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Remembering long campaign for women’s voting rights

November 1, 2016

It is widely recognized that the campaign for the 19th amendment — “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” —  began on July 19, 1848, on the first day of the first women’s rights convention, which took place in Seneca Falls, about one hour from Rochester. Written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Declaration of Sentiments signed at that convention included the grievance, “He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.” What began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, eventually spread throughout the country as the issue of women’s rights continued to permeate the nation’s consciousness. The activism and activity culminated in the ratification of the 19th amendment, some seventy-two years later.

The collections of the River Campus Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation give voice to this rich history. One of the key collection strengths in the library relates to women’s rights and suffrage. Through letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, broadsides, and banners, the history of women’s suffrage is preserved and made available for research to the University  community as well as the community at large.

yellow penant reads VOTES FOR WOMEN

Several items stand out within these collections, including a banner used in the later years of the suffrage campaign that reads “Votes for Women.” Yellow was a frequently used color in the campaigns on the twentieth century, immediately preceding the passage of the 19th amendment. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)


photo of 19th century letter

River Campus Libraries is home to one of the largest repositories of Susan B. Anthony Papers. Letters like this one, where Anthony wrote “Yes you shall have the autograph of the first woman who legally registered and voted in the state of New York… which lifts the franchise of the citizen above the power of the states to deny,” offer a palpable sense of the magnitude of Anthony’s act of voting.  (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)


close-up of hand-written document

Anthony believed that the enfranchisement of all men and women was a guaranteed right, which she bravely tested in this act of civil disobedience in 1872. Her autographed sentiment: “Equal rights for women, civil and political, is the demand of yours sincerely, Susan B. Anthony. Rochester, NY Aug. 14, 1882,” confirms her commitment to the right to vote, despite obstacles in Congress and the courts. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)


photo of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Taken in 1888, this photograph of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton represents a fifty-year partnership in the fight for women’s rights. Together they galvanized women across the country to support the cause. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)


historical pamphlet with headline ONE THOUSAND WOMEN WANTED

The campaign for suffrage demanded wide-spread participation, at national, state, and local level. In this broadside, Carrie Chapman Catt put out a call: “One Thousand Women Wanted” as part of a state-wide canvass throughout New York. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)


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Category: Society & Culture