Carrie Chapman Catt Papers
Carrie Lane Chapman Catt was born on January 9, 1859 in Ripon, Wisconsin, the second of three children of Lucius Lane and Maria Clinton. When Carrie was seven years old the family moved to Charles City, Iowa, where she spent the rest of her childhood. She taught at a country school until she saved enough money to pay for college, and entered Iowa State College from which she graduated in three years instead of the usual four. In 1880, following her graduation, she studied law before becoming principal of the high school in Mason City, Iowa. She later became the first female superintendent of the district.
In 1885, Catt married Leo Chapman, editor-owner of the Mason City Republican, which she helped him manage. Following his death in 1886, she was employed in the newspaper business in San Francisco, where she became increasingly aware of the inequalities facing women in the business and industrial arenas. Leaving San Francisco less than a year later, she returned to Iowa where she began lecturing on the status of women in the United States. Catt was convinced that women's inequality was based on their lack of political power, and she focused her efforts on women's suffrage. She joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association and was elected State Organizer in 1887. In 1890 she was invited to address the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in Washington, D.C., where she met important suffrage activists, among them Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Julia Ward Howe. Following the convention, she married George W. Catt, a successful hydraulic engineer. When Susan B. Anthony retired as president of NAWSA in 1900, she named Catt her successor. Catt used her position to forge new alliances with women across the world, calling an international suffrage conference in 1902. The conference was attended by representatives from nine countries and led to the founding of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. By the time Catt retired as president of NAWSA twenty-one years later, forty countries had branches of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and twenty of these had enfranchised women fully.
After 1904, when she was forced to step down from the NAWSA presidency because of her husband's poor health, Catt turned her attention to achieving suffrage in New York State, which she felt was critical to passage of a federal suffrage amendment. Due largely to her efforts, which included consolidating disparate city groups into the Woman Suffrage Party (1910), and organizing and chairing the Empire State Campaign (1913-14), in 1917 the New York State Legislature finally passed a referendum granting women the right to vote.
From this point, the struggle for national women's suffrage became more intense and Catt was an increasingly charismatic symbol of the movement. During World War One she was asked to take on the presidency of NAWSA once again, in part to facilitate keeping the idea of women's suffrage in the forefront of American politics. As a member of the Woman's Division of the Council for National Defense, she was able to push Congress to submit the Nineteenth Amendment in June of 1919, and on August 26, 1920, the federal amendment granting women's suffrage was signed into law. After suffrage was won, Catt founded the National League of Women Voters to help newly-enfranchised women navigate the election process.
Throughout the rest of her life, Catt worked tirelessly for pacifism, disarmament, and the peaceful settlement of international disputes, most notably by attempting to create a common international program of peace. In 1925, she invited international women's organizations to work together to form a disarmament program at the First Conference on the Cause and Cure of War in Washington, D.C. At this conference, a permanent Committee on the Cause and Cure of War was formed, comprised of the chief officers of the member organizations. Catt served as chairman until 1933, when she retired. The committee specialized in "marathon round tables" for the study of international conflicts.
In addition to being a prolific writer of editorials, speeches and pamphlets on the women's movement, she collaborated with Nettie Rogers Shuler in writing Woman Suffrage and Politics (1923) and on her own wrote a book, Why Wars Must Cease (1935).
Catt was given honorary doctorates from the University of Wyoming, Iowa State College, Smith College, and Moravian College for Women. In 1936, during her fiftieth anniversary celebration as a suffragist and pacifist, she was escorted to the White House by the presidents of several national women's organizations where President and Mrs. Roosevelt received her.
In 1940, Catt organized the last event of her career, the Woman's Centennial Conference in New York, which celebrated the first one hundred years of the feminist movement in the United States. Carrie Chapman Catt died at home in New Rochelle, New York on March 9, 1947 at age 88. Carrie Chapman Catt Papers 3