As the suffrage movement gained momentum, local suffrage organizations proliferated. By the turn of the 20th century, suffragists in nearly every state had mobilized in grass-roots suffrage organizations.
It's impossible to list all of the local suffrage organizations that sprang up across the country, but there are many sources (listed below) that can help you identify suffrage organizations that were active in your ancestors' neighborhoods.
A few tips to keep in mind:
For those researching New York ancestors, the most active suffrage organizations in the state and New York City are listed on the adjoining pages.
The easiest way to locate local suffrage organizations is to search in digitized newspaper databases. Often just using the words "suffrage," "suffragist" and/or "suffragette" and the name of the locality will turn up articles relating to local suffrage organizations. For information about available newspaper databases, see the The easiest way to locate local suffrage organizations is to search in digitized newspaper databases. Often just using the words "suffrage," "suffragist" and/or "suffragette" and the name of the locality will turn up articles relating to local suffrage organizations. For information about available newspaper databases, see the How to Learn More page.
Not every local suffrage organization made it into the papers, so don't stop there! you may find additional organizations in the resources listed below.
Dissertations are an often overlooked source of information about local suffrage activities. They can provide valuable details about organizations and meetings, as well as citations to resources that can be used for further research. Here are a few representative titles:
For additional information on how to locate dissertations, see the How to Learn More page.
Articles describing local suffrage activities have been published throughout the entire period since the 19th Amendment was passed. In addition to many scholarly articles on state and local suffrage movements, you may find memoirs from those who participated in the suffrage movement (one example is Side Lights on Illinois Suffrage History).
For information about how to locate journal articles, see the How to Learn More page.
Useful articles on state and local suffrage organizations can be found on Wikipedia, and often with a simple Google search as well. Examples of online articles we found include:
These resources are hit-or-miss, but if you get lucky you can find invaluable information about local suffrage activity with a simple internet search. And if you don't find a Wikipedia article on suffrage organizations in your state, let us know! There is a growing interest in increasing the representation of women on Wikipedia, and we can help facilitate Edit-a-thons to make this crucial information available online to genealogists, historians, and anyone else with an interest in the subject.
Chances are the records of the local suffrage organizations operating in your ancestors' neighborhoods have not survived. But any that did will most likely be held by a local historical society or library. For tips on how to locate these, see the How to Learn More page.
Image credit : Handbill, New York State Woman Suffrage Association, National American Woman Suffrage Association papers, Manuscripts Division, NYPL
One of the earliest Manhattan suffrage organizations was the New York City Woman Suffrage Society (later known as the New York City Woman Suffrage League). Founded in 1870, members originally met in their homes. In 1894, the League moved into headquarters at 10 East 14th Street to spearhead the 1894 campaign for a constitutional amendment granting women in New York State the right to vote.
Following the unsuccessful campaign, the number of New York City woman suffrage organizations multiplied. To coordinate their activities, an "umbrella" organization called the Interurban Woman Suffrage Council was formed, and in February, 1907, established a Woman's Suffrage Headquarters in the Martha Washington Hotel (now the Redbury Hotel) at 29 East 29th Street.
Many of the suffrage organizations affiliated with the Interurban Woman Suffrage Council opened their own offices around this time, including the following:
In 1909, the Interurban Woman Suffrage Council became the Woman Suffrage Party, which moved its headquarters to the newly constructed Metropolitan Life Tower on Madison Square.
The Woman Suffrage Party adopted the tactics of political "machines," organizing by Assembly Districts with an elected leader to spearhead efforts within each voting district. In addition to holding meetings and distributing literature, suffragists began to engage in higher-profile activities, such as pageants and parades. These events were highly publicized and attracted huge crowds -- including, perhaps, your own New York ancestors. Even if your ancestors didn't live in New York, they would likely have read about and discussed many events that happened here, which were reported in papers across the nation.
There were many other suffrage organizations in Manhattan as well, including the following:
Brooklyn was home to one of the oldest suffrage organizations in the U.S., the Brooklyn Woman Suffrage Association (originally called the Brooklyn Equal Rights Association). Its first meeting was held in the home of Anna Cromwell Field at 158 Hicks Street. The organization held many early meetings and events at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and later held regular meetings in "assembly rooms" at addresses various given as 153, 155, 157 and158 Pierrepont Street.
Branches of the Woman's Suffrage Party operated in each of the five boroughs. The Woman's Suffrage Party of Brooklyn established a headquarters at 27 Lafayette Avenue (in 1912), subsequently re-locating to 342 Livingston Street (1916).
Many other suffrage organizations sprang up in Brooklyn as the suffrage movement gained momentum in the early 20th century, mostly meeting in the homes of their members. These include the following:
Brooklyn Progressive Suffrage Association
Bushwick Political Equality Club
Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage League
Flatbush Political Equality Club
Green Point [Political Equality Club]
Harriet Beecher Stowe Equality Club of Kings County
Kings County Political Equality League
People’s Political Equality Club of Brooklyn
Prospect Heights Political Equality Club
Young People’s Suffrage League
Image credit: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 18, 1912, accessed through Brooklyn Newstand.
The Woman's Suffrage Party of the Bronx was headquartered, at least for a time, on 3rd Avenue and the corner of 149th Street
The Woman's Suffrage Club of Queens met in members' homes, as did most other local suffrage organizations in Queens. Among the more active of these were:
The two primary suffrage organizations in Staten Island were the Political Equality Club of Richmond County and the Woman Suffrage Party of Staten island. Meetings took place in members homes or rented halls. Staten Island was also home to several daring aviation publicity stunts.
Image credit: NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID PS_MSS_CD22_336 (Staten Island Suffrage Fair, 1914).
The number of suffrage organizations in New York State, compiled in the indispensable work Women will vote : winning suffrage in New York State, increased dramatically between 1905 and 1910. In 1905, the New York State Woman Suffrage Association counted ninety-seven suffrage societies in the state, representing thirty-one counties and 3,403 members. By 1910, there were 155 suffrage clubs affiliated with the New York State Woman Suffrage Association, representing thirty-six counties and 55,000 members.
It simply isn't possible to list every one of the hundreds of woman suffrage organizations that were formed in New York State, but to get you started we've listed a few of the most active ones. Their names are representative of the names adopted by suffrage organization in other cities, towns and counties across New York State (and, for that matter, the rest of the country), so just change the location name to search for similarly-named organizations that may have been active in your ancestors' neighborhoods.
For resources you can use to search for these and other local suffrage organizations, such as local newspapers, see the How To Learn More page.
Image credit: Hester C. Jeffrey, founder of Rochester's Susan B. Anthony Club for Colored Women, photograph published in An authentic history of the Douglass monument; biographical facts and incidents in the life of Frederick Douglass. By J. W. Thompson (available online through HathiTrust).