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What Is the National Woman Suffrage Association?

The National Woman Suffrage Associated was created to protest the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
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The National Woman Suffrage Association was a group that fought for women to have the right to vote in the United States (U.S.). Some consider it to be one of the most influential women's political organizations in U.S. history. It was founded in 1869 along with a similar group, the American Woman Suffrage Association. Both groups were formed in response to the proposed Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment addressed U.S. citizens’ right to vote, but its language did not include women. The formation of these two suffrage groups is generally considered instrumental to the advancement of women's rights.

The two organizations’ methods for encouraging reform usually differed. Eventually, they both acknowledged that they might be more effective at promoting change by working together. In 1890, the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association joined forces, becoming the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). At the organization’s 1920 convention, it became known by its current name, the League of Women Voters.

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Prior to the formation of the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, there were seemingly few organizations dedicated to securing equal rights for women in the United States. Up to that point in U.S. history, voting rights had been granted only to free white males. The Fifteenth Amendment, if ratified, would prohibit denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous status as a slave. It contained no mention of a woman’s right to vote, however. Many women felt, therefore, that radical action might be needed in order to gain equal rights.

Since they had different approaches to protesting the proposed Fifteenth Amendment, two distinct suffrage groups were created. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, in New York, and focused on change at the national level. The American Woman Suffrage Association, on the other hand, intended to promote reform on a state-by-state basis. Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Josephine Ruffin, and Julia Ward Howe formed this group, based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston group’s approach eventually prevailed and the two organizations merged, forming NAWSA.

NAWSA was considered responsible for overseeing the many state and local branches of the national organization. It sponsored numerous events, such as parades and yearly conventions. Its members also took part in many press activities, establishing newspapers and publishing informational literature such as books and pamphlets.

NAWSA’s hard work could be viewed by most people as a significant contribution to the advancement of feminism in the U.S. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to vote. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters was formed in anticipation of the ratification of that amendment. To this day, the organization carries on the political activism that was initiated by the National Woman Suffrage Association.

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