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Path to the Vote


17th-18th century | In the Iroquois Confederacy, women participated in all major decision-making.

Native American Voting Rights

Iroquois women had the power to veto any act of war, select chiefs and had to approve any negotiation involving land. Suffragist Mathilda Gage wrote that the Iroquois provided the modern world’s “first conception of inherent rights, natural equality of condition, and the establishment of a civilized government upon this basis,” Read more here. Photo: John Mix Stanley, The Trial of Red Jacket, 1869, painting, Smithsonian American Art Museum


Abigail Adams advocates for women’s rights

Abigail Adams advocates for women’s rights

Abigail Adams advocates for women’s rights in a letter to her husband John, March 1776, while he was in Philadelphia working on the Declaration of Independence. “Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to.. READ MORE


U.S. Constitution adopted.

U.S. Constitution adopted.

Because there is no agreement on a national standard for voting rights, states are given the power to regulate their own voting laws. In most cases, voting remains in the hands of white male landowners. Photo: Samuel Sartain, Geo. Read : A Signer of the Declaration of Independence and a Framer of the Constitution of the United States, 19th century, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan


Popular culture promotes “The Cult of Domesticity”

Life and Age of Women

1820-1880 | Society discourages women’s participation in public affairs. Printed materials from this time period show stereotypical ideas of men’s and women’s roles. Photo: The Life & Age of Woman : Stages of Woman’s Life from the Cradle to the Grave, Kelloggs & Comstock, lithograph,1848, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan


Emma Hart Willard founds the Troy Female Seminary in New York

Emma Hart Willard founds the Troy Female Seminary in New York as the first endowed school for girls.


Sarah and Angelina Grimke begin their speaking careers

Sarah Grimke

1836-1837 | Sarah and Angelina Grimke begin their speaking careers attracting controversy by lecturing on anti-slavery to “promiscuous assemblies” of both men and women. Female abolitionists hold the first Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in New York on May 9, 1837, and publish Angelina Grimke’s “An Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States,” which argues that women — as citizens — have a duty to engage in the.. READ MORE


The first secondary school for girls is established in Michigan

Mary Clark

The first secondary school for girls is established in Michigan by Mary Clarke when she returns to Ann Arbor after attending the Troy Female Seminary. Photo: Image Courtesy of the Washtenaw County Historical Society

Anti-slavery movement divides

1839-1840 | Anti-slavery movement divides along lines of belief about the role of women. At the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Conference in London, Lucretia Mott and other women are not permitted to actively participate, despite being official delegates; they are ushered to the gallery to observe. Mott meets Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the conference, and mutual indignation over the female delegates’ treatment sows the seeds for the women’s rights movement.


First women’s rights convention is held at Seneca Falls, NY

Declaration of Sentiments

First women’s rights convention is held at Seneca Falls, NY organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Jane Hunt, Mary Ann M’Clintock, and Martha Wright. Catharine F. Stebbins, who later lived in Detroit, signs the “Declaration of Sentiments.” The “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions,” signed by 67 other women and 32 men, calls for complete legal and moral equality of the sexes and declares that “all laws which prevent woman.. READ MORE

Works Consulted

The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote. Elaine Weiss. Penguin Books, 2019. 

Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote. Susan Ware. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2019. 

Sojourner Truth’s America. Margaret Washington. University of Illinois Press, 2009. 

“Declaration of Sentiments.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Report of the Woman’s Rights Convention, Held at Seneca Falls, New York, July 19 and 20, 1848. Printed by John Dick, Rochester, NY, The North Star office of Frederick Douglass, 1848. 

The History of Woman Suffrage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Gage. Vol. I: 1835-1860. New York, Fowler & Wells, 1881.  

Lucretia Mott. Diary of Her Visit to Great Britain to Attend the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840. Edited by Frederick B. Tolles, supplement no. 23, Journal of the Friends’ Historical Society. Friends’ Historical Association and Friends’ Historical Society, 1952. 

Crusade for the Vote. Online exhibit and resource. National Women’s History Museum.

Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote. June 4, 2019 – Sept. 2020. The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 

Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence. March 29, 2019  January 5, 2020. National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. 

Liberty Awakes in Washtenaw County: When Women Won the Vote. Jan. 8 – Feb. 27, 2011. The Museum on Main Street, Ann Arbor, sponsored by the Ann Arbor Area League of Women Voters.

Women’s History Timeline, The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame, Lansing, MI.

National Park Service. Women’s History Website, “19th Amendment,”, and “Suffrage in America: The 15th and 19th Amendments” series. https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/15th-and-19th-amendments.htm

“US Voting Rights Timeline,” Northern California Citizenship Project. https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/15th-and-19th-amendments.htm

“Who got the right to vote when? A History of Voting Rights in America” AlJezera.

Image Sources

William L. Clements Library Image Bank, University of Michigan.

Bentley Historical Library Image Bank, University of Michigan.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.