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Collection Carrie Chapman Catt Papers

About this Collection

The papers of suffragist, political strategist, and pacifist Carrie Lane Chapman Catt (1859-1947) span the years 1848-1950, with the bulk of the material dating from 1890 to 1920. The collection consists of approximately 9,500 items (11,851 images), most of which were digitized from 18 microfilm reels. Included are diaries, correspondence, speeches and articles, subject files, and miscellaneous items, including photographs and printed matter.  The collection reflects Catt's steadfast dedication to two major ideals--the rights of women, particularly the right to vote, and world peace.

Although Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) from 1900 to 1904, during which time she helped found the International Woman Suffrage Association, she is perhaps best remembered for her second stint as NAWSA president, which began in 1915. Within a year of resuming the presidency, Catt had come to accept the criticism of the National Woman's Party (NWP) that NAWSA's state-by-state strategy was taking too long.  A brilliant strategist, she unveiled her secret "Winning Plan," a two-pronged attack that called for the careful coordination of state work (which meant reducing resources in Southern states that were hemorrhaging funds but had no chance of succeeding) with an aggressive nonpartisan lobbying effort in Washington for a federal amendment. By the end of 1916, both NAWSA and the NWP were working toward the federal amendment, and it is Catt and Alice Paul of the NWP, as the respective leaders of the two largest national suffrage organizations, who have received most of the credit for securing the passage and ratification of the amendment.

Most of Catt's papers relate to her efforts to secure the ballot for women. General Correspondence and Subject File series in the collection reveal the tactics she employed in achieving this goal, first in New York and then nationally. After the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920, the focus of the collection shifts to Catt's increasing concern with the settlement of international problems and the establishment of a world peace organization.

A finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers is available online with links to the digital content on this site.

The collection is arranged in six series:

  • Diaries, 1911-1923 (Reels 1-2)
    Typescript account of Catt's travels. Includes duplicates. Arranged chronologically. Of particular note are the diaries, with embedded postcards, photographs, and other illustrations, recounting in detail Catt's trip around the world on behalf of woman suffrage in 1911-1912.
  • General Correspondence, circa 1890-1947 (Reels 2-7)
    Letters received and copies of letters sent. Arranged alphabetically. A substantial amount of the correspondence is with prominent leaders of the women's movement, including Grace Abbott, Jane Addams, Viscountess Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, Alice Stone Blackwell, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ida Husted Harper, Mary Garrett Hay, Clara Hyde, Julia Clifford Lathrop, Rosette Suzanne Manus, Katherine Dexter McCormick, Maud Wood Park, Mary Gray Peck, Helen Rogers Reid, Rose Schneiderman, Rosika Schwimmer, Edna Lamprey Stantial, and Justina Leavitt Wilson.
  • Speech and Article File, 1892-1946 (Reels 7-9)
    Drafts, notes, handwritten manuscripts, typescripts, and near-print and printed copies of speeches and articles, most of which deal with women's rights and peace. Titled speeches arranged alphabetically; untitled speeches arranged chronologically; articles arranged alphabetically at end of series.
  • Subject File, 1848-1950 (Reels 9-18)
    Correspondence, near-print and printed matter, newspaper clippings, awards, and miscellaneous material. Arranged alphabetically by subject. Included are biographical papers, awards, and birthday tributes, as well as manuscripts relating to the Woman's Centennial Congress of 1940, the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War, and other organizations with which Catt was affiliated.
  • Miscellany
    Autographs, bookplates, photographs, printed matter, and other material. Arranged alphabetically by type of material.
  • Oversize
    Photographs and drawing.