Carrie Chapman Catt Activist, Reformer for Women Rights, and Founder of the League Of Women Voters
Carrie’s Biography • Born January 8, 1959 and died March 9, 1947 • Carrie attended elementary education in a one-room schoolhouse in Charles City. In 1877, she graduated from high school. Her father refused to provide the money for more education so Carrie taught school for a year, earning enough income to enter Iowa State Agricultural College. During her two years there, she supported herself working in the state library and the college kitchen. She graduated in 1880 – the only woman among 18 graduates. • She desired to become a lawyer so she start4ed studying in Charles City. The next year, she began teaching high school in Mason City, Iowa, with the intent of earning enough money to study law at the university. Her love for teaching overcame the goal of a lawyer so she decided to go back to teaching. Less than two years later, she was appointed principal and superintendent of Mason City Schools.
Laying the Groundwork • At the age of 13, Carrie asked her mother why she wasn’t getting ready to go into town to vote with her father. Her question was ridiculed and told “voting was too important a civic duty to leave to women.” That day was to be a turning point in her life. • Another important point came in high school when she was introduced to Charles Darwin’s “Origin of the Species.” Already wary of traditional religion, yet retaining faith in human potential, Carrie embraced this philosophy - seeing evolutionary science as offering the idea of a constantly evolving and improving world, moving toward a free and peaceful society. Both of these events laid the groundwork for Carrie’s life work.
Accomplishments • Once Carrie married Leo Chapman, she resigned from teaching (as married women were not allowed to teach). She then became his business partner, and wrote a “Woman’s World” column – but not about food or fashion, rather about women’s political and labor issues, and reminding women that if they wanted the vote, they needed to organize. • Carried returned to Iowa and began her work for suffrage. She joined the Iowa branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, becoming head of its suffrage section. As that local group began breaking apart, she began organizing women and creating suffrage clubs. In 1889, she was elected secretary of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association and, the next year, was a delegate and minor speaker at the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in Washington, D.C. (From 1869 until 1890, the women’s suffrage movement had been divided between two organizations – one headed by Lucy Stone and Henry B. Blackwell, and the other by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton – which had differing methods of achieving their goal; they reconciled differences into NAWSA.) • After Carrie became the successor of the NAWSA, she also founded the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA), which was officially recognized at a congress held in Washington, D.C., in 1902. Carrie was elected its first president and served until 1923 and remained its president through the successful enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, which became her most important accomplishmnet.