Join the Circle of Suffrage!

With Mother’s Day approaching, we want to take this opportunity to highlight the Founding Mothers of the suffrage movement. The collection here at Sewall-Belmont reflects the legacy and leadership of the National Woman’s Party’s (NWP) work for suffrage and equal rights. We also recognize and celebrate the contributions of so many others: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Ida B. Wells-Barnett – women known and unknown, who worked so hard and fought so long to win the full rights of citizenship for American women.

Today, as we look forward to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment in 2020, and consider the historic participation of women at every level of American society, we believe it is time to tell this story more widely. We want to expand the circle of suffrage to include more narratives and to discover unknown stories, artifacts, and connections.

The contributions of the NWP to the cause of suffrage were extensive, but they were not the only “mothers” of the women’s equality movement.  The abolition and temperance movements went hand in hand with the push for the vote, while women from all over the world made connections and found inspiration from their comrades’ successes and failures. The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), with its web of state and local branches throughout the United States, organized campaigns and trained local leaders to help women win municipal and state suffrage.

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Left: Sheet Music – She’s Good Enough to be your Baby’s Mother and She’s Good Enough to Vote with You. Lyric by Alfred Bryan. Music By Herman Paley. Right: “Lost Illusions” by Nina Allender, May 19, 1917. “Mother, Isn’t there any Santa Claus?” No Dear, It’s Only Your Uncle Dressed Up.”

In 2015, private collector Ann Lewis, put her collection of suffrage objects and artifacts into an online database to further the discussion around the expansion of democracy and demonstrate women’s courage and organization around this great movement. This collection includes more than 1,200 books, periodicals, pamphlets, fliers, leaflets, broadsides, postcards, correspondence, buttons, playing cards, ribbons, ceramic and porcelain figurines, and much more.  The collection presents a well-rounded account of the varied voices within the social and civil movements of the time, including suffragists and anti-suffragists, temperance workers, working women, political and religious leaders, abolitionists, advocates for birth control, and teachers.

Sewall-Belmont is thrilled to collaborate with Ann Lewis and utilize her collection to help inform and build on that of the NWP as we begin to form a circle of suffrage. The stories that these collections communicate provide only a portion of the broader circle of women’s suffrage work, and offer us a modest glimpse at the people, the tactics and strategies, the places, and the language that contributed to winning the fight for women’s suffrage in the United States.

We begin our efforts to widen the circle of suffrage with you. The National Woman’s Party collection and the Ann Lewis collection are pieces of this circle that we will be presenting over the next few weeks. In honor of Mother’s Day we will start with stories and images of motherhood and suffrage. Moving forward, we invite you to contribute your story to this circle and find collections in many places, from your mother’s closet to grandma’s attic to the antique shop down the street.

We need your help to tell the story, to complete the circle, and to contribute more details to the history of women’s voting rights and the thousands of women who worked together toward a more inclusive democracy. Please follow our posts on Facebook and Twitter and join the circle by posting images from your collections, including original photographs, artifacts, documents, scrapbooks, artwork, or so many other treasures. Share your story and grow the conversation.


3 Responses to Join the Circle of Suffrage!

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  3. Regina says:

    This is so exciting! I’m writing my history capstone research paper on Suffrage Operas, and I cannot wait to dig around in the collections here. I have been searching for the original score and libretto to Melinda and Her Sisters (Belmont – Vanderbilt), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed! Thanks for sharing!

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