Skip to Main Content

How to Find Your Suffragist / Suffragette Ancestors: Mapping the Movement

Use this guide to connect your ancestors, their neighborhoods, and/or the places you live now to a revolutionary social movement! Not just for genealogy, this guide can be used by anyone who wants to uncover "ordinary" people who changed the world.

The first step is to figure out when suffragists began to organize in your ancestors' neighborhoods and/or the places where you live now. Use the tabs below to get started. 

To begin exploring your ties to the suffrage movement, you should be asking questions such as the following about the places where you and your ancestors have roots:

  • Did women in these states win the right to vote before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920?
  • When did suffragists begin to organize in the towns where your ancestors or other people of interest lived?
  • Did any of the annual conventions held by the national suffrage organizations take place near past or present family homes?
  • Were there local suffrage parades and pageants that your ancestors or forebears may have participated in or watched? 

To effectively answer these questions requires a basic understanding of how the suffrage movement unfolded, chronologically and geographically.

Mapping the Suffrage Movement to Local Neighborhoods

The American woman suffrage movement spans a period of over 70 years, from the mid-1800's until the 19th amendment was-- finally! -- ratified in 1920, granting women across the nation the right to vote.

Woman in yellow labeled "votes for women" marching across map of states from west to east.

From its beginning as a tiny regional movement involving perhaps 300 active participants, the suffrage movement widened into a national campaign which would touch the lives of virtually every person living in America at the time of ratification -- including your own ancestors.

Although national in scope, the suffrage movement was local in nature: it spread through the actions of grass-root organizers mobilizing individuals in the neighborhoods and communities where your ancestors lived, and where you live now.

In this era, before everyone was connected by television, computers and social media, political movements fanned out far more slowly and idiosyncratically, creating scattered pockets of regional activity in different parts of the country at different times.  So the first step in trying to link your ancestors to the suffrage movement is to gather background information about its geographic timeline.

Regional Developments

Until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, each state was free to determine whether to extend voting rights to women. As a result, suffragists waged campaigns to win voting rights at both the federal level and within individual states.

  • Until the end of the Civil War, the suffrage movement was directed towards obtaining voting rights for all American women, but suffragists were concentrated primarily in the Northeast and a few Midwestern states. 
  • After the Civil War, suffragists disagreed over the best political strategy, but most suffrage activity shifted to the states
    • Suffragists were still headquartered in the East (Boston an New York), but their biggest successes came in the sparsely-settled Western territories and states.
    • Not until the 20th century did suffrage activity begin to sweep across the entire country.
    • Although the 19th amendment went into effect in 1920, some southern states took decades longer to ratify it -- Mississippi, the last state to ratify, delayed until 1984!

The adjoining pages provide a general geographical timeline of the United States suffrage movement -- just enough information to get you started. With this foundation, you can use the strategies and resource identified under the Additional Resources tab above to discover the key dates, places, people, organizations and events connected with the suffrage movement in the areas where your ancestors lived. Many more resources, including in-depth histories of women's suffrage, are identified on the How to Learn More page.

Image credit: Illustration by Henry Mayer in Puck magazine, February 20, 1915.

1840's-1860's: The Early Suffrage Movement Begins in the East and the Midwest

The Seneca Falls Convention, held in Seneca Falls, New York, on July 19-20, 1848, is generally regarded as the beginning of the women's suffrage movement in America. Although it was to have national impact, the convention was largely a local affair. 

Map of Seneca Falls

  • It’s been estimated that about 300 people attended (including at least 32 men).
  • Most of the attendees lived in the local area around Seneca Falls. 
  • The convention culminated in the adoption of a Declaration of Sentiments and 11 resolutions. The most controversial resolution was a demand that women be granted the right to vote.
  • A list of the 68 women and 32 men who signed the Declaration of Sentiments is available on the website of the Women’s Rights National Historic Park.

The Seneca Falls Convention Sparked a Series of Other Women's Rights Conventions

  • In April, 1850 the first convention to be organized on a statewide basis was held in Salem, Ohio (the proceedings of this Convention, with a list of the organizers, is available on the Salem Public Library website). Newspapers reported that some 500 women were in attendance. 

