American Equal Rights Association

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The American Equal Rights Association (AERA) was formed in 1866 in the United States. According to its constitution, its purpose was "to secure Equal Rights to all American citizens, especially the right of suffrage, irrespective of race, color or sex." [1] Some of the more prominent reform activists of that time were members, including women and men, blacks and whites.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.


The AERA was created by the Eleventh National Women's Rights Convention, which transformed itself into the new organization. Leaders of the women's movement had earlier suggested the creation of a similar equal rights organization through a merger of their movement with the American Anti-Slavery Society, but that organization did not accept their proposal.

The National Women's Rights Convention was an annual series of meetings that increased the visibility of the early women's rights movement in the United States. First held in 1850 in Worcester, Massachusetts, the National Women's Rights Convention combined both male and female leadership, and attracted a wide base of support including temperance advocates and abolitionists. Speeches were given on the subjects of equal wages, expanded education and career opportunities, women's property rights, marriage reform and temperance. Chief among the concerns discussed at the convention was the passage of laws that would give suffrage to women.

American Anti-Slavery Society

The American Anti-Slavery Society was an abolitionist society founded by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan. Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave, was a key leader of this society who often spoke at its meetings. William Wells Brown was also a freed slave who often spoke at meetings. By 1838, the society had 1,350 local charters with around 250,000 members.

The AERA conducted two major campaigns during 1867. In New York, which was in the process of revising its state constitution, AERA workers collected petitions in support of women's suffrage and the removal of property requirements that discriminated specifically against black voters. In Kansas they campaigned for referenda that would enfranchise African Americans and women. In both places they encountered increasing resistance to the campaign for women's suffrage from former abolitionist allies who viewed it as a hindrance to the immediate goal of winning suffrage for African American men. The Kansas campaign ended in disarray and recrimination, creating divisions between those who worked primarily for the rights of African Americans and those who worked primarily for the rights of women, and also creating divisions within the women's movement itself.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. In order to distinguish the state from the city with the same name, it is sometimes referred to as New York State.

Suffrage right to vote

Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise is the right to vote in public, political elections. In some languages, and occasionally in English, the right to vote is called active suffrage, as distinct from passive suffrage, which is the right to stand for election. The combination of active and passive suffrage is sometimes called full suffrage.

Kansas State of the United States of America

Kansas is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States. Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita, with its most populated county being Johnson County. Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. Kansas is named after the Kansas River, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native Americans who lived along its banks. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the (south) wind" although this was probably not the term's original meaning. For thousands of years, what is now Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.

The AERA continued to hold annual meetings after the failure of the Kansas campaign, but growing differences made it difficult for its members to work together. Disagreement about the proposed Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would prohibit the denial of suffrage because of race, was especially sharp because it did not also prohibit the denial of suffrage because of sex. The acrimonious AERA meeting in 1869 signaled the end of the organization and led to the formation of two competing women's suffrage organizations. The bitter disagreements that led to the demise of the AERA continued to influence the women's movement in subsequent years.

Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution Grants voting rights to all citizens of the United States, regardless of race

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments.

Constitution of the United States Supreme law of the United States of America

The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. The Constitution, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first three articles embody the doctrine of the separation of powers, whereby the federal government is divided into three branches: the legislative, consisting of the bicameral Congress ; the executive, consisting of the President ; and the judicial, consisting of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Articles Four, Five and Six embody concepts of federalism, describing the rights and responsibilities of state governments, the states in relationship to the federal government, and the shared process of constitutional amendment. Article Seven establishes the procedure subsequently used by the thirteen States to ratify it. It is regarded as the oldest written and codified national constitution in force.

Lucretia Mott, president of the AERA Lucretia Mott at the National Portrait Gallery IMG 4403.JPG
Lucretia Mott, president of the AERA


Leading participants

The people who played significant roles in the AERA included some of the more prominent reform activists of that time, many of them already acquainted with one another as veterans of the anti-slavery and women's rights movements:

Lucretia Mott American suffragist

Lucretia Mott was a U.S. Quaker, abolitionist, women's rights activist, and social reformer. She had formed the idea of reforming the position of women in society when she was amongst the women excluded from the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. In 1848 she was invited by Jane Hunt to a meeting that led to the first meeting about women's rights. Mott helped write the Declaration of Sentiments during the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.

World Anti-Slavery Convention Early international convention in 1840 in London

The World Anti-Slavery Convention met for the first time at Exeter Hall in London, on 12–23 June 1840. It was organised by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, largely on the initiative of the English Quaker Joseph Sturge. The exclusion of women from the convention had important ramifications for the women's suffrage movement in the United States.

