Path to the Vote

1911

National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage is founded–by a woman

Josephine Dodge establishes the first national anti-suffrage organization, with women and men as members. A common claim of opponents was that women were not interested in voting or politics, being too busy raising children and homekeeping. State and local groups, such as the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, had been active since the 1860s.

Clara B. Arthur publishes The Progress of Michigan Women

Clara B. Arthur publishes The Progress of Michigan Women which detailed the fight for suffrage in the state. Arthur led the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association from 1907, having been a prominent member of the MESA and the Detroit Equal Suffrage Association. As President of the MESA, she spearheaded the 1912 and 1913 referendum campaigns.

1912

Bull Moose Party adopts a woman suffrage plank

Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive (“Bull Moose”) Party becomes the first major national political party to include women’s suffrage in its platform.

Ypsilanti Equal Suffrage Association is organized

Ypsilanti Equal Suffrage Association is organized in June, followed by the Washtenaw Equal Suffrage Association in September. Influential and active members of the YESA include Charles McKenny, president of Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern University) and Cleary College founder P.R. Cleary. After Michigan passed suffrage in 1919, the YESA became the Ypsilanti League of Women Voters.

Michigan suffrage referendum is defeated, results contested

Governor Chase S. Osborn

Gov. Charles Osborn convinces the legislature to put a women’s suffrage amendment on the ballot seven months before the election; suffragists and anti-suffragists spring to action. It is defeated by a narrow 760-vote margin. Election fraud in several counties galvanizes suffragists to call for another vote. While most blame the liquor lobby, suffrage campaign leader Clara Arthur identifies an enemy closer to home: “We know who we have to fight,.. READ MORE

1913

Second suffrage referendum fails in Michigan

Grand Rapids Parade

Despite suffragists’ hope that the results would be different, the referendum of April 7, 1913, deals an even more stunning defeat to suffrage, failing 264,882 to 168,738. While the measure fails both times in Washtenaw County overall, the male voters of Ypsilanti twice vote in support of suffrage. In Ann Arbor, on the other hand, the vote swings from passage in 1912 to failure in 1913. Once again, powerful forces.. READ MORE

Suffragists take radical action

Suffragists take radical action under the leadership of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, organizers of the Congressional Union, which became the National Women’s Party in 1916. Inspired by the militant tactics of the British Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), they march on Washington and picket the White House, go on hunger strikes, and engage in other forms of protest and lobbying to reignite the suffrage campaign.

1914

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs endorses suffrage

With nearly two million members throughout the country–whites and women of color–the GFWC represented many middle class American women. Its formal endorsement, giving “the cause of political equality for men and women its moral support by recording its earnest belief in the principle of political equality regardless of sex,” signifies that the cause has been taken up by mainstream women.

1916

Carrie Chapman Catt reveals her “winning plan” for victory

Catt, President of the NAWSA, devises a strategy involving coordinated activities by state and local suffrage associations across the nation, bringing to bear the collective strength of the movement to finally achieve suffrage.

1918

Michigan passes state constitutional amendment granting women suffrage

On November 5, 1918, male voters approve an amendment allowing the women of Michigan to vote in statewide elections. The margin of victory is 34,506 votes. Several influences turned the tide in favor of suffrage: the suffragists’ efforts were better organized and coordinated across the state; society recognized the significant contributions women had made in the workforce during World War I; and prohibition had been enacted in Michigan in 1917.

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.