  • A few months later, on October 23-24, 1850, the first National Women's Rights Convention was held in Worcester, Massachusetts, attracting more than 1000 delegates from 11 of the 31 then-existing states (the proceedings of this Convention, with a list of the organizers, is available on the Worcester Women’s History website, as is a list of local participants in the suffrage movement).

  • The National Women's Rights Convention continued to meet annually, at various locations (including New York, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania), until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. A list of the dates and locations of these conventions is available on the website of the Women’s Rights National Historic Park.

Unfortunately, aside from the organizers and speakers, few of the attendees of these early conventions are identified. But if any of your ancestors lived in or near the location of a "woman's rights" convention, chances are they were at least aware of it -- and that it caused enough of a sensation to provoke discussion, debate or ridicule. To get a sense of what your ancestors' attitudes might have been, try reading through the Convention proceedings (many are available online) and look for articles in local newspapers. For more information about these records, use the Additional Resources tab above.

Image credit: NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID 5848147 (Detail, Map of Seneca Falls)

Woman with umbrella out in the rain, horse in background. Labeled abolition emissaryDuring the war, women put the suffrage movement on hold. Suffragists -- most of whom were ardent abolitionists -- focused their political efforts towards supporting the war effort and the emancipation of slaves. 

Civil War: Women's Relief Associations

Although the war temporarily ended suffrage activism, it also opened up new roles for women, whether or not they were "feminists."

  • Across the nation, women were compelled to perform the work of husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons who were away serving in the war. Their ability to take on these "unfeminine" roles helped to change perceptions about the proper role of women.
  • Women also engaged in relief activities for the soldiers -- providing supplies (such as food, clothing, and bandages), and/or nursing wounded soldiers.
    • To coordinate these efforts, women joined relief organizations, and in some cases formed their own. 
    • When black soldiers began serving in the Union Army, free black women also formed separate relief societies,
    • In this way, women gained experience outside the household, honing the organizational and administrative skills that would prove necessary when they resumed their political battle for the right to vote.

If your female ancestors lived in American during the Civil War, there's a good chance they were involved in war relief activities. Unlike the suffrage movement, which involved only a tiny minority of the population at this point, the Civil War touched the lives of virtually every American resident. Identifying any Civil War era organizations your female ancestors may have joined can give you clues about whether, and how, they might have participated in the suffrage movement -- and is interesting genealogical information in its own right.

  • Did they live in an area with active abolition societies?
  • Were there any local relief organizations (variously known as ladies' aid societies, Soldier's Aid Societies, or Sanitary Commissions)?

To find out, try searching in local newspapers: a good place to start is (available at all NYPL locations), which includes digitized newspapers from across the United States. For black women ancestors, a good starting point is African American women during the Civil War.  For more ideas, see the Additional Resources tab above, and the How to Learn More page.

Post-Civil War: American Equal Rights Association

Photo of Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton seated at desk with papersAfter the Union victory, most suffragists expected that women would gain the right to vote at the same time as the former slaves. They joined with abolitionists to form a new organization, called the American Equal Rights Association (“AERA”), to promote universal suffrage for all, regardless of race or sex.

  • This organization was comprised of approximately 500 members, including men and women, predominantly white but with a handful of black members (a list identifying 250 members is available in a thesis titled The American Equal Rights Association,1866-1870: Gender, Race, and Universal Suffrage).
  • However, after just three annual meetings -- all held in New York City -- the AERA disbanded because of disagreements over strategy.
  • The issue was whether to prioritize voting rights for black men over voting rights for women.
    • The majority of abolitionists were afraid that a bill to secure voting rights for both blacks and women was too radical to pass Congress. Instead, they wanted to focus on obtaining the vote for black males first.
    • Reflecting this approach, the proposed 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution added the word “male” to the definition of “citizen” -- explicitly limiting voting rights to males for the first time. 

Some suffragists supported the 14th and 15th Amendments despite the exclusion of women, feeling it was necessary to subordinate women’s rights to the cause of racial equality. Others -- including prominent suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton -- actively campaigned against the adoption of both amendments. "If that word male be inserted," Stanton gloomily predicted, "it will take us a century at least to get it out" (she was wrong, but it did take more than half a century -- long enough that neither Stanton nor Anthony were alive when the 19th Amendment finally passed). 