Seneca Falls Convention First American womens rights convention

The Seneca Falls Convention was the first women's rights convention. It advertised itself as "a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman". Held in Seneca Falls, New York, it spanned two days over July 19–20, 1848. Attracting widespread attention, it was soon followed by other women's rights conventions, including the Rochester Women's Rights Convention in Rochester, New York, two weeks later. In 1850 the first in a series of annual National Women's Rights Conventions met in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Background events

Although still relatively small, the women's rights movement had grown in the years before the American Civil War, aided by the introduction of women to social activism through the abolitionist movement. The American Anti-Slavery Society, led by William Lloyd Garrison, was particularly encouraging to those who championed women's rights. [8] The planning committee for the first National Women's Rights Convention in October 1850 was formed by people who were attending a convention of the Anti-Slavery Society earlier that year. [9]

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The most studied and written about episode in U.S. history, the Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

William Lloyd Garrison American journalist

William Lloyd Garrison was a prominent American abolitionist, journalist, suffragist, and social reformer. He is best known as the editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, which he founded with Isaac Knapp in 1831 and published in Massachusetts until slavery was abolished by Constitutional amendment after the American Civil War. He was one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and promoted "immediate emancipation" of slaves in the United States.

The women's movement was loosely structured during this period, with legislative campaigns and speaking tours organized by a small group of women acting on personal initiative. An informal coordinating committee organized national women's rights conventions, but there were only a few state associations and no formal national organization. [10] The movement largely disappeared from public notice during the Civil War (1861–1865) as women's rights activists focused their energy on the campaign against slavery. In 1863 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony organized the Women's Loyal National League, the first national women's political organization in the U.S., to campaign for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would abolish slavery. [11] [12]

The letter that Stanton, Anthony and Stone circulated calling for petitions against introducing the word "male" into the U.S. Constitution via the Fourteenth Amendment Form Letter from E. Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone Asking Friends to Send Petitions for Woman... - NARA - 306686.jpg
The letter that Stanton, Anthony and Stone circulated calling for petitions against introducing the word "male" into the U.S. Constitution via the Fourteenth Amendment

After slavery in the U.S. was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, Wendell Phillips was elected president of the Anti-Slavery Society and began to direct its resources toward winning political rights for blacks. He told women's rights activists that he continued to support women's suffrage but thought it best to set aside that demand until voting rights for African American men were assured. [13]

The women's movement began to revive when proposals for a Fourteenth Amendment began circulating that would secure citizenship (but not yet voting rights) for African Americans. Some of the proposals for this amendment would also for the first time introduce the word "male" into the Constitution, which begins with the words "We the People of the United States". Stanton said that "if that word 'male' be inserted, it will take us a century at least to get it out." [14] Stanton, Anthony and Lucy Stone, the most prominent figures in the women's movement, circulated a letter in late 1865 calling for petitions against any wording that excluded females. [15] A version of the amendment that referred to "persons" instead of "males" passed the House of Representatives in early 1866 but failed in the Senate. [16] The version that Congress eventually approved and sent to the states for ratification included the word "male" three times. Stanton and Anthony opposed the amendment, but Stone supported it as a step towards universal suffrage. [15] Frederick Douglass denounced it because it permitted states to disenfranchise blacks if those states were willing to accept reduced representation at the federal level. [17] The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868.

At a meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society in January 1866, Stone and Anthony proposed a merger of that organization with the women's rights movement to create a new organization that would advocate for the rights for African Americans and women, including suffrage for both. The proposal was blocked by Phillips, who once again argued that the key issue of the day was suffrage for African American men. [18]

Phillips and other abolitionist leaders expected a constitutional provision of voting rights for former slaves to help preserve the North's recent victory over the slaveholding states during the Civil War. No such benefit could be expected to follow from women's suffrage, and the effort needed to mount an effective campaign for it, they believed, would endanger the chances of winning suffrage for African American men. [19] (Their strategy did not work as planned. Even though the Constitution was amended in 1870 to prohibit the denial of voting rights because of race, a promise that became a reality for a brief period, violence and legal maneuvers prevented most African Americans in the South from voting until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. [20] )

Founding in 1866

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony issued the call for the Eleventh National Women's Rights Convention, the first since the Civil War began, which met on May 10, 1866, in New York City. [21] Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, an African American abolitionist and writer, spoke at the convention from the viewpoint of one who had to deal with issues faced by both women and blacks: "You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs. I, as a colored woman, have had in this country an education which has made me feel as if I were in the situation of Ishmael, my hand against every man, and every man's hand against me." [22]

