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Exhibition Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote

Family, Friends, and the Personal Side of the Movement

I expect to plead not for the slave only, but for suffering humanity everywhere. Especially do I mean to labor for the elevation of my sex.

—Lucy Stone, 1847

In asserting women’s equality, the suffrage movement challenged men’s control not only in the public world of politics and paid work, but also in the private sphere, where men typically “ruled the roost.” Antisuffragist songs and cartoons suggested that domestic tranquility and the virility of American men were under siege. Achieving happy marriages and finding ways to balance family responsibilities with a commitment to the cause proved as challenging for suffragists as it is for today’s working women. The campaign inevitably raised one’s consciousness to the inequities within marriage and to the social conventions that blocked women’s advancement. Sadly, many of the friendships that nurtured the movement before the Civil War suffered a setback when suffragists divided in 1869 over support for the Fifteenth Amendment, which failed to include women.

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