A Divided Movement Splits in Two

Portrait of Mrs. Sarah J.S. GarnetBy 1869, the issue of whether to support the 14th and 15th Amendments split the suffrage movement in two. The American Equal Rights Association was dissolved, and members split into two opposing organizations:

  • The American Woman Suffrage Association (headquartered in Boston) -- formed by suffragists who had supported the 14th and 15th Amendments

  • The National Woman Suffrage Association (headquartered in New York City) -- formed by suffragists who opposed the 14th and 15th Amendments

Each of these national suffrage organizations included a few African American members, but in the face of increasing racism, black women also began forming their own associations. An early example is the Colored Woman's Suffrage League of Brooklyn, founded by Sarah Garnet in the late 1880's. Many other African American women who fought for suffrage formed organizations aimed at improving the overall situation of black people, rather than focusing solely or primarily on women's suffrage. Tips and resources relating specifically to researching African American suffragists are outlined at the How Diverse Were Suffragists? page.

Local Suffrage Associations

In addition to the two national suffrage organizations, many local organizations devoted to winning woman suffrage sprang up after the Civil War. Early examples include:

  • Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri (St. Louis, 1867)
  • Vineland Equal Rights Association (Vineland, New Jersey, 1867)
  • Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association (Hartford, 1869)
  • Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association (Philadelphia, 1869)
  • Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association (Boston, 1870)
  • Maine Woman Suffrage Association (August, 1873)

In 1867, the Impartial Suffrage Association was organized in Kansas is to fight for two amendments to the state constitution: one to remove “white” and one to remove “male” from the state’s voting requirements. Although both efforts failed, if you had ancestors living in Kansas at the time, they may have campaigned for or against the suffrage referendum, and your male ancestors may have participated in the vote.

To see if and when a suffrage organization appeared near your ancestors' homes, try searching in the newspaper databases and other resources identified on the How to Learn More page.  For additional tips, consult the Find Their Local Organizations page.

Image credits:

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID 809271 (An abolition emissary)

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID 1536886 (Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID 1819714 (Sarah Garnet, founder of the Colored Equal Society League of Brooklyn)

In addition to having their base of operations in different cities, the two rival suffrage organizations formed after the Civil War adopted different tactics to advance the cause of women's suffrage. And while both organizations were based on the East Coast, it was in the Western territories that women first gained the right to vote.

Rival Headquarters: Boston and New York City

Portrait of Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, seatedThe American Woman Suffrage Association ("AWSA") was headquartered in Boston.

  • Membership was open to men as well as women.
  • Rather than focusing on a federal amendment to grant voting rights to women across the nation, the AWSA concentrated on securing votes separately in each state. 
  • In keeping with this strategy, annual meetings were held in various cities across the United States, including Minneapolis, Topeka, Detroit, Omaha, Louisville, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and New York.
    • These annual meetings attracted crowds of as many as 1000 people.
    • Information on meetings and where they were held can be found in the following resources:
    • Use these resources to see if any annual meetings took place in the states or cities where your ancestors were living, or where you live now. 
      • It's unlikely that your ancestors actually attended or participated in the meetings, since very few people were involved in women's suffrage at this point
      • However, communities in the vicinity of meeting locations would have been buzzing with the news of these radical reformers.

The National Woman Suffrage Association ("NWSA") was organized in New York City.

  • Only women could become full members.
  • In contrast to the AWSA, the NWSA focused on passing an amendment to the federal Constitution to guarantee all American women the right to vote.
  • Although NWSA held all of its annual meetings in Washington, D.C., it also organized auxiliary state organizations that held local meetings.
  • Details about the NWSA’s activities are available in their publication, The Revolution (available online through Accessible Archives) and The History of Woman Suffrage
  • These sources may help you discover if any suffrage meetings or lectures were held in the proximity of your ancestors' homes.

First victories in the West

Cover of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper with illustration of women in a line dressed in winter clothes at a windowMeanwhile, the first major victories for women’s suffrage were achieved -- not on the East Coast, where the rival suffrage organizations were headquartered, but in the sparsely-populated Western territories. The following territories granted women the right to vote prior to 1890:

  • Territory of Wyoming (1869)
  • Territory of Utah (1870)*
  • Territory of Washington (1883)*
  • Territory of Montana (1890)

*In 1887, Congress subsequently revoked the right of Utah women to vote in 1887, as part of the Edmunds-Tucker anti-polygamy act; the same year, the Washington Territorial Court disenfranchised women in the Territory of Washington. 

