Arkansas Women's Suffrage Timeline


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1769

American colonial laws are based on English Common Law.

1848

Seneca Falls Convention, New York, a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman – the first “women’s rights convention”; Declaration of Sentiments signed; written primarily by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the document is based on the Declaration of Independence and parallels the struggles of the founding fathers with those of the women’s movement.

1866

American Equal Rights Association (AERA) formed “to secure Equal Rights to all American citizens, especially the right of suffrage, irrespective or race, color, or sex.”

1868

Miles Ledford Langley introduces an Arkansas law proposing women’s suffrage to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention.

1869

The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) formed as a response to the split in the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) over whether the woman’s movement should support the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution. NWSA worked to secure women’s enfranchisement though a federal constitutional amendment, whereas AWSA believed state-by-state campaigns to be more effective. This NWSA was founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The Arkansas Gazette begins to publish articles on women’s rights.

Arkansas is the 10th state to ratify the 15th Amendment on March 15, 1869.

1870

The 15th Amendment to the US Constitution is passed, prohibiting federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of serviture.”

1873

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) formed to “link the religious and secular through concerted and far-reaching reform strategies based on Christianity”; leveraged women’s suffrage as a way to achieve prohibition.

1874

Arkansas’s fifth (and current) Constitution is enacted.

1875

Minor v. Happersett (88 US 162) held that the Constitution did not grant women the right to vote, sets precedent for states to deny suffrage.

1878

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton arrange for Senator Aaron A. Sargent of California to present Congress with an amendment giving women the right to vote. This becomes known as the Anthony Amendment and will become the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920.

1879

Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) established in Arkansas.

1881

Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association formed in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, by Eliza “Lizzie Dorman Fyler for the purpose of securing such legislation by the Arkansas General Assembly as shall secure to woman all the rights and privileges which belong to citizens in a free republic. This group is dissolved in 1885.

1884

Mary W. Loughborough begins the Arkansas Ladies’ Journal, which discusses suffrage issues, in Little Rock.

1888

Arkansas Woman’s Suffrage Association, also known as the State Woman’s Suffragist Association, is organized by Clara McDiarmid.

Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association (AESA) is organized in Little Rock.

1889

Susan B. Anthony visits Helena, Fort Smith, and Little Rock, Arkansas, to advocate for women’s suffrage.

1890

Delegates from over 60 women’s clubs brought together to establish the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) formed to work for women’s suffrage in the United States – created by the merger of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).

Arkansas Woman’s Suffrage Association meets in Little Rock to elect delegates to a national suffrage convention.

1891

A woman suffrage measure was introduced in the Arkansas Senate by EP Hill. Hill presented a bill “to confer the right of suffrage upon white women.” This measure was read a second time and tabled.

1893

Senator Hill sponsors a measure to allow women to vote in school elections and serve on school boards. The Senate voted 16 to 9 and the bill passed, however, the House refused to act and the measure was postponed definitely.

Arkansas requires a poll tax of $1 to vote. A person had to show a receipt or some other evidence that the tax had been paid. Often political machines would pay voters’ poll taxes to manipulate an election’s outcome.

1895

The Women’s Bible is published by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others to challenge the traditional position of religious orthodoxy that woman should be subservient to man.

1896

National Association of Colored Women (NACW) is formed in Washington, D.C.

1897

Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs (AFWC) admitted to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs; women’s suffrage is a primary interest.

1899

Senator Turner Butler introduces a resolution that women might vote in school elections and on questions involving moral issues. The measure was read three times but failed in a vote of 16 to 8.

1903

May 23, The Socialist Party of Arkansas hold its first statewide convention in Little Rock’s Concordia Hall. They include a call for “equal political, civil and religious rights to men and women,” in their platform.

1904

International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) formed by feminists to campaign for women’s suffrage worldwide

1906

Southern States Woman Suffrage Conference is organized

1907

Expatriation Act provides for loss of citizenship of American women who married foreign men.

1911

Emmaline Pankhurst, a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement, visits the United States.

National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) formed.

Political Equality League (PEL) founded in Little Rock to “secure equal suffrage”; branches were also established in Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, and Fayetteville by 1914.

Constitutional amendment for woman’s suffrage in Arkansas is proposed to the legislature, the amendment passes in the Senate (April), but is opposed in the House and fails.

