Table of Contents
source: Crusade for the Vote
What was the American Woman Suffrage Association?
The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) was a Boston-based national organization dedicated to winning the right to vote for all women.
Founded in 1869, the AWSA represented the more conservative side of the women’s rights movement. The group adopted a level-headed approach, promoting civil debate through public speeches and newspaper publications. It did not challenge any other societal institutions and norms, seeking to fix the single, though massive issue of discriminatory voting laws.
For a complete history of women’s battle for the right to vote, check out our women’s suffrage timeline.
The Zero Theft Movement, along with our community, is working to eliminate the rigged parts of the economy. Throughout history, the corrupt among the privileged class and employers have exploited workers of all races and genders. In this article, we will cover the American Woman Suffrage Association and how it worked to win voting rights for women.
The Origins of the American Woman Suffrage Association
Famous suffragist Lucy Stone formed the American Woman Suffrage Association due to deep, irreconcilable differences between her and other leaders of the suffrage movement.
After the American Civil War, leaders of the abolition and women’s rights movement saw an opportunity to push for suffrage, or the right to vote, in a radically changing country. The two movements actually came together to form a short and tumultuous relationship in the form of the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) in 1868.
Portrait of Lucy Stone (1881)
By Ida Bothe
source: Harvard University Schlesinger Library via Wikimedia Commons
Throughout the existence of AERA, members rarely found common ground. Leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton believed that suffrage for women and African American men had to happen at the same time. On the other hand, Stone and abolitionists thought it best to first focus on suffrage for Black men and then fight for women’s voting rights later.
Bitter disagreements over two amendments to the U.S. Constitution exacerbated already strained relationships between the leaders. The Fourteenth Amendment added the word “male” to the Constitution for the first time. and the Fifteenth Amendment extended voting rights to African American men but not to women.
Women’s rights activist Stanton remarked on the Republican Congress’s movement to extend voting rights to Black men: “to demand his enfranchisement on the broad principle of natural rights, was hedged about with difficulties, as the logical result of such action must be the enfranchisement of all ostracized classes; not only the white women of the entire country, but the slave women of the South … the only way they could open the constitutional door just wide enough to let the black man pass in, was to introduce the word ‘male’ into the national Constitution.”
After a major blow up during the 1869 AERA convention, AERA dissolved and the women’s suffrage movement split into two major factions with diametrically opposed approaches: the radical National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the (more) conservative American Woman Suffrage Association.
Formation of the AWSA & Distinction from the NWSA
During a November 1869 New England Woman Suffrage Association (NEWSA) convention in Cleveland, Lucy Stone, along with a few other women (including abolitionist Sojourner Truth), officially formed the AWSA.
The AWSA was more conservative than the NWSA, which adopted an all or nothing approach to achieving suffrage. The AWSA instead expressed its support for the Republican Party and the Fifteenth Amendment. The founders thought the amendment would not win congressional approval if it included the vote for women, but they wished to at least secure African American men the right to vote.
Apart from their differing perspectives on the Fifteenth Amendment, the AWSA distinguished itself from NWSA in a number of other ways:
- The AWSA welcomed men and women, while the NWSA remained all-female.
- The NWSA addressed other women’s rights issues beyond suffrage (e.g. divorce laws, wage discrimination, etc.). The AWSA advocated exclusively for women’s suffrage.
- The AWSA thought success would be achieved by changing laws state by state, but the NWSA thought women’s suffrage would be most efficiently secured with a federal constitutional amendment.
- The AWSA backed traditional social structures and institutions (e.g. marriage and religion) while the NWSA felt traditions often restricted women.
The NWSA, similar to the British suffragettes, tended to use litigation and militant tactics to try and force reform. The AWSA, instead, led petition drives, testified before legislatures, delivered public speeches, and ran its own publications.
To learn more about the U.K. suffrage movement, check out the following articles:
The Modest Successes of the AWSA
Initially, the American Woman Suffrage Association managed to attract more members than NWSA up until the 1880s. That being said, Anthony and Stanton actually served as the faces of the suffrage movement, perhaps due to their controversial methods and beliefs. Furthermore, despite the AWSA’s numbers, the prominent leadership of the NWSA meant that the latter continued to generally dictate the direction of the suffrage movement.