Wendell Phillips Wendell Phillips by Brady.jpg
Wendell Phillips

In a variation of the idea proposed earlier to the Anti-Slavery Society, the convention voted to transform itself into a new organization called the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) that would campaign for the rights of both women and blacks, advocating suffrage for both. The new organization elected Lucretia Mott as president and created an executive committee that included Stanton, Anthony and Lucy Stone. [23] The AERA launched lobbying and petition campaigns in several states, hoping to create a drive strong enough to convince the Anti-Slavery Society to accept its goal of universal suffrage rather than suffrage for black men only. [24]

1867 annual meeting

The AERA held its first annual meeting in New York City on May 9, 1867. [25] Referring to the growing demand for suffrage for African American men, Lucretia Mott, the AERA's president, said, "woman had a right to be a little jealous of the addition of so large a number of men to the voting class, for the colored men would naturally throw all their strength upon the side of those opposed to woman's enfranchisement." [26] Asked by George T. Downing, an African American, whether she would be willing for the black man to have the vote before woman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton replied, "I would say, no; I would not trust him with all my rights; degraded, oppressed himself, he would be more despotic with the governing power than even our Saxon rulers are. I desire that we go into the kingdom together". [26] [27] Sojourner Truth, a former slave, said that, "if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before." [28]

Others disagreed. Abby Kelley Foster said that suffrage for black men was a more pressing issue than suffrage for women. [29] Stephen Symonds Foster, arguing that ballot rights for one group of citizens should not be contingent on ballot rights for another, said, "The right of each should be accorded at the earliest possible moment, neither being denied for any supposed benefit to the other." [26] Henry Ward Beecher, a prominent minister, said he was in favor of universal suffrage but believed that by demanding the vote for both blacks and women, the movement was likely to achieve at least a partial victory by winning the vote for black men. [30]

New York campaign

The state of New York organized a convention in June 1867 to revise its constitution. AERA workers prepared for it by organizing meetings in over 30 locations around the state and collecting over 20,000 signatures on petitions that supported women's suffrage and the removal of property requirements that discriminated specifically against black voters. [31] [32] The suffrage committee of the convention was chaired by Horace Greeley, a prominent newspaper editor and abolitionist who had been a supporter of the women's movement. His committee approved the removal of discriminatory property requirements for black voters but rejected the proposal for women's suffrage. [31]

Susan B. Anthony Susan B Anthony c1855.png
Susan B. Anthony

Greeley had earlier clashed with Anthony and Stanton by insisting that their New York campaign should focus on the rights of African Americans rather than also including women's issues. When they refused, he threatened to end his newspaper's support for their work. [33] Soon he began to attack the women's movement. Responding to Greeley's repeated claim that the best women he knew did not want to vote, Stanton and Anthony arranged for it to be announced from the floor of the convention that Mrs. Horace Greeley had signed the petition in favor of women's suffrage. [34] The History of Woman Suffrage , whose authors include Stanton and Anthony, said, "This campaign cost us the friendship of Horace Greeley and the support of the New York Tribune , heretofore our most powerful and faithful allies." [35]

Kansas campaign

Two referenda were placed before voters in Kansas in 1867, one that would extend suffrage to black men and one that would extend it to women. Kansas had an anti-slavery heritage and the strongest laws for the protection of women's rights outside New York. The AERA concentrated its resources on this campaign with high hopes of winning both referenda, which would boost the chances of winning suffrage for both blacks and woman at the national level. Both referenda failed, however, and the AERA campaign ended in disarray and recrimination. The Kansas campaign created divisions between those who worked primarily for the rights of African Americans and those who worked primarily for the rights of women, and it also created divisions within the women's movement itself. [36] [37]

The New York campaign had been financed partly by the Hovey Fund, which was created by a bequest that provided a large sum of money to support abolitionism, women's rights and other reform movements. [38] According to the terms of the bequest, if slavery was abolished, the remainder of the money was to go to the other reform movements, which meant that the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment should have freed up a significant stream of money for the women's movement. However, Wendell Phillips, the head of the fund, declared that slavery would not truly be abolished until blacks were enfranchised on the same basis as whites, and he channeled much of fund's money toward that cause. [39] The AERA nonetheless expected the Hovey Fund to support its Kansas campaign, which worked for the enfranchisement of both African Americans and women. The fund refused to finance the Kansas campaign, however, because Phillips opposed mixing those two causes, leaving the campaign desperately short of money. [40] It was difficult for the women's movement itself to raise enough money for projects like this because few women had independent sources of income, and even those with employment generally were required by law to turn over their pay to their husbands. [41]

