The National Woman Suffrage Association NWSA began when homeopaths Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Caroline Brown Winslow, Susan Ann Edson, Clemence Lozier and homeopathic supporters Lucretia Mott, Susan B Anthony, Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, Carrie Chapman Catt, Frances Willard, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Anna Howard Shaw, Martha Coffin Pelham Wright, Mary Wright Sewell, Josephine S Griffing and others decided it was time to become politically active.
Homeopathic physicians tended to naturalize women’s bodies and functions in contrast to the images of women as diseased and defective and as such homeopaths were central to the feminist movements in America at the time of the Civil War.
Homeopathic attitudes also fitted seamlessly with the anti slavery campaigns at this time, due to their progressive attitudes, and homeopaths welcomed people of all colours, class and backgrounds into their movements, and homeopaths were found in all the early equality and abolitionist movements at this time.
Homeopaths went out of their way to include everyone in their own medical care, and they opened the first free dispensaries in America to this end. At this time, people moved freely between homeopathy and equality and abolitionist movements, and the outrage against inequality fuelled the desire for the National Woman Suffrage Association, resulting in a National Enlightenment and a rush to affiliate with such groups which caused a ‘suffrage fever‘ to infect to upper levels of American society.
In 1840, two members of the Society of Friends, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, travelled to London as delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention. Both women were furious when they, like the British women at the convention, were refused permission to speak at the meeting. Stanton later recalled: “We resolved to hold a convention as soon as we returned home, and form a society to advocate the rights of women.”
However, it was not until 1848 that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organised the Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. Stanton’s resolution that it was “the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves the sacred right to the elective franchise” was passed, and this became the focus of the group’s campaign over the next few years.
In 1866 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone helped establish the American Equal Rights Association. The following year, the organisation became active in Kansas where Negro suffrage and woman suffrage were to be decided by popular vote. However, both ideas were rejected at the polls. In 1869 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed a new organisation, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). The organisation condemned the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments as blatant injustices to women. The NWSA also advocated easier divorce and an end to discrimination in employment and pay.
Another group, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) was formed in the same year in Boston. Leading members of the AWSA included Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe. Less militant that the National Woman Suffrage Association, the AWSA was only concerned with obtaining the vote and did not campaign on other issues.
In the 1880s it became clear that it was not a good idea to have two rival groups campaigning for votes for women. After several years of negotiations, the AWSA and the NWSA merged in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The leaders of this new organisation include Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Frances Willard, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Anna Howard Shaw.
The following women signed “The Protest Against the Unjust Interpretation of the Constitution Presented on Behalf of the Women of the United States by the Officers of the National Woman Suffrage Association to the President of the United States, the Governors of the States, and other Federal and State Officials, on the occasion of the Constitutional Centennial in Philadelphia, September 17th, 1887” Susan B. Anthony (NY), Acting President, Matilda Joslyn Gage (NY), Vice-President-at-Large, Rachel G. Foster (Pa), Corresponding Secretary, Mary Wright Sewell (Ind), Chairman Executive Committee, Lillie Devereux Blake (NY), Vice-President for New York, Chairman Presentation Committee
The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), an American women’s rights organization, was formed as an amalgamation of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in May of 1890. NAWSA was the largest and most important suffrage organization in the United States until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. Thereafter NAWSA was reformed as the League of Women Voters, which continues in existence up to the present time.