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Top 10 Women's Suffrage Activists

Workers for Women's Suffrage You Should Know


Many women and men worked to win the vote for women, but a few stand out as more influential or pivotal than the rest. The organized effort began most seriously in America first, and from there influenced other suffrage movements around the world. The British radicals in turn influenced a shift in the American suffrage movement.

Also read: The Long Road to Suffrage | Women's Suffrage Timeline | Women's Suffrage Biographies | August 26, 1920 | What You Need to Know About Women's Suffrage | Women's Suffrage Quiz

1. Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony, c. 1897
Underwood Archives/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Susan B. Anthony was the best-known suffrage proponent of her time, and her fame led to her image being put on a U.S. dollar coin in the late 20th century. She wasn't involved in the 1848 Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention that first proposed the idea of women's suffrage as a goal for the women's rights movement, but she joined soon after, and often worked in alliance with Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Learn more: Susan B. Anthony Biography | Susan B. Anthony Pictures | Susan B. Anthony Quotes | Susan B. Anthony Obituary

2. Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Original from History of Woman Suffrage by Stanton et al. Modifications © 2003 Jone Johnson Lewis.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked closely with Susan B. Anthony. Stanton was the writer and theorist, while Anthony was the speaker and strategist. Stanton was married and had two daughters and five sons, which limited the time she could spend traveling and speaking. She was, with Lucretia Mott, responsible for calling the 1848 Seneca Falls convention; she was also the primary writer of the convention's Declaration of Sentiments. Late in life, Stanton stirred up controversy by being part of the team that wrote The Woman's Bible.

Learn more: Elizabeth Cady Stanton Biography | Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pictures | Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pictures | Solitude of Self

3. Alice Paul

Alice Paul
Courtesy Library of Congress

Alice Paul became active in the suffrage movement in the 20th century. Born 70 and 65 years after, respectively, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul visited England and brought back a more radical, confrontational approach to winning the vote. After women won the vote in 1920, Paul proposed an Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Learn more: Alice Paul | Alice Paul Pictures | Alice Paul Quotes

4. Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst
Getty Images / Hulton Archive

Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst, were leaders of the more confrontational and radical wing of the British suffrage movement. They were major figures in the founding and history of the Women's Social and Political Union (WPSU).

Learn more: Emmeline Pankhurst | Emmeline Pankhurst Quotes | Christabel Pankhurst Biography | Christabel Pankhurst Quotes

5. Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt
Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Modifications ©2003 Jone Johnson Lewis. Licensed to About.com.

When Susan B. Anthony stepped down from the presidency of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1900, Carrie Chapman Catt was elected to succeed Anthony. She left the presidency to care for her dying husband, and was elected president again in 1915. She represented the more conservative, less confrontational wing that Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and others split from. Catt also helped found the Women's Peace Party and the International Woman Suffrage Association.

Learn more: Carrie Chapman Catt Biography | Carrie Chapman Catt Picture | Carrie Chapman Catt Quotes

6. Lucy Stone

Lucy Stone
© Jone Lewis, adapted from a public domain image. Licensed to About.com.

Lucy Stone was a leader in the American Woman Suffrage Association when the suffrage movement split after the Civil War. This organization, considered less radical than Anthony and Stanton's National Woman Suffrage Association, was the larger of the two groups. She's also famous for her 1855 marriage ceremony that renounced the legal rights that men usually gained over their wives upon marriage, and for keeping her own last name after marriage.

Her husband, Henry Blackwell, was the brother of Elizabeth Blackwell and Emily Blackwell, barrier-busting women physicians. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, early woman minister and also a women's suffrage activist, was married to Henry Blackwell's brother; Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell had been friends since college.

Learn more: Lucy Stone Facts | Lucy Stone Biography | Lucy Stone Quotes | "The Progress of 50 Years" by Lucy Stone | Marriage Protest of Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell - 1855

7. Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

She was there at the beginning: at a meeting of the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 when Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were relegated to a segregated women's section, though they had been elected as delegates. It was eight more years until the two of them, with the aid of Mott's sister Martha Coffin Wright, brought together the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention. Mott helped Stanton draft the Declaration of Sentiments, endorsed by that convention. Mott was active in the abolitionist movement and the wider women's rights movement. After the Civil War, she was elected the first president of the American Equal Rights Convention, and tried to hold the suffrage and abolitionist movements together in that effort.

Learn more: Lucretia Mott Biography | Pictures of Lucretia Mott | Lucretia Mott Quotes

8. Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Millicent Garrett Fawcett
© 2008 Clipart.com

Millicent Garrett Fawcett was known for her "constitutional" approach to gaining the vote for women, in contrast to the more confrontational approach by the Pankhursts. After 1907 she headed the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). The Fawcett Library, repository for much women's history archival material, is named for her. Her sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, was Britain's first woman physician.

Learn more: Millicent Garrett Fawcett

9. Lucy Burns

Lucy Burns at Occoquan Workhouse
Courtesy Library of Congress

Lucy Burns, a Vassar graduate, met Alice Paul when they were both active in the British suffrage efforts of the WPSU. She worked with Alice Paul in forming the Congressional Union, first as part of the existing National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and then on its own. Burns was among those arrested for picketing the White House, imprisoned at Occoquan Workhouse, and force-fed when the women went on a hunger strike. Bitter that many women refused to work for suffrage, she left activism and lived a quiet life in Brooklyn.

Learn more: Lucy Burns Biography | Brutal Treatment of Women Suffragists at Occoquan Workhouse

10. Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Courtesy US Library of Congress

Known more for her work as an anti-lynching journalist and activist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was also active for women's suffrage, and critical of the larger women's suffrage movement for excluding black women.

Learn more: Ida B. Wells-Barnett Facts | Ida B. Wells Biography | Black Women Sent to Back of Suffrage March

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