The AERA's Kansas campaign began when Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell arrived in April. [42] The AERA workers were disconcerted when, after an internal struggle, Kansas Republicans decided to support suffrage for black men only, not merely refusing to support women's suffrage but forming an "Anti Female Suffrage Committee" to organize opposition to those who were campaigning for it. [43] [44] In a letter to Anthony, Stone wrote, "But the negroes are all against us. There has just now left us an ignorant black preacher named Twine, who is very confident that women ought not to vote. These men ought not to be allowed to vote before we do, because they will be just so much more dead weight to lift." [45] By the end of summer the AERA campaign had almost collapsed under the weight of Republican hostility, and its finances were exhausted. [46]

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton arrived in September to work on the campaign. They created a storm of controversy by accepting help during the last two and a half weeks of the campaign from George Francis Train, a Democrat, a wealthy businessman and a flamboyant speaker who supported women's rights. [47] Train was a political maverick who had attended the Democratic convention during the presidential election year of 1864 but then campaigned vigorously for the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln. By 1867 he was promoting himself as an independent candidate for president. [48] Train was also a racist who openly disparaged the integrity and intelligence of African Americans, supporting women's suffrage partly in the belief that the votes of women would help contain the political power of blacks. [49] The usual procedure was for Anthony to speak first, declaring that the ability to vote rightfully belonged to both women and blacks. Train would speak next, declaring that it would be an outrage for blacks to vote but not women also. [50]

Lucy Stone Lucy stone.jpg
Lucy Stone

The willingness of Anthony and Stanton to work with Train alienated many AERA members and other reform activists. Stone said she considered Train to be "a lunatic, wild and ranting". [51] Anthony and Stanton angered Stone by including her name, without her permission, in a public letter praising Train. [52] Stone and her allies angered Anthony by charging her with misuse of funds, a charge that was later disproved, [53] and by blocking payment of her salary and expenses for her work in Kansas. [54]

Opposition to Train was not due solely to his racism. Henry Blackwell, Stone's husband, had just demonstrated that even AERA workers were not automatically free from the racial presumptions of that era by publishing an open letter to Southern legislatures assuring them that if they allowed both blacks and women to vote, "the political supremacy of your white race will remain unchanged" [55] and that "the black race would gravitate by the law of nature toward the tropics." [56] Opposition to Train was partly due to the loyalty many reformers felt to the national Republican Party, which had provided political leadership for the elimination of slavery and was still in the difficult process of consolidating that victory. Train harshly attacked the Republican Party, making no secret of his desire to blemish its progressive image and create splits within it by campaigning for women's rights when Kansas Republicans were refusing to do so. [57]

The abolitionist movement was sensitive to attacks on the Republican Party, with which it collaborated closely, serving in some ways as its left wing. [58] The women's rights movement depended heavily on abolitionist resources, with its articles published in their newspapers and some of its funding provided by abolitionists. [59] After the Kansas debacle, women's suffragists who distanced themselves from abolitionist and Republican leadership found those resources increasingly unavailable. Wendell Phillips worked to prevent discussion of women's suffrage at abolitionist meetings, and abolitionist journals began to downplay those issues as well. [60]

The History of Woman Suffrage stated the conclusions drawn by the wing of the movement associated with Anthony and Stanton: "Our liberal men counseled us to silence during the war, and we were silent on our own wrongs; they counseled us again to silence in Kansas and New York, lest we should defeat 'negro suffrage,' and threatened if we were not, we might fight the battle alone. We chose the latter, and were defeated. But standing alone we learned our power... woman must lead the way to her own enfranchisement." [61]

Disagreement and division

After the Kansas campaign ended in disarray in November 1867, the AERA increasingly divided into two wings, both advocating universal suffrage but with different approaches. One wing, whose leading figure was Lucy Stone, was willing for black men to achieve suffrage first and wanted to maintain close ties with the Republican Party and the abolitionist movement. The other, whose leading figures were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, insisted that women and black men should be enfranchised at the same time and worked toward a politically independent women's movement that would no longer be dependent on abolitionists. [62] Stanton and Anthony expressed their views in a newspaper called The Revolution , which began publishing in January 1868 with initial funding from the controversial George Francis Train. [63]

