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Unloading rolls of paper from a horse drawn cart. Nov 7th 1903.

[Detail] Unloading rolls of paper from a horse drawn cart. Nov 7th 1903.

Women's Suffrage

The women's suffrage movement had strong roots in Chicago. Grace Wilbur Trout, president of the Chicago Political Equality League, was a major force in the suffrage movement. Under her direction, the League organized programs to increase membership and lobby public officials to support a woman's right to vote. Search on suffrage and votes for women for images reflecting the ways in which suffragettes promoted their cause, from participating in political groups to organizing auto tours, first introduced by Trout.

  • What can you learn from these photographs about the efforts that suffragists made to further their cause?

Jane Addams, Chicago's premier reformer, was also a prominent figure in the women's suffrage movement. Addams and Elizabeth Burke of the University of Chicago served as delegates to the Women's Suffrage Legislature in 1911. British suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, offered support to the women of Illinois during a visit to Chicago in 1913. Search on Jane Addams and Emmeline Pankhurst for images of these suffragist leaders.

  • When did the women of Britain gain the right to vote?

Due to the intensive efforts of Illinois suffragettes, under the direction of Grace Trout, the Illinois state legislature granted women the right to vote in 1913. Illinois thus became the first state east of the Mississippi to grant women suffrage. Search on 1915 mayoral primary for images related to Chicago's first mayoral election in which women were allowed to vote.

With the encouragement of a local victory, the women of Chicago, like those of other cities across the nation, organized parades to arouse public support for total suffrage through a constitutional amendment. An estimated 5,000 people marched in parade down Chicago's Michigan Avenue during the 1916 Republican National Convention to pressure Republican support for such an amendment. Demonstrations during the convention were largely responsible for presidential candidate, Charles Evans Hughes, changing his position and supporting passage of a women's suffrage amendment.

In 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Later, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, proposed disbanding the organization and called for the establishment of the League of Women Voters at a hotel in Chicago in 1920. Today, the League of Women Voters is still active in promoting voting rights and civic education programs throughout the nation.

  • Why might the women's suffrage movement have had such strong roots and activity in Chicago?
  • In what ways did the women's suffrage movement use the political system to work for change?
  • How effective were these efforts?