Carrie Chapman Catt

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Roll up your sleeves, set your mind to making history, and wage such a fight for liberty that the whole world will respect our sex.

Carrie Chapman Catt (9 January, 18599 March, 1947) was an American women's suffrage leader who campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave U.S. women the right to vote in 1920. Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1900 to 1904 and 1915 to 1920. She founded the League of Women Voters in 1920 and the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in 1904, which was later named International Alliance of Women.

Quotes[edit]

  • To the wrongs that need resistance, To the right that needs assistance, To the future in the distance, Give yourselves.
    • Quoted in Great Women of the Suffrage Movement (We the People: Industrial America) by Dana Meachen Rau (2005)
  • In the adjustment of the new order of things, we women demand an equal voice; we shall accept nothing less.
    • Quoted in "Carrie Chapman Catt: A Public Life" by Jacqueline Van Voris (1996)
  • Roll up your sleeves, set your mind to making history, and wage such a fight for liberty that the whole world will respect our sex.
    • Printed in over 7 million pamphlets, distributed at over 10,000 Sufragists meetings in 1913. "Democracy" by Sue Vander Hook (2011)
  • This world taught woman nothing skillful and then said her work was valueless. It permitted her no opinions and said she did not know how to think. It forbade her to speak in public, and said the sex had no orators. It denied her the schools, and said the sex had no genius. It robbed her of every vestige of responsibility & then called her weak.
    • From a 1902 speech as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association quoted in "The Wings of Dawn" by Louise Scarmato (2013)
  • When a just cause reaches its flood-tide, as ours has done in that country, whatever stands in the way must fall before its overwhelming power.
    • from a speech at Stockholm, Is Woman Suffrage Progressing? quoted in "Not Just the Cleaning Lady: A Hygienist's Guide to Survival" by Cat Anne Schmidt (1997)

"Why Are Only Women Compelled to Prove Themselves?" (1915)[edit]

Caption in Outspoken Women: Speeches By American Women Reformers, 1635 1935: The following speech was delivered on December 15, 1915 in Washington, D.C. before the United States Senate Hearing on Woman Suffrage. The speech appears in printed form in The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. V, Appendix, pp. 752-754.

  • We met a curious dilemma. On the one hand a great many men voted in the negative because women in Great Britain had made too emphatic a demand for the vote. Since they made that demand it is reported that 10,000,000 men have been killed, wounded or are missing through militant action, but all of that is held as naught compared with the burning of a few vacant buildings.
  • Evidently the logic that these American men followed was: Since some turbulent women in another land are unfit to vote, no American woman shall vote. There was no reasoning that could change the attitude of those men. On the other hand the great majority of the men who voted against us, as well as the great majority of the members of Legislatures and Congress who oppose this movement, hold that women have given no signal that they want the vote. Between the horns of this amazing dilemma the Federal amendment and State suffrage seem to be caught fast.
  • So those of us who want to learn how to obtain the vote have naturally asked ourselves over and over again what kind of a demand can be made. We get nothing by "watchful waiting" and if we are turbulent we are pronounced unfit to vote.
  • we may ask what have women done? Again I may say that New York is a fair example because it is the largest of the States in population and has the second city in size in the world and occupies perhaps the most important position in any land in which a suffrage referendum has been taken. Women held during the six months prior to the election in 1915, 10,300 meetings. They printed and circulated 7,500,000 leaflets or three-and-a-half for every voter. These leaflets weighed more than twenty tons. They had 770 treasuries in the State among the different groups doing suffrage work and every bookkeeper except two was a volunteer. Women by the thousands contributed to the funds of that campaign, in one group 12,000 public school teachers. On election day 6,330 women watched at the polls from 5:45 in the morning until after the vote was counted. I was on duty myself from 5:30 until midnight. There were 2,500 campaign officers in the State who gave their time without pay. The publicity features were more numerous and unique than any campaign of men or women had ever had. They culminated in a parade in New York City which was organized without any effort to secure women outside the city to participate in it, yet 20,000 marched through Fifth Avenue to give some idea of the size of their demand for the vote.

