Museum of the City of New York Collection on Women’s Suffrage, 1890-1920

Extent: 2 boxes
The Museum of the City of New York’s Collection on Women’s Suffrage contains two and three-dimensional ephemera ranging from 1890 to 1920, relating primarily to the suffrage movement in New York City.

Historical Note
The women’s suffrage movement began in earnest in the United States in 1848, at the first women’s convention in Seneca Falls, New York. In order to achieve the reform that they desired, women in the suffrage movement realized that they needed to not simply be represented, but to vote for themselves. Western states, such as Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, were among the first to grant women the right to vote. The women’s suffrage movement became most significant at the turn of the century, and with this enthusiasm came the right to vote in states such as Washington, California, and Arizona. Along the way, suffragettes faced significant organized backlash from the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS), which had state branches such as the New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. The NAOWS argued that the majority of women did not want to vote, but instead stay home to care for their children and household. Despite backlash, women’s suffrage was fully ratified on August 18, 1920 as the Nineteenth Amendment.

Suffragism in New York City was defined by the participation of upper class women who sought to work for the rights of themselves and for working class women. This was unusual, as many women who were anti-suffragists elsewhere were upper class. Some of the materials in this collection were given by Carrie Chapman Catt, a notable figure in the New York City suffrage movement. A former president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, she organized small societies in New York City into the New York City Woman Suffrage Party in 1909. The group used a variety of tactics that had proved to be successful for political change in New York City. Parades and protests were coupled with lobbying and petitioning to their success, a combination which encompassed civil disobedience and traditional political methods.  Women’s suffrage was granted in New York State in 1917 and women continued to work for the Nineteenth Amendment, to benefit women across the country.

Scope and Content
The Collection on Women’s Suffrage contains a variety of materials, created between 1894 and 1919, relating to the women’s suffrage movement. The collection consists largely of letters, leaflets, and pamphlets. The women’s suffrage movement relied heavily on the distribution of booklets, pamphlets, and newspaper advertisements in order to lay out their ideology to both the opposition and potential supporters. The collection also contains pins with phrases such as “Votes for Women” and “WSP” (the New York City Woman Suffrage Party). In addition, the Museum’s collection contains textiles relating to women’s suffrage, such as banners and pennants.

Most materials in the Collection are focused on New York and the New York City Woman Suffrage Party, and a few apply to the topic of women’s suffrage in the United States at large. Objects of note include letters to Julie Reinhardt from the Woman Suffrage Party, and an anti-suffragist pamphlet from the New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.

Click here to view the complete finding aid for the Collection on Women’s Suffrage

Related Collections
Museum of the City of New York Collection on the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform

Museum of the City of New York Collection on Politics