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Manuscript Division



Women's Suffrage
Antislavery Movement
Labor and Progressive Reform
arrow graphicWomen's Rights
African American Civil Rights
Health and Medicine
Papers of Presidents and First Ladies
Congressional Collections
Legal Collections
Military and Diplomatic Affairs
Literature and Journalism
Artists, Architects, and Designers
Actresses and Actors




Women's Rights

Once women's suffrage was secured, the National American Woman Suffrage Association regrouped as the League of Women Voters (514,400 items; 1884-1986; bulk 1920-79) [catalog record] and directed its focus toward many of the same social and political issues that occupied other women's groups. Its emphasis was on educating voters, particularly newly enfranchised women, about candidates and campaign issues, especially relating to child labor and welfare, citizen participation, civil rights, consumer affairs, environmental concerns, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, immigration, labor, national security, and women's legal status and rights.

In addition to promoting its own programs, the league was also a prime mover behind the Women's Joint Congressional Committee (WJCC) (6,200 items; 1920-70; bulk 1920-53) [catalog record], an umbrella organization of various women's and social reform groups that was formed in 1920 to serve as an information clearinghouse and lobbying force for pending federal legislation. Among the charter members were the League of Women Voters, National Consumers' League, National Women's Trade Union League of America, National Council of Jewish Women, and six other groups. More organizations joined a few years later to promote legislation against lynching and for maternity and infant health protection (including support for the 1921 Sheppard-Towner Act), independent citizenship for married women (as partially realized in the 1922 Cable Act), funding for the federal women's and children's bureaus, and creation of a Department of Education.

One group that did not join the WJCC was the National Woman's Party (NWP), the leading proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which NWP chair Alice Paul had drafted in 1923. The WJCC resisted the ERA as a threat to the sex-based protective labor legislation that its members had fought for years to secure. Several decades passed before the influential League of Women Voters and other former WJCC members supported the ERA, which Congress did not pass until 1972 (see the topical essay “The Long Road to Equality”).

Aspects of the failed struggle to ratify the amendment may be traced in the records of ERAmerica (62,300 items; 1976-82) [catalog record], a nationwide alliance of about 200 civic, labor, church, and women's groups founded in 1976. The organization mounted major campaigns in Illinois, Oklahoma, and key southern states, as reflected in the files of honorary cochairs Liz Carpenter and Elly Peterson, and of various other staff members. Materials from anti-ERA organizations, such as the Eagle Forum and Moral Majority, are also found here, as are files on issues that became linked to the ERA, such as abortion, comparable worth, and pension rights of former military spouses. For additional information on the ERAmerica Records, see the topical essay “The Long Road to Equality.”

Joining the records of suffrage and women's rights organizations are the personal papers of many men and women who fought for women's rights in the social, political, and economic arenas. Descriptions of these collections may be found in every section of the Manuscript Division portion of this research guide. Notable examples include the following:

  • Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Alice Stone Blackwell, Mary Church Terrell, Carrie Chapman Catt, Maud Wood Park, and Anna Kelton Wiley (see Women's Suffrage)
  • Anna E. Dickinson and Anne Turpeau (see Reform)
  • Elizabeth Blackwell, Margaret Sanger, and Jeannette Ridlon Piccard (see Health and Medicine)
  • Lucretia Garfield, Edith Bolling Wilson and Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt (see Papers of Presidents and First Ladies)
  • Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms, Clare Boothe Luce, Patsy T. Mink, Mary S. Logan, and the La Follette Family (see Congressional Collections)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Florence Ellinwood Allen, Felix Frankfurter, Harry A. Blackmun, and Winn Newman (see Legal Collections)
  • Muriel Rukeyser, Ruby Black, May Craig, and the Reid Family (see Literature and Journalism)

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