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The Movement Comes of Age

Carrie Chapman Catt to Erminia Folsom, January 18, 1909

Carrie Lane was born in 1859 in Wisconsin and grew up in Iowa. She worked her way through college, graduating at the top of her class in 1880 from Iowa State University. She then became a school teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools in Mason City, Iowa. She married Leo Chapman, editor of the local paper, in 1885, but was widowed just a year later. She became involved in the women's suffrage movement in Iowa, where her organizational skills soon became apparent. In 1890, she married George Catt, a wealthy engineer who supported her work. The same year, she became involved with the National American Woman Suffrage Association and began to build a national reputation. In 1900, she succeeded Susan B. Anthony as president of the NAWSA but served only until 1904, when her husband became critically ill.

Catt resigned to take care of her husband, who died the following year. For the next decade, she spent much her time traveling abroad, working to promote women's rights internationally. In 1915, she returned to the United States to become president of NAWSA once again. Catt is credited with conceiving the "Winning Plan," a strategy for campaigning for women's suffrage simultaneously on both the state and federal levels, and to offering a compromise for partial suffrage in the states most resistant to change. Catt's dynamic leadership revitalized the cause, and within five years the suffrage movement had achieved the dream that had begun back in the 1840s -- full and equal suffrage for women nationwide.

After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Catt retooled NAWSA into the League of Women Voters. In later years, she became active in the causes of world peace, Jewish refugee relief efforts, and child labor. She died in 1947.

Letter | Portrait of Carrie Chapman Catt | Back to exhibit

Carrie Chapman Catt to Erminia Folsom, 1910

Letter | Portrait of Carrie Chapman Catt | Back to exhibit

Carrie Chapman Catt to Erminia Folsom, January 18, 1909, Erminia Thompson Folsom Papers, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: June 17, 2011