Papers of Anne Haskell re Carrie Chapman Catt

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of a bibliography and list of sources (held in international repositories) about Carrie Chapman Catt, founder and President of the International Alliance of Women, and founder of the League of Women Voters. It also includes a short typescript biography of Catt and a photocopy of a press cutting photograph of Catt (from Time magazine, 14 Jun 1926).

Administrative / Biographical History

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947 ) was born on 9 Jan 1859, in Ripon, Wisconsin, the second of three children of Lucius and Maria (Clinton) Lane. In 1880, she graduated from the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm in Ames, at the top of her class, having worked her way through school by washing dishes, working in the school library, and teaching. She was the only woman in her graduating class. After college, she returned to Charles City to work as a law clerk and, in nearby Mason City, as a school teacher and principal. In 1883 she became one of the first women in the nation appointed superintendent of schools. In Feb 1885, Lane married Leo Chapman, editor and publisher of the Mason City Republican, in a wedding ceremony at her parents' rural Charles City home. Mr Chapman died of typhoid fever the following year in San Francisco, California, where he had gone to seek new employment. Arriving a few days after her husband's death, the young widow decided to remain in San Francisco, where she eked out a living as the city's first female newspaper reporter. In 1887 she returned to Charles City and joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association for whom she worked as a professional writer and lecturer. After a short period she became the group's recording secretary. From 1890 to 1892 she served as the Iowa Association's state organiser. At the time of Carrie Chapman's rise to her state organisation's highest office, in June 1890, she married George Catt, a fellow Iowa Agricultural College alumnus she had met during her stay in San Francisco, who encouraged her suffrage activity. Carrie Catt also began work nationally for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), speaking in 1890 at its Washington DC convention. In the following months, Catt's work, writing and speaking engagements established her reputation as a leading suffragist. In 1892 she was asked by Susan B Anthony to address Congress on the proposed suffrage amendment. In 1900 she succeeded Anthony as NAWSA president. From then on, her time was spent primarily in speechmaking, planning campaigns, organising women, and gaining political experience. In 1902 Catt helped organise the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA), which eventually incorporated sympathetic associations in 32 nations. In 1904, she resigned her NAWSA presidency in order to care for her ailing husband. His death in Oct 1905, followed by the deaths of Susan B Anthony (Feb 1906), Catt's younger brother William (Sep 1907) and her mother (Dec 1907) left Catt grief-stricken. Her doctor and friends encouraged her to travel abroad; as a result, she spent much of the following eight years as IWSA president promoting equal-suffrage rights worldwide. Catt returned to the United States in 1915 to resume the leadership of NAWSA, which had become badly divided under the leadership of Anna Howard Shaw. In 1916, at a NAWSA convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Catt unveiled her 'Winning Plan' to campaign simultaneously for suffrage on both the state and federal levels, and to compromise for partial suffrage in the states resisting change. Under Catt's dynamic leadership, NAWSA won the backing of the USA House and Senate, as well as state support for the amendment's ratification. In 1917, New York passed a state woman suffrage referendum, and by 1918, President Woodrow Wilson was finally converted to the cause. On 26 Aug 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment officially became part of the United States Constitution. One hundred forty-four years after US independence, all women in the United States were at last guaranteed the right to vote. Stepping down from the NAWSA presidency after its victory, Catt continued her work for equal suffrage, promoting education of the newly-enfranchised by founding the new League of Women Voters (LWV) and serving as its honorary president for the rest of her life. In 1923, she published 'Women Suffrage and Politics : The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement' with Nettie Rogers Shuler. In her later years, Catt's interests broadened to include the causes of world peace and child labor. She founded the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War in 1925, serving as its chair until 1932 and as honorary chair thereafter. She also supported the League of Nations and, later, the United Nations. Honored and praised by countless institutions for her more than half-century of public service, Carrie Chapman Catt died of heart failure at her New Rochelle, New York, home on 9 Mar 1947. At a New Rochelle cemetery she is buried alongside her longtime companion, Mary Garret Hay, a fellow New York state suffragist, with whom she lived for over 20 years.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Anne Haskall in 1996.

Other Finding Aids

Fonds Description (1 folder only)

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds the papers of the International Alliance of Women (2IAW), the papers of Margery Corbett Ashby, chairwoman of the International Alliance of Women, (7MCA) and the papers of Mary Sheepshanks, one of the leaders of the group in the 1920s, (7MSH). Some relevant material, dated 1913-1920, is held at the John Rylands University Library in Manchester, ref. IWSA. Material relating to Carrie Chapman Catt is held within the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Collection at the Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA.