace Allen (Fitch) Johnson, 1871-1952 person
associatedWith Grimes, Lucia Isabelle Voorhees, 1877-1978. person
associatedWith HELEN BARTEN (BREWSTER) OWENS, 1881-1968 person
associatedWith Jane Norman Smith (Mrs. Clarence M.), 1874-1953 person
associatedWith Johnson, Grace A., 1871-1952. person
associatedWith Jon A., Lindseth person
associatedWith Katzenstein, Caroline. person
associatedWith Minnesota Equal Franchise League. corporateBody
associatedWith Owens, Helen Brewster, 1881-1968. person
associatedWith Paul, Alice, 1885-1977. person
associatedWith Raynolds, Sara Ann Robbins. person
associatedWith Smith, Jane Norman, 1874-1953. person
associatedWith Stevens, Doris, 1888-1963. person
associatedWith Suffragists Oral History Project (Bancroft Library). corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Washington City DC US
Subject
Occupation
Activity
Voting
Lobbying federal government
Campaigning

Corporate Body

Establishment 1913

Disestablishment 1917

Information

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