If you had ancestors living in these territories at the time women were granted the right to vote, this is where your research should start! For tips on getting started, see the Additional Resources tab above. Additional resources are described on the How to Learn More page.

Discouraging Defeats

Outside the Western territories -- and even within some of them -- suffrage referendums were soundly defeated. Campaigns for women's suffrage failed in the following states and territories:

  • Kansas (1867)
  • Vermont (1870)
  • Nevada (1871)
  • New Mexico (1871)
  • Dakota (1872)
  • Iowa (1872)
  • Michigan (1874)
  • Colorado (1876)
  • Nebraska (1882)
  • Oregon (1884)
  • Rhode Island (1887)
  • Washington (1889)

Regardless of the outcome, if you had ancestors living in a state where a suffrage referendum was proposed, you will want to start by exploring any suffrage activities that your ancestors may have encountered -- or participated in!

Women in the Temperance Movement

The first women's mass movement in America was the Women's Temperance Crusade of 1873-1874.  It began in small towns in western New York State and southwestern Ohio and fanned out across the country, leading to the formation of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union ("WCTU"). Many individual members of the WCTU were suffragists (including famous suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony, France Harper, Anna Howard Shaw, and Carrie Chapman Catt), and the national organization formally endorsed suffrage in 1881. In the 1880's, the WCTU created a separate unit for "work among colored people," and local units of segregated black women operated in many states. One example is the Frances Ellen Harper Branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Seattle, Washington.

Were your ancestors involved in the temperance movement? if so, they may have supported women's suffrage as well. For resources relating to the temperance movement, see the How to Learn More page.

Image credits:

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID 1252574 (Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, prominent African American activist and member of the American Woman Suffrage Association).

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, November 24, 1888 (Woman suffrage in Wyoming Territory -- Scene at the polls in Cheyenne).

A United Movement Spreads Across the Nation

By 1890, public opinion toward women's suffrage was changing. As Eleanor Flexner writes, in her seminal history Century of Struggle: The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States, "Woman suffrage was not yet generally accepted, but it was no longer considered the province of eccentrics and crackpots" (p. 224). Tensions within the suffrage movement also eased, leading to a reunification of the two rival suffrage organizations that split apart after the Civil War.

Between 1890 and 1919, women's suffrage grew into a mainstream movement that permeated public discussion across the nation. For most family historians, it's in this period that your ancestors were most likely to intersect with the suffrage movement.

National American Woman Suffrage Association ("NAWSA")

Formation of NAWSA

Women in white marching down the street with a National American Woman Suffrage Association bannerIn 1890, the two rival women’s rights organizations reunited, merging to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (“NAWSA”).

  • NAWSA’s founding meeting was held in Washington D.C. on February 18, 1890.
  • It’s strategy was to push for suffrage in each state separately, believing that state-by-state support would eventually force the federal government to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing all American women the right to vote. 
  • NAWSA members in Boston continued to publish the The Woman’s Journal -- the journal started by members of the AWSA -- which includes news about the activities of the merged organization.

NAWSA Conventions

After holding its first four annual conventions in Washington, D.C., NAWSA began to rotate this important event to various cities across the nation.

  • Locations included Des Moines, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Chicago, Buffalo, Seattle, Louisville, Philadelphia, Nashville, Atlantic City, and St. Louis. 
  • In 1895, the convention was held in Atlanta, Georgia -- the first to be held in a Southern City.
    • To gain support for suffrage in the South, NAWSA tried to persuade southern political leaders that they could ensure white supremacy in their region by enfranchising educated women, who would predominantly be white.
    • When the 1903 convention was held in New Orleans, black NAWSA members were excluded.
  • NAWSA also hosted and participated in large and theatrical suffrage parades in multiple cities.

Headquarters and Administration

In its early years, the administrative work of NAWSA was performed in the homes of its officers, but it soon outgrew these domestic quarters. 