Elizabeth Cady Stanton Elizabeth Cady Stanton by HB Hall.jpg
Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Disagreement was especially sharp over the proposed Fifteenth Amendment, which would prohibit the denial of suffrage because of race. In practice it would, theoretically at least, guarantee suffrage for virtually all males. [64] Anthony and Stanton opposed passage of the amendment unless it was accompanied by a Sixteenth Amendment that would guarantee suffrage for women. Otherwise, they said, it would create an "aristocracy of sex" by giving constitutional authority to the belief that men were superior to women. [65] Male power and privilege was at the root of society's ills, Stanton argued, and nothing should be done to strengthen it. [66] Anthony and Stanton also warned that black men, who would have voting power under the amendment, were overwhelmingly opposed to women's suffrage. [67] (They were not alone in being unsure of black male support for women's suffrage. Frederick Douglass, a strong supporter of women's suffrage, said, "The race to which I belong have not generally taken the right ground on this question." [68] )

Most AERA members supported the Fifteenth Amendment. [69] Among prominent African American AERA members, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Frederick Douglass, George Downing and Dr. Charles Purvis supported the amendment, but Dr. Purvis' father, Robert Purvis, joined Anthony and Stanton in opposition to it. [70] Congress approved the Fifteenth Amendment in February 1869, and it was ratified by the states a year later.

During the debate over the Fifteenth Amendment, Stanton wrote articles for The Revolution with language that was sometimes elitist and racially condescending. [71] She believed that a long process of education would be needed before what she called the "lower orders" of former slaves and immigrant workers would be able to participate meaningfully as voters. [66] Stanton wrote, "American women of wealth, education, virtue and refinement, if you do not wish the lower orders of Chinese, Africans, Germans and Irish, with their low ideas of womanhood to make laws for you and your daughters ... demand that women too shall be represented in government." [72] After first saying in another article, "There is only one safe, sure way to build a government, and that is on the equality of all its citizens, male and female, black and white", [73] Stanton then objected to laws being made for women by "Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung who do not know the difference between a Monarchy and a Republic". [74]

Anthony and Stanton also attacked the Republican Party and worked to develop connections with the Democrats. They wrote a letter to the 1868 Democratic National Convention that criticized Republican sponsorship of the Fourteenth Amendment (which granted citizenship to black men but introduced the word "male" into the Constitution), saying, "While the dominant party has with one hand lifted up two million black men and crowned them with the honor and dignity of citizenship, with the other it has dethroned fifteen million white women—their own mothers and sisters, their own wives and daughters—and cast them under the heel of the lowest orders of manhood." [75] [76] They urged liberal Democrats to convince their party, which did not have a clear direction at that point, to embrace universal suffrage. [77] Their attempt to collaborate with Democrats did not go far, however, because their politics were too pro-black for the Democratic Party of that era. [78] Despite the growing number of Democratic leaders who advocated the acceptance of black political power in the South, Southern Democrats had already begun the process of re-establishing white supremacy there, including violent suppression of the voting rights of blacks. [79]

Several AERA members expressed anger and dismay over the activities of Stanton and Anthony during this period, including their deal with Train that gave him space to express his views in The Revolution. [80] Some, including Lucretia Mott, president of the organization, and African Americans Frederick Douglass and Frances Harper, voiced their disagreements with Stanton and Anthony but continued to maintain working relationships with them. [81] [82] Particularly in the case of Lucy Stone, however, the disputes of this period led to a personal rift, one that had important consequences for the women's movement. [83]

To counter the initiatives of Anthony and Stanton, a planning committee was formed in May 1868 to organize a pro-Republican women's suffrage organization in the Boston area that would support the proposal to enfranchise black males first. The New England Woman Suffrage Association was subsequently founded in November 1868. Several participants in new organization were also active in the AERA, including Lucy Stone, Frederick Douglass and the Fosters. Prominent Republican politicians were involved in the founding meeting, including a U.S. senator who was seated on the platform. [84] Francis Bird, a leading Massachusetts Republican, said at the meeting, "Negro suffrage, being a paramount question, would have to be settled before woman suffrage could receive the attention it deserved." [85] Julia Ward Howe, who was elected president of the new organization, said she would not demand suffrage for women until it was achieved for blacks. [86]

1868 annual meeting

The AERA accomplished little during 1868 except hold its annual meeting on May 14, which was marked by hostilities. [87] [88] At that meeting, Olympia Brown denounced the Kansas Republicans for opposing women's suffrage and stressed the need for a party that would support universal suffrage. [89] Lucy Stone criticized the Republican Party also, but Frederick Douglass defended it as more supportive of suffrage for both blacks and women than the Democrats. [90]

