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Women's Suffrage

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Overview of Women's Suffrage

Women's suffrage is the right of women by law to vote in national and local elections.

Women's voting rights became an issue in the 19th century, especially in Britain and the U.S. In the U.S. the woman suffrage movement arose from the antislavery movement (See: abolitionism) and from the advocacy of figures such as Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who believed that equality should extend to both women and African Americans. They organized the Seneca Falls Convention (1848), which issued a declaration calling for woman suffrage and for the right of women to educational and employment opportunities.

In 1850 Lucy Stone held the movement's first national convention. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 to secure an amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote, while Stone founded the American Woman Suffrage Association to seek similar amendments to state constitutions; in 1890 the two organizations merged as the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Following Wyoming's lead in 1890, states began adopting such amendments; by 1918 women had won suffrage in 15 states. After a woman suffrage amendment was passed by Congress, a vigorous campaign brought ratification, and in August 1919 the 19th Amendment became part of the Constitution.

In Britain the first woman suffrage committee was formed in Manchester in 1865. In the 1870s suffragists submitted petitions bearing nearly three million signatures. Despite growing support, suffrage bills were continually defeated; in frustration, some suffragists became militant activists under the leadership of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. Parliament finally passed the Representation of the People Act in 1918, by which time women had already won voting rights in New Zealand (1893), Australia (1902), Finland (1906), Norway (1913), the Soviet Union (1917), Poland (1918), Sweden (1919), Germany (1919), and Ireland (1922).

After World War II woman-suffrage laws were adopted in many countries, including France, Italy, India, and Japan.

From CREDO woman suffrage in Britannica Concise Encyclopedia
Image from the Library of Congress depicting suffragist Susan B. Anthony protesting for the women's vote, eventually becoming the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

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