|Lived:||January 9, 1859—March 9, 1947 (aged 88)|
|Career:||Woman's suffrage leader|
|Education:||Iowa State University|
Carrie Lane Chapman Catt—an Iowa State University alumna who devoted most of her life to the expansion of women's rights around the world as well as international peace—is recognized as one of the key leaders of the American women's suffrage movement. Her superb oratory and organizational skills led to ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote in August 1920.
Catt was born on January 9, 1859, in Ripon, Wis., the second of three children of Lucius and Maria (Clinton) Lane. In 1866, at the close of the Civil War, the family moved to a farm near Charles City, Iowa.
Catt entered Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) in Ames, Iowa, in 1877 and completed a bachelor's degree in general science in 1880, the only woman in her graduating class. At the time, the college's academic year ran from the spring through the fall, so Catt completed her degree in four years, not three years as is sometimes reported. Also, some biographies mistakenly state that Catt was valedictorian of her class. The college did not recognize valedictorians at that time and while Catt was a good student, there is no information on her rank in the class. While at Iowa State, Catt established military drills for women and became the first female student to give an oration before a debating society. She worked her way through school by washing dishes, teaching and serving as a librarian's assistant. She also was a member of Pi Beta Phi fraternity.
After graduation, Catt returned to Charles City to work as a law clerk and, in nearby Mason City, as a school teacher and principal. In 1883, at the age of 24, she was appointed Mason City school superintendent, one of the first women to hold such a position. In February 1885, she married Leo Chapman, publisher and editor of the Mason City Republican newspaper, at her parents' Charles City farm. Chapman died of typhoid fever the following year in San Francisco, Calif., where he had gone to seek new employment. Arriving just a few days after her husband's death, the young widow decided to remain in San Francisco, where she where she canvassed for ads and wrote freelance articles.
In 1887, Catt returned to Iowa to begin her crusade for women's suffrage. She joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association, organized suffrage events throughout the state, and worked as a professional lecturer and writer. In June 1890, she married wealthy engineer George W. Catt, whom she had first met in college at Iowa State and later during her time in San Francisco. He supported his wife's suffrage work both financially and personally, believing that his role in the marriage was to earn their living and hers was to reform society. They had no children.
During this time, Catt also became active in the newly formed National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She was a delegate to its national convention in 1890, became head of field organizing in 1895 and was elected to succeed Susan B. Anthony as president in 1900. She continued to give speeches, plan campaigns, organize women and gain political expertise. Catt's organizational, speaking and writing skills established her reputation as a leading suffragist.
From 1902 to 1904, Catt was a leader in the formation of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA), serving as its president from 1904 to 1923 and thereafter as honorary chair until her death. Catt resigned as president of NAWSA in 1904 to care for her ailing husband. His death in October 1905—followed by the deaths of Susan B. Anthony (February 1906), her younger brother William (September 1907) and her mother (December 1907)—left Catt grief-stricken. Her doctor and friends encouraged her to travel abroad. She spent most of the following nine years promoting equal suffrage rights worldwide as IWSA president.
In 1915, Catt returned to the United States to resume the leadership of NAWSA, which had become badly divided over suffrage strategies. In 1916, Catt proposed her "Winning Plan" to campaign simultaneously for suffrage at both the state and federal levels. Key to the final campaign for the vote was a bequest Catt received in 1914 of more than $1 million by New York City magazine editor and publisher Miriam Folline Leslie "for the cause of woman suffrage."
Under Catt's leadership, several key states—including New York in 1917—approved women's suffrage. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson converted to the cause of suffrage and supported a national constitutional amendment. Tireless lobbying by Catt and other suffragists, first in Congress and then in state legislatures, finally produced a ratified 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920.
In 1919, Catt proposed the creation of a nonpartisan educational organization for women voters and on February 14, 1920—six months before the 19th Amendment was ratified—the national League of Women Voters (LWV) was organized in Chicago, IL. She was honorary president of the LWV for the rest of her life. The LWV remains active today and is frequently a training ground for women who later compete for electoral office. In 1923, Catt published "Woman Suffrage and Politics: The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement" with Nettie R. Schuler.