Distressed at Stanton's and Anthony's association with George Francis Train and the hostilities it had generated, Lucretia Mott resigned as president of the AERA that same month. She said she thought it had been mistake to attempt to unite the women's and abolitionist movements, and she recommended that the AERA be disbanded. [91]

1869 annual meeting

At the climactic AERA annual meeting on May 12, 1869, Stephen Symonds Foster objected to the renomination of Stanton and Anthony as officers. He denounced their willingness to associate with Train despite his disparagement of blacks, and he charged them with advocating "Educated Suffrage", thereby repudiating the AERA's principle of universal suffrage. [92] Henry Blackwell responded, "Miss Anthony and Mrs. Stanton believe in the right of the negro to vote. We are united on that point. There is no question of principle between us." [93] Frederick Douglass objected to Stanton's use of "Sambo" to represent black men in an article she had written for The Revolution. [93]

Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglas NYHS c1866.jpg
Frederick Douglass

The majority of the attendees supported the pending Fifteenth Amendment, but debate was contentious. [94] Douglass said, "I do not see how anyone can pretend that there is the same urgency in giving the ballot to woman as to the negro. With us, the matter is a question of life and death, at least in fifteen States of the Union." [95] Anthony replied, "Mr. Douglass talks about the wrongs of the negro; but with all the outrages that he to-day suffers, he would not exchange his sex and take the place of Elizabeth Cady Stanton." [96]

Lucy Stone disagreed with Douglass' assertion that suffrage for blacks should have precedence, saying that "woman suffrage is more imperative than his own." [97] Referring to Douglass' earlier assertion that "There are no KuKlux Clans seeking the lives of women", [98] Stone cited state laws that gave men control over the disposition of their children, saying that children had been known to have been taken from their mothers by "Ku-Kluxers here in the North in the shape of men". [97] Stone supported the Fifteenth Amendment and at the same time stressed the importance of women's rights by saying, "But I thank God for that XV. Amendment, and hope that it will be adopted in every State. I will be thankful in my soul if any body can get out of the terrible pit. But I believe that the safety of the government would be more promoted by the admission of woman as an element of restoration and harmony than the negro." [97]

Demise and aftermath

The acrimonious 1869 meeting signaled the effective demise of the American Equal Rights Association, which held no further annual meetings. (Its existence formally ended a year later on May 14, 1870.) [99] Two competing woman suffrage organizations were created in its aftermath. Two days after the 1869 meeting, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton led the formation of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). [100] In November 1869, Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe and others formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). [101]

Attitudes toward the Fifteenth Amendment formed a key distinction between these two organizations, but there were other differences as well. The NWSA took a stance of political independence, but the AWSA at least initially maintained close ties with the Republican Party, expecting the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to open the way for a Republican push for women's suffrage. (That did not happen; the high point of Republican support was a non-committal reference to women's suffrage in the 1872 Republican platform.) [102] The NWSA worked on a wider range of women's issues than the AWSA, which criticized its rival for mixing women's suffrage with issues like divorce reform and equal pay for women. [103] Almost all members of the NWSA were women, as were all of its officers, but the AWSA actively sought male support and included men among its officers. [104] Stanton and Anthony, the leading figures in the NWSA, were more widely known as leaders of the women's suffrage movement during this period and were more influential in setting its direction. [105]

Events soon removed the basis for two key differences of principle between the competing women's organizations. In 1870 debate about the Fifteenth Amendment was made irrelevant when that amendment was officially ratified. In 1872 disgust with corruption in government led to a mass defection of abolitionists and other social reformers from the Republicans to the short-lived Liberal Republican Party. Despite these events, the rivalry between the two women's groups was so bitter that a merger proved to be impossible for twenty years. [106] Ellen Carol DuBois, a historian of the women's suffrage movement, says this rivalry had far-reaching consequences for the women's movement: "More than a century has passed, and still historians become partisans in the hostilities that their opposition created." [107]

In 1890 the NWSA and the AWSA combined to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), with Stanton, Anthony and Stone as its top officers. [108] Anthony was the key force in the new organization. [109] Stone, nominally the chair of its executive committee, in practice was involved only peripherally. [110]

Women's suffrage, a key goal of the AERA, was achieved in 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, popularly known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. [111] Despite the passage of the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, the AERA's goal of securing equal rights for all citizens, especially suffrage, still had not yet been fully achieved. Although Puerto Ricans were by law citizens of the United States, Puerto Rican women were prevented from voting until 1929, and African Americans in southern states were for the most part prevented from voting until 1965, nearly a hundred years after the AERA was formed. [112]