Quotes about Carrie Chapman Catt[edit]

  • However badgered by political winds, the suffrage women in NAWSA were committed to winning a federal amendment. Under the presiding genius of Carrie Chapman Catt, an extraordinary campaign to secure congressional approval of the Nineteenth Amendment and its state-by-state ratification was started in 1913 with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Catt's "winning plan," as it was called, was a precise strategy with specific goals and dates, legislative details on individual men and their voting patterns in Congress and in every state. Catt and NAWSA also launched a drive to build an extensive network of state and local suffrage organizations. Coincident with Wilson's inauguration, thousands of women massed in Washington, D.C., for an impressive march up Pennsylvania Avenue. Although attacked by a mob of white men, the women proceeded undaunted.
    • Bettina Aptheker Woman's Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History (1982)
  • NAWSA now redoubled its efforts for the legislative battles in the respective states where ratification required a three-fourths majority. After the final victory in August 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt summarized the meaning of their labor and the suffrage victory: "It is doubtful if any man, even among suffrage men, ever realized what the suffrage struggle came to mean before the end was allowed in America. How much of time and patience, how much work, energy and aspiration, how much faith, how much hope, how much despair went into it. It leaves its mark on one, such a struggle. It fills the days and rides the nights. Working, eating, drinking, sleeping it is there. Not all women in all the States of the Union were in the struggle. There were some women in every State of the Union who knew nothing about it. But most women in all the States were at least on the periphery of its effort and interest when they were not in the heart of it. To them all its success became a monumental thing."
    • Bettina Aptheker Woman's Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History (1982)
  • Brave women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had been the early pioneers, facing abuse and ridicule, violence and even arrests for attempting to vote. Later, women like Dr. Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt headed the National American Women's Suffrage Association, which struggled against "the lethargy of women and the opposition of men." But by 1916 a younger, bolder and more militant group emerged, which was dissatisfied with the slower process of winning suffrage, state by state, and fought for a constitutional amendment. They organized the Women's Party in 1916, which planned to mobilize the women's vote in all suffrage states only for parties and candidates who would support national suffrage. That year a group of wealthy suffragists financed and toured in a Suffrage Special. They did not campaign directly for the Republican candidate, Charles Evans Hughes, but their slogan was anti-Wilson: "Vote against Wilson! He Kept Us Out of Suffrage!" Many voted for Eugene V. Debs, then in prison.
  • My feminism is the feminism of Puerto Rican writer Clotilde Betances Jaeger, who, in 1929 responded to the racist comment of Carrie Chapman Catt that Latin American women were not helping to build peace, by stating that while peace was a central principle for Latin American and Caribbean women, it was based on freedom from US imperialism.
  • In 1940, at the World's Fair held in New York City, Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, addressing a receptive audience, declared that it is woman's main task to stop war. The goal could not be reached immediately, she admitted, but she expressed confidence that women could abolish war, for the reason that they are devoid of the war spirit. More than this, she maintained that "men have made all the wars in history," thus in eight words clearing women of all war guilt. With that innocence it appeared logical that women, historic and present, were inclined to peace by their very make-up and were under no necessity to cleanse their hearts and minds of a propensity to violence. Being pacific by nature and devoid of all war guilt, they could and should lead the way to peace. Though more militant than Mrs. Catt as a leader in the suffrage movement, Alice Paul was no less certain that war sprang from men's nature and that women were under obligation to put a stop to wars.
  • The American feminist leader, Carrie Chapman Catt, tried to publicise the persecution of Jewish feminists in 1937. But when Rosa Manus was deported to a death camp by the Nazis in 1942, Catt circulated a letter to friends and acquaintances in the movement claiming that she was the first of us all to suffer and to die for our cause', ignoring her fate as a Jewess entirely.
    • Naomi Shepherd A Price Below Rubies: Jewish Women as Rebels and Radicals (1993)

External links[edit]

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