In addition to her suffrage work, Catt was active in several other causes, including international peace. In January 1915, after the outbreak of World War I, she joined with Jane Addams to organize the Women's Peace Party. In 1925, Catt founded the Committee on the Cause and Cure of War and served as chair of the organization until 1932 and thereafter as honorary chair. She supported the League of Nations after World War I and the United Nations after World War II. Between the wars, she worked for Jewish refugee relief efforts and child labor protection laws.
On March 9, 1947, Catt died of heart failure at her home in New Rochelle, N.Y., where she had moved after her second husband's death. She donated her entire estate to her alma mater, Iowa State, where, in 1921, she was the first woman to deliver a commencement address at the university. She also delivered the commencement address at Iowa State in 1930.
Catt attained recognition for her work both during and after her lifetime. In 1926, she was featured on the cover of Time magazine and, in 1930, she received the Pictorial Review Award for her international disarmament work. In 1941, Catt received the Chi Omega award at the White House from her longtime friend Eleanor Roosevelt. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1975 and into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1982. In 1992, Catt was named one of the 10 most important women of the century by the Iowa Centennial Memorial Foundation. At Iowa State, the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics was founded in her honor in 1992 and the Old Botany building on central campus was renovated and renamed Carrie Chapman Catt Hall in 1995.
In the 72-year campaign to win women the right to vote in the United States, several generations of women contributed to the cause. Catt stands out for her superb organizational and oratory skills, which over the span of 33 years, helped unite efforts to work with both major political parties at the state and national levels to achieve women's suffrage.
Watch a short video clip of Catt speaking about the passage of the 19th Amendment at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/89133.
See the speeches and articles in the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers at the Library of Congress, many of which are available in text and image form.
- Eighty-Eighth Birthday Address - 1947
- Civilization is Calling Us - 7 April 1943
- A Call for Action - March 25, 1943
- Woman's Centennial Congress - 25-27 November, 1940
- Who Can Answer - Dec. 8, 1939
- "Freedom for the Woman of Tomorrow" - Broadcast for Panhellenic Program
- Speech Delivered at Pan Hellenic Program - 13 July 1939
- Then and Now - Jan. 9, 1939
- The Outlook Today – Oct. 19, 1938
- Address of Carrie Chapman Catt - undated
- The Inheritance of the Woman's Movement - April 14, 1938
- Nazis and Nazism - March 30, 1938
- Ashamed of War (A Belated Apology) - Jan. 19, 1938
- Our Obvious Duty - circa 1937
- What Shall We do About War - 11 November and 8 December 1936
- Speech Delivered at the Bronxville Woman's Club - 27 October 1936
- A Message to Sweet Briar College: The Woman's Century, 1820-1920 - June 9, 1936
- Address at the Banquet of International Farm Women - 4 June 1936
- The Vote as a SafeGuard of Democracy - May 25, 1936
- Address at Dedication of Bronze Tablet in Iowa Capital Building - 10 May 1936
- The Price of Peace – Feb. 14, 1935
- We Live in a World in Which Every Nation is Organized for War - 1935
- Address at the Convention of the World Alliance for International Friendship Through the Churches - Nov. 14, 1934
- Address at the League of Women Voters Munitions Meeting - 12 November, 1934
- American Hebrew Award Acceptance Speech - 13 February 1934
- Only Yesterday - 20 July 1933
- Address at the Marathon Round Tables on Foreign Relations - 17 February 1933
- World War I in Retrospective - 10 January 1932
- Address at the Dinner of World Tomorrow – April 14, 1931
- This Changing World - Dec. 3, 1930
