Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947)

Quotation Marks
Photo of Carrie Chapman in a fancy lace & embroidered dress. Her light hair is parted down the middle & tied back.
Carrie Chapman Catt Postcard in Russian, 1912. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons​)
​​​​​​​“​The vote is a power, a weapon of offense and defense, a prayer. Understand what it means and what it can do for your country. Use it intelligently, conscientiously, prayerfully."

Catt joined the suffrage movement during the 19th century in her home state of Iowa. Her speaking skills earned her a reputation among the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and soon she was giving speeches across the country. In 1900, she was elected NAWSA president to take over the seat left by Susan B. Anthony.

Catt understood that suffrage was more than an American issue. In 1902, she founded the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and left NAWSA for a time, traveling and spreading her message abroad. Catt would return to the U.S. and resume presidency of NAWSA from 1915 to 1920. During her tenure she created the “Winning Plan” which coordinated the drive for the 19th Amendment with state suffrage campaigns. Catt’s plan advised suffragists to focus only on voting rights and the passage of an amendment. She believed that a clarity of message was important to victory.
More conservative than younger members of her organization, Catt was wary of expanding voting rights to foreigners, the illiterate, and women of color. She also opposed militant tactics and supported President Wilson’s war effort in World War I, an issue that divided the suffrage movement. After the passage of the 19th Amendment and the end of the war, Catt focused on writing a history of suffrage and creating organizations to prevent and end future wars.​