Women's Suffrage in the Progressive Era
Immediately after the Civil War, Susan B. Anthony, a strong and outspoken advocate of women's rights, demanded that the Fourteenth Amendment include a guarantee of the vote for women as well as for African-American males. In 1869, Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. Later that year, Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and others formed the American Woman Suffrage Association. However, not until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919 did women throughout the nation gain the right to vote.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, women and women's organizations not only worked to gain the right to vote, they also worked for broad-based economic and political equality and for social reforms. Between 1880 and 1910, the number of women employed in the United States increased from 2.6 million to 7.8 million. Although women began to be employed in business and industry, the majority of better paying positions continued to go to men. At the turn of the century, 60 percent of all working women were employed as domestic servants. In the area of politics, women gained the right to control their earnings, own property, and, in the case of divorce, take custody of their children. By 1896, women had gained the right to vote in four states (Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah). Women and women's organizations also worked on behalf of many social and reform issues. By the beginning of the new century, women's clubs in towns and cities across the nation were working to promote suffrage, better schools, the regulation of child labor, women in unions, and liquor prohibition.
Not all women believed in equality for the sexes. Women who upheld traditional gender roles argued that politics were improper for women. Some even insisted that voting might cause some women to "grow beards." The challenge to traditional roles represented by the struggle for political, economic, and social equality was as threatening to some women as it was to most men.
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