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  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

Get Inspired by Suffragists, Part 1

Find Inspiration for Our Everyday Lives from the Words of Suffragists

With August almost here, I decided to look for life inspiration in quotes from suffragists. August, after all, is the month when the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote was finally ratified and then signed into law.

But, as you know, it was a longtime coming. It took 72 years from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 — when the Declaration of Sentiments pushed for the right of women to vote — to 1920 when women’s voting rights were codified in the 19th Amendment to the constitution.

Words of Inspiration

The experiences of these women, these suffragettes, found in their words of wisdom can be applied to our lives, our hopes and dreams even in this 21st century.

And especially, in an election year, we hope we all women will acknowledge what the suffragists did for us. We can honor their hard work by voting.

Three Suffragists and Their Words

Harriet Tubman (1920-1913)

I’ll start this honor roll of inspiration with Harriet Tubman. Although we think of her heroism with the underground railroad and her role as a Union spy, she participated in suffrage conventions and marches organized by both white and black women as well.

Harriet didn't live long enough to see the 19th Amendment become law. But she played an important role in her work with both Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony through their National Women's Suffrage Association that sought an amendment to the constitution that would guarantee women the right to vote.

If you are looking for inspiration in your life, reflect on this quote:

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
~ Harriet Tubman

Carrie Chapman Catt Drawing
Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Carrie Chapman Catt Papers.

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947)

A second source of inspiration is the following quote by Carrie Chapman Catt. Although it is long, her words are worth reflecting on.

Carrie was considered a particularly dynamic and persuasive speaker. She is thought to have been the person who won Woodrow Wilson's respect and support that was so important for the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Of interest, and something you might not know, is that Carrie Chapman Catt—shortly before the ratification of the 19th Amendment—founded the League of Women Voters. The League is a “political grassroots network and membership organization that believes the freedom to vote is a nonpartisan issue.” The League, more than 100 years later, remains non-partisan, even in this hyper-partisan era.

If you are looking for inspiration and gratitude, we hope you’ll reflect on the following quote:

"The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guarantee of your liberty. That vote of yours has cost millions of dollars and the lives of thousands of women.
"Money to carry on this work has been given usually as a sacrifice, and thousands of women have gone without things they wanted and could have had in order that they might help get the vote for you.
"Women have suffered agony of soul which you can never comprehend, that you and your daughters might inherit political freedom.
"That vote has been costly. Prize it!
"The vote is a power, a weapon of offense and defense, a prayer.
"Understand what it means and what it can do for your country. Use it intelligently, conscientiously, prayerfully.”
~ Carrie Chapman Catt

Lucy Stone Portrait, Suffragist
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1855

Lucy Stone (1818-1893)

Our third inspirational source is Lucy Stone. You may have come across her name as she was both a suffragist and an abolitionist. Lucy, with certain other suffragists, founded a second association — the American Woman Suffrage Association. While Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony with their National Woman Suffrage Association favored a constitutional amendment to secure women the right to vote, Lucy Stone and others thought a state by state approach would be better.

By the way, in a quite modern attitude, Lucy went against accepted married behavior and kept her birth name rather than taking her husband’s last name.

Lucy’s quote, much like Carrie Chapman Catt’s, reminds us of how the progress brought about by one generation can and should be built on by following generations.

Even if we are not actively involved in forward progress, we can express our gratitude for what has been accomplished by a previous generation by voting in elections.

“I think, with never-ending gratitude, that the young women of today do not and can never know at what price their right to free speech and to speak at all in public has been earned. Now all we need is to continue to speak the truth fearlessly, and we shall add to our number those who will turn the scale to the side of equal and full justice in all things.”
~Lucy Stone

Inspiration from Words and in Action

How will you use these three inspirational quotes? Here are three ideas:

  • Determine which of the 3 quotes is your favorite. Then write for 5 minutes about how it inspires you. What you might do differently today or this week because of it. How will your day-to-day attitudes be changed when you read and re-read your favorite of these quotes?

  • Take action based on your understanding of one of the 3 quotes. It can be something as simple as registering to vote, if you haven’t already, or volunteering to help a candidate’s campaign. Remember that at the start of the women’s movement, at Seneca Falls, women were not even allowed to own property or use their own salaries or inherited money, or even speak publicly. We all have so many more opportunities now to have our voices heard. You may want to take action to let your voice be heard.

  • Find out more about the League of Women Voters in your area. Consider joining or seeing what you can do to further their educational efforts.


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