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  1. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 173
  2. 1 2 Cullen-DuPont (1998), p. 168, "Mott, Lucretia Coffin"
  3. Gordon (1997), p. xxix
  4. Kerr (1992), pp. 49,52,58
  5. Barry (1988), p. 110
  6. Dudden (2011), p. 22
  7. Harper (1899), Vol. 1, p. 63
  8. Venet (1991), p. 14
  9. Kerr (1992), p. 58
  10. Million (2003), pp. 109, 121
  11. DuBois (1978), p. 53. The Women's Loyal National League was also known by other names, including the National Loyal Women's League and the Women's National Loyal League.
  12. Judith E. Harper. "Biography". Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. PBS (Public Broadcasting System). Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  13. DuBois (1978), pp. 56, 59
  14. Letter from Stanton to Gerrit Smith, Jan 1, 1866, quoted in DuBois (1978), p. 61
  15. 1 2 Cullen-DuPont (1998), pp. 11–12, "American Equal Rights Association"
  16. Dudden (2011), pp. 78–79
  17. Dudden (2011), p. 86. Dudden says that Phillips also denounced the Fourteenth Amendment. She acknowledges, on page 230, footnotes 152–154, that some other historians have suggested that Phillips and Douglass supported the Fourteenth Amendment, but she provides quotes and citations that indicate otherwise.
  18. DuBois (1978), p. 63
  19. DuBois (1978), pp. 57, 59
  20. "Introduction To Federal Voting Rights Laws: Before the Voting Rights Act". U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
  21. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), pp. 152–153
  22. "Proceedings of the Eleventh Women's Rights Convention" (1868), pp. 45–48. Quoted in Humez (2003), p. 71
  23. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), pp. 171–174
  24. DuBois (1978), p. 65
  25. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 183
  26. 1 2 3 Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 214
  27. Dudden (2011), p. 98
  28. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 193
  29. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 216
  30. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 219
  31. 1 2 DuBois (1978), p. 87
  32. Dudden (2011), p. 92
  33. Dudden (2011), p. 102
  34. Barry (1988), p. 176
  35. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 269
  36. DuBois (1978), pp. 79–81
  37. Dudden (2011), pp. 10,107
  38. Dudden (2011), pp. 23, 90
  39. Dudden (2011), p. 68
  40. Dudden (2011), p. 105. Phillips' opposition was also shown in the peculiar scheduling of his lecture tour of western states at the time of the Kansas campaign in 1867. Despite traveling over 12,000 miles and speaking in over 60 locations, he never once set foot in the political battleground state of Kansas.
  41. Dudden (2011), p. 17
  42. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 232
  43. DuBois (1978), pp. 89–90
  44. Dudden (2011), p. 127
  45. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 238. Cited in Dudden (2011), p. 114. Rev. Woodson Twine assisted the AERA campaign in Kansas, conducting a joint speaking tour with Olympia Brown. Although he spoke in favor of suffrage for both blacks and women, he only grudging supported the latter. See Dudden (2011), p. 122
  46. DuBois (1978), pp. 89–92
  47. DuBois (1978), pp. 92–94
  48. Dudden (2011), pp. 127–128
  49. DuBois (1978), pp. 93–94. According to Dudden (2011), pp. 136–137 and 246 footnotes 22 and 25, there is reason to believe that Stanton and Anthony hoped to draw the volatile Train away from his cruder forms of racism, and that Train had actually begun to do so. In any event, they were in direct contact with Train for only three months before he sailed for Europe in January 1868.
  50. Harper, p. 292
  51. Kerr (1992), p. 129. For an indication of just how intense the criticism was, see Harper (1899), p. 294.
  52. Dudden (2011), p. 139
  53. Barry (1988), pp. 186–187.
  54. Dudden (2011), p. 141
  55. Henry B. Blackwell (January 15, 1867). "What the South can do". Library of Congress. p. 2. Retrieved May 17, 2019. Cited in Dudden (2011), p. 93
  56. Henry B. Blackwell (January 15, 1867). "What the South can do". Library of Congress. p. 4. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  57. DuBois (1978), p. 100
  58. DuBois (1978), p. 57
  59. DuBois (1978), p. 51
  60. DuBois (1978), pp. 72–73
  61. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), pp. 267–268
  62. DuBois (1978), pp. 80–81
  63. DuBois (1978), pp. 99,103
