On this date in 1920, more than 2,000 women from across the United States, including a delegation from North Dakota, were attending a convention set up through the National American Woman Suffrage Association at the Congress Hotel in Chicago. The weeklong convention was called a celebration of the emancipation of American women. Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the Suffrage Association, stated that this “ratification convention” was “the most momentous of all conventions held in the last fifty-one years.”
The women had been hoping to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment, but only 31 states had ratified it by the time of the convention. New Mexico came on board before the convention’s end, but that was still only 32 of the 36 states required. So instead, the women celebrated their progress, though they still had plenty of work to do.
Part of their time at the convention was spent organizing the League of Women Voters to continue forward with their goals. Thus, this convention marked the First National Congress of the League.
The women also honored the birth of several important, deceased leaders in the fight for women’s right to vote. The convention had been planned to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the birth of one of those leaders, Susan B. Anthony, who was born on February 15th. They also honored Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, another well-known leader of the fight, who had recently passed, and whose birthday was February 14th.
Also mentioned by newspapers was another name sometimes connected to the cause who was born February 12th – President Abraham Lincoln! The historical record doesn’t document Lincoln’s feelings on woman’s suffrage, but many suffragists delighted in using this quote, attributed to him: “I go for all sharing the privileges of government who assist in bearing its burdens, by no means excluding women.”* In actuality, this quote is slightly different and taken out of context, so his original statement did not necessarily connect to women’s suffrage. Nevertheless, his words had power, and for many years, suffragists took Lincoln at his word, printing propaganda posters that exclaimed, “Lincoln said Women should vote!”
The rest of the country was finding their way to agree.
Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker
Grand Forks Herald, January 26, p10
Grand Forks Herald, February 9, 1920, p8
Grand Forks Herald, February 13, 1920, p3
The Daily Morning Oasis, published in Arizona, Feb. 14, 1920, p1