Suffragists march in Little Rock. The route follows Main and Markham Streets.

1913

Woman Suffrage Procession, the first suffragist parade, occurs in Washington, D.C.; organized by Alice Paul for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Women carrying petitions traveled from various states, mostly by automobile; with every state represented, 75,000 voter signatures had been collected. [Suffrage Autoists Besiege Senators,” New York Times, Aug 1, 1913]

Congressional Union formed by Alice Paul to campaign for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage.

Women’s Political Equality League (PEL) begins meeting in Little Rock’s City Hall.

1914

Suffrage Day rally held at the Old State House in Little Rock, sponsored by the Political Equality League (PEL).

Arkansas Women Suffrage Association (AWSA) organized in the state [Little Rock] by Alice S. Ellington in October. Its goals were to support a constitutional suffrage amendment for Arkansas primary voting as well as to support general women’s suffrage.

1915

Arkansas Women Suffrage Association and the Political Equality League financially support the Congressional Union in its efforts for a national suffrage amendment.

Political Equality League (PEL) joined with the Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs (AFWC)to advocate a women’s suffrage resolution.

Women’s suffrage amendment proposed for the Arkansas Constitutional Convention and was accepted to go to a vote, one of four amendments were to be voted on; state law only allowed three could go before the public and the women’s suffrage amendment fails again.

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Washington County Women’s Suffrage Association is founded by Lessie Stringfellow Read.

1916

National Woman’s Party (NWP) formed by Alice Paul as an outgrowth of the Congressional Union to fight for women’s suffrage, ignoring all other issues. The NWP broke from the larger National American Woman Suffrage Association, a nationwide organization, and worked chiefly in Washington, D.C.

Alice Paul visits Little Rock to establish a branch of the National Woman’s Party (NWP).

Officers of the Arkansas National Woman’s Party (NWP) display “Great Demand” banner at the Old State House in Little Rock.

Political Equality League participates in a state convention of the Arkansas Suffrage Associationin Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), visits Arkansas to campaign for women’s suffrage.

Florence Brown Cotnam, vice president of the Arkansas Women Suffrage Association, speaks at the National American Woman Suffrage Convention in New Jersey held in September.

1917

United States enters World War I.

National Woman’s Party (NWP) begins picketing the White House; includes Pauline Floyd of El Dorado, Arkansas.

Arkansas Governor Charles Brough notes that he favors women’s enfranchisement.

In February, women receive the “primary” vote in Arkansas (House 71-19, Senate 17-15). This allows them to vote only in primary elections making Arkansas the first non-suffrage state to permit women to vote in primary elections.

The Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) is reorganized as the Arkansas Equal Suffrage State Central Committee (AESSCC) along Democratic Party lines and campaigns for a federal women’s suffrage amendment.

Freda Hogan Ameringer organizes 67 women in Huntington (Sebastian County) to pay their poll taxes and become eligible to vote in 1918.

Mabel Vernon visits Arkansas to speak on behalf of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) at Little Rock in November.

1918

Approximately 40,000 Arkansas women vote in the 1918 primary

1919

League of Women Voters established.

Arkansas Governor Brough endorses a women’s suffrage amendment to the Arkansas Constitution and the ratification of a federal women’s suffrage amendment in his second inaugural address.

In June, Congress passes the federal women’s suffrage amendment and submits it to the states for ratification.

Arkansas is the 12th state to ratify the 19th Amendment on July 29, 1919, during a special session of the Arkansas General Assembly.

1920

The Arkansas Equal Suffrage State Central Committee (AESCC) becomes the Arkansas League of Women Voters (ALWV).

Florence Brown Cotnam addresses the National League of Women Voters Convention in Chicago, Illinois, in February. Her speech, “All’s Well That Ends Well,” concerns the struggle of women to achieve voting rights.

19th Amendment to the US Constitution, also known as the Anthony Amendment, becomes law and prohibits any US citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) founded to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in [the United States] by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”


For more information:
Bernadette Cahill. Arkansas Women and the Right to Vote: The Little Rock Campaigns, 1868-1920 (Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2015).
Rollberg, Jeanne N. “Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture (EOA). Updated 01/25/2017.
Taylor, Paula Kyzer. “Women’s Suffrage Movement.” EOA. Updated 01/25/2017.
Welky, Ali. “League of Women Voters of Arkansas.” EOA. Updated 09/25/2015.