  64. Technically the amendment did not guarantee suffrage regardless of race but instead prohibited disenfranchisement because of race. In 1875, the Supreme Court ruled, in Minor v. Happersett , that "the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone". Not until the mid-twentieth century did Supreme Court rulings establish the connection between citizenship and voting rights. See "The Trial of Susan B. Anthony" at the Federal Judicial Center.
  65. DuBois (1978), pp. 174–175,185
  66. 1 2 Rakow and Kramarae eds. (2001), p. 48
  67. Dudden (2011), p. 184
  68. "The Anniversaries". New York Tribune. May 15, 1868. Quoted in Dudden (2011), p. 149.
  69. Barry (1988), p. 194. The 1869 AERA annual meeting voted to endorse the Fifteenth Amendment.
  70. Dudden (2011), pp. 179, 178, 171, 99, 184
  71. DuBois (1978), pp. 175,177,178
  72. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "The Sixteenth Amendment," The Revolution, April 29, 1869, p. 266. Quoted in DuBois (1978), p. 178.
  73. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "Manhood Suffrage," The Revolution, December 24, 1868. Reproduced in Gordon (2000), p. 194
  74. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "Manhood Suffrage," The Revolution, December 24, 1868. Reproduced in Gordon (2000), p. 196
  75. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 341. This letter was signed by Anthony, who was requesting permission to present their views to the convention in person.
  76. DuBois (1978), pp. 109–110
  77. Dudden (2011), p. 152.
  78. DuBois (1978), p. 108
  79. Foner (1990), pp. 180, 232
  80. Harper (1899), Vol. 1, p. 295
  81. Faulkner (2011), p. 196
  82. Dudden (2011), p. 186.
  83. DuBois (1978), p. 99
  84. DuBois (1978), pp. 164–167
  85. "Woman's Rights Convention," New York Times, November 20, 1868. Quoted in DuBois (1978), pp. 169, 165
  86. DuBois (1978), pp. 168–169
  87. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 309
  88. DuBois (1978), p. 185
  89. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 310
  90. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), pp. 311–312
  91. Faulkner (2011), p. 189
  92. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 381. The first issue of their newspaper, The Revolution, declared that it would advocate "Educated Suffrage, irrespective of Sex or Color", according to Rakow and Kramarae (2001), p. 20. On p. 48, Rakow and Kramarae implicitly attribute the phrase "educated suffrage" to Parker Pillsbury, one of the newspaper's editors, adding that "Stanton in this time period usually opposed any qualifications." One of Stanton's biographers attributes the phrase to Train but says that Stanton clearly supported "educated suffrage" in later years. See Lori Ginzberg, Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life (2009), p. 162.
  93. 1 2 Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 382
  94. Barry (1988), p. 194
  95. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 382. During the elections of 1868, hundreds of blacks in the South were murdered to ensure victories by white supremacists; see Dudden (2011), pp. 156–157.
  96. Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 383
  97. 1 2 3 Stanton, Anthony, Gage (1887), p. 384
  98. Brown (1911); pp. 75–76. Douglass was referring to the Ku Klux Klan. Olympia Brown, the author of this memoir, was an AERA member.
  99. Harper (1899), pp. 348–349
  100. DuBois (1978), p. 189
  101. Cullen-DuPont (1998), p. 13, "American Woman Suffrage Association"
  102. DuBois (1978), pp. 199–200
  103. DuBois (1978), p. 197
  104. DuBois (1978), pp.192,196
  105. Dudden (2011), p. 12. Stanton and Anthony arranged for the introduction to Congress of what eventually became the Nineteenth Amendment; Anthony was arrested for voting in 1872 and found guilty in a widely publicized trial; Anthony dramatically inserted the demand for women's suffrage into the official ceremonies for the Centennial of the Declaration of Independence. See Barry (1988), pp. 283, 249–257 and 270–271.
  106. DuBois (1978), pp. 166, 200
  107. DuBois (1978), p. 173
  108. Cullen-DuPont (1998), p. 174, "National American Woman Suffrage Association"
  109. Kerr (1992), p. 227
  110. Kerr (1992), p. 232
  111. "Senators to Vote on Suffrage Today; Fate of Susan B. Anthony Amendment Hangs in Balance on Eve of Final Test". New York Times. September 26, 1918.
  112. Sneider (2008) pp. 121, 136. Literate Puerto Rican women were enfranchised in 1929, per Sneider, page 134. The voting rights of African Americans in southern states were enforced by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.