  • Around 1895, the organization established a one-room "headquarters" in New York City's World Building on Park Row.
  • A few years later, around 1898, NAWSA moved its headquarters to the American Tract Society Building on Nassau Street, where it occupied four rooms on the 20th floor.
  • For a few years, between 1903 and 1909, NAWSA relocated to Warren, Ohio -- the home of NAWSA’s treasurer, Harriet Taylor Upton.
    • The organization’s first office was literally inside Upton's home
    • Upton later removed the organization to Warren’s Trumbull County Courthouse.
  • In 1909, NAWSA moved back to New York City, in offices on the 17th floor of 505 Fifth Avenue, at 42nd Street (kitty-corner from the NYPL at 42nd Street!).
    • The move was funded by wealthy socialite Alva Belmont, who agreed to lease space for this “suffrage headquarters” to be used exclusively by organizations working to win the vote for women.

Although headquartered in New York City, much of NAWSA’s action took place in other states, through local affiliate organizations that implemented NAWSA’s state-by-state approach. Was there a suffrage organization in your ancestors' town, and if so, when was it started?

  • A list of affiliated state organizations appears in the published proceedings of NAWSA's conventions (available online through HathiTrust under the titles mentioned above). 
  • For additional tips and resources, see the Find Their Local Organizations page.
  • For resources relating specifically to African American women's organizations, see the African American Suffragists tab on the How Diverse were Suffragettes? page.

National Woman's Party

Map of the United States with travel indicated across the country, photo of Alice Paul in lower left cornerBy 1913, some members of NAWSA became dissatisfied with what they viewed as its conservative policies, and broke off to form a new organization, the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage ("CUWS"). Headquartered in Washington, D.C., on F Street near the Willard Hotel, the CUWS had 4,500 members and organized high-profile protests, including daily picketing of the White House. In 1916, the CUWS became the National Woman's Party. 

More information on the activities and meetings of the CUWS is available in the following sources:


In the years between 1890 and passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, suffragists won full or partial suffrage in the following states:

  • 1893: Colorado
  • 1896: Idaho, Utah (reinstated)
  • 1910: Washington
  • 1911: California
  • 1912: Arizona, Kansas, Oregon
  • 1913: Alaska, Illinois
  • 1917: Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota
  • 1918: Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota

If your ancestors were living in these states around the time women won the right to vote there, they would certainly have been impacted by state suffrage activities and may well have been actively involved. One possible clue: did your female ancestors register to vote as soon as women won the right to vote in their state? You may be able to find out: consult the How to Learn More page for tips on voter registration records.

And don't forget to check if a suffrage referendum was defeated in the states of your ancestors! However disappointing the outcome, suffrage campaigns in these states would have generated the same kind of attention and involvement relating to women's voting rights as in states which passed these measures. For a list of states where suffrage referendums were defeated, see the Don't Forget Your Male Ancestors page.

Image credits:

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID 733575F (Woman suffrage parade, The doctors' section).

Map published in the SuffragistJanuary 10, 1917 (digital image available through Library of Congress).

In 1919, the 19th Amendment, which stated that “the rights 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,” passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the states for ratification.

The approval of 36 states was needed to ratify the amendment.  On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment -- with a nail-biting 50 of 99 members of the Tennessee House of Representatives voting yes. For a page-turning account of the ratification campaign in Tennessee, read The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote. This gripping account of how the 19th Amendment nearly failed to pass will make you appreciate that history is anything but inevitable!


Map of the United States with states color coded to indicate the year they ratified the 19th amendment


Eventually all of the states that were in the United States in 1920 ratified the 19th amendment, but it took a surprisingly long time for this to happen. The states that dragged their heels on ratification were all located in the south: Maryland ratified the amendment in 1941, and Alabama and Virginia followed in the 1950s. Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina ratified the amendment between 1969 and 1971. Mississippi became the last state to do so, in 1984.

To learn when your ancestor's and/or your own state ratified the 19th Amendment, consult the Wikipedia entry The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. For a state-by-state overview of ratification campaigns, see the National Park Service's 19th Amendment by State and Follow the Race to Ratification in Real Time.