This is not to say the AWSA did not experience its own share of success. In 1870, Stone and her activist husband, Henry Browne Blackwell, created their own eight-page weekly newspaper named the Woman’s Journal. The publication soon became one of the major channels of communication for the AWSA and later even became the newspaper of the entire suffrage movement.
source: Wikimedia Commons
The AWSA also made modest, though significant headway in securing women’s suffrage throughout its 20-year lifespan. Wyoming and Utah had granted women the right to vote. An average of 4.4 states per year considered the matter but ultimately decided against it.
By the 1880s however, the AWSA reckoned with dwindling membership, and progress was happening at a slow pace for women’s suffrage as a whole.
An Old Alliance
The NWSA and AWSA realized their rivalry had merely set them back from achieving their shared goal of women’s suffrage. In 1886, leaders from both sides started to discuss a merger, but it wouldn’t be until 1890 that the two would officially join forces to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).
Stanton took over as the president of NAWSA, but served primarily as a figurehead. Anthony, the vice president, essentially took over the presidential duties. Stone, nearing the end of her life, became head of the Executive Committee. The NAWSA limited its focus to women’s suffrage, severing most of its connection with the labor movement.
Scholars have debated whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) acts as a cartel. The organization reported that it held nearly 80% of all oil reserves in the world.
See whether the ZT community has found strong evidence that U.S. oil prices are ripping off citizens…
Winning the Vote & Ongoing Discrimination
The NAWSA essentially ran the women’s suffrage movement until it achieved its goal in 1920, thirty years after its formation. The Nineteenth Amendment famously states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
While women had won the vote, many systemic inequities persisted. Wage discrimination, in particular, continued to present problems. Between 1950 and 1960, women with full time jobs made between 59-64 cents for every dollar men made for performing the exact same duties.
Employers boosted their profits by making it standard to pay women less. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women generally earn about 82 cents to every dollar a man makes. This pay gap cannot be attributed to gender discrimination alone, but it likely has some influence. The American Woman Suffrage Association, through its merger, eventually achieved suffrage, which is the main way citizens can have their voices heard in a democracy.
The issue of pay does ultimately lead us to a larger problem that involves workers of all genders, from all sides of the political spectrum. Since the 1970s, wages have remained stagnant while the GDP has continued to grow. Perhaps, there’s some foul play afoot?
Wage stagnation appears to have been an issue since the 70s, with the end of the Bretton-Woods Agreement. Do you think workers are receiving less than they perhaps should?
Fight the Rigged Economy with the Zero Theft Movement
True to a democracy, the Zero Theft Movement has created an independent voting platform so that citizens can decide what parts of our economy are rigged and how much is being ‘stolen.’
Citizens investigators research potential cases of ‘theft’ (unethical, not necessarily illegal, actions that have ripped off the public) and author proposals. The community votes on whether (1) theft is or isn’t occurring in a specific area of the economy, and (2) how much is being stolen or possibly saved. We understand how valuable a vote is, just as the women behind the American Woman Suffrage Association did.
Many ethical businesses and corporate executives exist. The Zero Theft Movement just wants to eliminate the ill-gotten gains that should be going directly to citizens or indirectly to them through proper, high-quality government services.
The Zero Theft Movement does not have any interest in partisan politics/competition or attacking/defending one side. We seek to eradicate theft from the U.S economy. In other words, how the wealthy and powerful rig the system to steal money from us, the everyday citizen. We need to collectively fight against crony capitalism in order for us to all profit from an ethical economy.
Terms like ‘steal,’ ‘theft,’ and ‘crime’ will frequently appear throughout the article. Zero Theft will NOT adhere strictly to the legal definitions of these terms (since congress sells out). We have broadly and openly defined terms like ‘steal’ and ‘theft’ to refer to the rigged economy and other debated unethical acts that can cause citizens to lose out on money they deserve to keep.