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  5. “When Women Do Military Duty”: The Civil War’s Impact on Woman Suffrage

“When Women Do Military Duty”: The Civil War’s Impact on Woman Suffrage

Exercise 3: The Woman Suffrage Movement, Race, and Sectionalism

In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution. It provided that the right to vote could not be denied on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. African American men could now vote throughout the United States. Woman suffrage advocates turned to campaigning for a woman suffrage amendment to the Constitution. Such an amendment was often called the Anthony Amendment after Susan B. Anthony, longtime president of woman suffrage organizations. Anthony and her successor, Carrie Chapman Catt, also campaigned for changes to state laws and constitutions.

          Although many states did gradually adopt woman suffrage measures, the process was long and slow, as was the campaign for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The South in particular was hostile to woman suffrage. By the 1890s, white southerners had found ways to deny African American men the vote that were not based on race and so did not violate the Fifteenth Amendment. They used poll taxes, literacy tests, and other measures that disfranchised most African American men and many lower-class whites. White southerners also resented that the Fifteenth Amendment had violated states’ rights, the right of states to decide the qualifications of voters. Even white southerners who supported woman suffrage wanted to achieve it by state legislation or changes to their state constitutions, not through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


According to Belle Kearney and Carrie Chapman Catt, why did white southerners object to women voting?

What arguments did Kearney and Catt use to reassure white southerners that woman suffrage was not a threat to the South or would be beneficial to white southerners?

According to Mary Church Terrell, why should African Americans support woman suffrage?

What argument does the poster “Political Expediency vs. Your Immortal Soul!” make about woman suffrage?


Belle Kearney, “The South and Woman Suffrage,”Woman’s Journal, April 4, 1903, pp. 106–7.

Carrie Chapman Catt, “Objections to the Federal Amendment,” Woman Suffrage by Federal Amendment (New York, 1917). https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2018/03/21/woman-suffrage-by-federal-amendment-chapter-vi-objections-to-the-federal-amendment-jan-1917/

Mary Church Terrell, “Woman Suffrage and the 15th Amendment,” Crisis, Aug. 1, 1915, pp.178–92.

“Political Expediency vs. Your Immortal Soul!,” ca. 1915–1919, broadside, Women’s Suffrage Collection (Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery). https://digital.archives.alabama.gov/digital/collection/voices/id/12344