- The Hope of the Founders - 26 March 1930
- Women's Memorial to London Naval Reduction Conference - 29 January 1930
- Response to Addresses at the Fifth Conference on the Cause and Cure of War - January 1930
- Address Delivered to the Fifth Conference on the Cause and Cure of War - 1930
- What is the Monroe Doctrine? (Fourth Conference on the Cause and Cure of War) - January 18, 1929
- Radio address - Oct.1928
- The Status Today of War vs. Peace - January 16,1928
- Ideals and Aspirations of the United States – July 17, 1927
- Is Our Foreign Policy at Fault? (Elements in a Constructive Foreign Policy) - April 23, 1927
- Address Delivered Upon Return from IWSA Special Conference - 1927
- Opening Address at the Second Conference on the Cause and Cure of War - Dec. 6, 1926
- Address at Sixth Anniversary of the League of Nations - 1926
- Eulogy for Helen Hamilton Gardner - July 28, 1925
- My Faith (14 Points for Peace) – April 21, 1925
- Findings of the Conference on the Cause and Cure of War - 1925
- Men, Women, and War (New York Society of Ethical Culture) - 1925
- The Monroe Doctrine - January 1924
- The Three I's - 1924
- The Problem Stated - 1924
- Peace or War: What Shall We Do About It? - 1923
- War or Peace? - Nov. 12, 1923
- Presidential Address at the 9th IWSA Congress - May 14, 1923
- What Have Women Done With Suffrage - undated
- Commencement Address at Iowa State - June 15,1921
- Baccalaureate Address at University of Wyoming - June 12, 1921
- Whose Government is This? – April 14, 1921
- A Call to Action - April 13, 1921
- Address to the Women of Europe – June 6, 1920
- Address to Delaware Legislature for Ratification – March 1920
- Political Parties and Women Voters (On the Inside) - Feb. 14, 1920
- Be Joyful Today/We've Won – Feb. 13, 1920
- Sine Dr. Shaw Non - 1920
- The Nation Calls - March 24, 1919
- Looking Forward - March 1919
- An Address to the Legislatures of the United States - Feb. 1919
- Open Address to the U.S. Congress - November 1917
- Address, State Suffrage Conference, Saratoga - August 30, 1917
- Votes and Patriotism - Aug. 24, 1917
- Address at Denver - circa May 1917
- Address before Congressional Hearing - April 20, 1917
- The Crisis - Sept. 7, 1916
- Equal Suffrage – Aug. 3, 1916
- Woman's Place is in the Home - March 7, 1916
- Statement at a Hearing Before the House Judiciary Committee - Dec. 16, 1915
- Address at a Senate committee hearing - Dec. 15, 1915
- The Maine Campaign - 1915
- An Appeal For Liberty - July 4, 1915
- Woman and War - September 1, 1914
- Empire State Campaign Committee Report - 1914
- Statement at a Hearing Before the House Committee on Rules – Dec. 3, 1913
- Suffrage and Militancy - April 17, 1913
- Presidential Address at the 6th IWSA Convention: Is Woman Suffrage Progressing? - June 13, 1911
- Statement at U.S. Senate committee hearing - April 19, 1910
- Address at the International Woman Suffrage Alliance Fifth Conference and First Quinquennial - April 26, 1909
- Presidential Address at the IWSA Congress in Amsterdam - June 15, 1908
- Statement at U. S. Senate Hearing before Committee on Woman Suffrage - March 3, 1908
- Presidential Address at the 3rd IWSA Conference - Aug. 8, 1906
- Eulogy delivered at Susan B. Anthony's funeral - March 15, 1906
- The New Time - July 4, 1905
- The Outlook (Boston Festival) - May 10, 1905
- Statement before U.S. House Judiciary Committee – Feb. 16, 1904
- Presidential Address to NAWSA - Feb. 11, 1904
- The Parting of the Ways – Dec. 30, 1903
- Presidential Address to NAWSA - March 19, 1903
- Presidential Address to NAWSA - Feb. 12, 1902
- Presidential Address to NAWSA - May 30, 1901
- 1900 NAWSA Presidential Acceptance - Feb. 13, 1900
- Why We Ask for the Submission of an Amendment – Feb. 13, 1900
- The Traffic in Women - 1899
- Danger to Our Government - Dec. 15, 1894
- Subject and Sovereign - c. 1893
- Statement Before the House Judiciary Committee - February 17, 1892
- Address at Rockford, Iowa - July 4, 1889
- The American Sovereign (Lyceum Lecture) - 1888
- Zenobia (First Public Lecture) - 1887