A Right, But Not a Reality: The 19th Amendment Did Not Extend to All Women

For African American suffragists, ratification of the 19th Amendment did not end the fight for voting rights. Hurdles like poll taxes and literacy tests kept black voters disenfranchised in many parts of the country until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory voting practices. 

To this day, activists continue to fight against voter suppression, most notably former Georgia representative Stacey Abrams. For resources relating to African American feminists in the post-ratification era, see the Black Feminism Introductory Research Guide, a libguide created by NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

 This page highlights resources relating specifically to the chronology and geography of the suffrage movement. For a complete overview of the resources available for connecting your ancestors to the suffrage movement, see the How To Learn More page.

General Timelines

Regional Summaries

Concise and helpful articles about regional suffrage activity are available on the National Park Service website: 

For more detailed histories of regional suffrage activity, try browsing our online catalog with the following subject headings:

Title page of Proceedings of the National Women's Rights Convention Convention Proceedings

A good place to start researching how your ancestors may have connected with the suffrage movement is to determine whether any Women's Suffrage Conventions were held in the areas where they lived. 

Listed below are the dates and locations of the most important early suffrage conventions. The proceedings were published and most are available online through the free digital library HathiTrust (links provided below). Whether or not your ancestors were in attendance, they likely discussed and/or argued about women's rights, and reading these reports will help you imagine the kinds of conversations they may have had.

After the suffrage movement split into factions in 1869, the two competing organizations -- the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) -- each held their own annual conventions.

  • The annual meetings of the National Woman Suffrage Association were all held in Washington D.C.
  • The American Woman Suffrage Association held annual meetings in various locations.

In 1890, the two organizations merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association ("NAWSA"), and held annual meetings in cities across the United States. Proceedings of most of NAWSA's annual conventions are available on Hathitrust.

State Referendums

In her 1926 account of the suffrage movement, powerhouse suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt catalogs the Sisyphean efforts required for women to win the right to vote:

  • fifty-two years of pauseless campaigning
  • 56 campaigns of referenda to male voters
  • 480 campaigns to get legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters
  • 47 campaigns to get state constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions
  • 277 campaigns to get state party conventions to include woman suffrage planks
  • 30 campaigns to get presidential party conventions to adopt woman suffrage planks in party platforms
  • 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses.

For our ancestors, these numbers represent a herculean -- and heroic -- achievement. For their sakes, we wish it had been easier -- but for us, their genealogy-and-history-loving descendants, the suffragists' protracted labors provide a vast treasure trove of research opportunities.

Did your ancestors live in one of the many states in which women won the right to vote prior to passage of the 19th Amendment? If so, they may have been actively involved in a state-wide suffrage campaign. 

  • Both suffragists and anti-suffragists engaged in grass-roots organizing around the issue of whether women would be granted the right to vote within a state, and learning about these activities can give you clues about how your ancestors may have been involved.
  • Even if you can't directly link your ancestors to state suffrage activity, they would have been aware of and discussed the issue of whether the state constitution should be amended to grant women the right to vote -- and your male ancestors likely cast a vote for or against it.

There are many online resources relating to state suffrage campaigns that will help you get started.

For more detailed sources, try searching NYPL's online catalog:


Newspaper Articles

Digitized newspaper databases are an invaluable tool for discovering local suffrage activity in the areas where your ancestors lived. To effectively search for newspaper articles, try experimenting with various keywords. Use this libguide and the other resources listed on this page to identify details you can use as keywords, such as the names of local suffrage organizations that were active in the area where your ancestors lived.

NYPL subscribes to a number of historic newspaper databases that can be used to search for relevant articles, and there are also some newspaper databases available online for free. For information about these sources, see the How to Learn More page.


Non-Suffrage Women's Organizations

Although racist attitudes prevented many African American women from participating in the mainstream suffrage organizations, black women formed their own organizations and were fundamental to winning the right to vote. But these organizations were often religious or benevolent associations, and were not aimed exclusively at winning voting rights for women. For information on finding these types of organizations, see the African American Suffragists tab on the How Diverse Were Suffragettes? page.

In addition, both black and white suffragists were often involved in other women's organizations, including:

  • Abolition organizations
  • Temperance Societies
  • Women's Relief Societies (Civil War)

For information on researching your ancestors' connections to these types of organizations, see the How to Learn More page.