The National American Woman Suffrage Association
Following the Senate’s overwhelming defeat of the proposed suffrage amendment the leaders of the AWSA and the NWSA met to resolve their differences and unite their two organizations as part of an overall strategy to focus their efforts on individual states. The NAWSA was formed in 1890 when the two organizations merged after several years of discussion to resolve the differences between them. The reconciliation was initiated by Lucy Stone and was accommodated by Susan B. Anthony. At its founding convention Elizabeth Cady Stanton was elected as its president and Anthony became a vice president at large.
Although Stanton was the president in name, it was Anthony who largely led the organization, with Stanton mostly absent, staying with her daughter in England. Stanton quickly proved to be too radical in her approach for most of the younger members of the organization. In 1895 Stanton published The Woman’s Bible in which she roundly condemned the Bible as a source of many of the restrictions imposed on women. The NAWSA announced that it had no connection with Stanton’s book and did not endorse it and Stanton found her influence over the organization and the women’s movement in sharp decline. Increasingly embittered and detached she died in 1902.
After the defeat of the suffrage amendment it was evident that there was little support for women’s suffrage in the South, which bode ill for any future attempts to obtain suffrage in the southern states. The NAWSA derived a strategy through which they could persuade politicians in the south desirous of maintaining white supremacy by giving the vote to educated women who would have to pass literacy tests, who would at the time be mostly white. Several suffrage societies were established in the South, and the NAWSA held its annual conventions in the southern cities of Atlanta and later New Orleans (where their old ally Frederick Douglas was denied credentials to attend), but the strategy did not succeed.
The NAWSA began to appeal to the middle class and upper class women, distancing themselves from the radicalism of Anthony and creating a new image of her as a wise and gentle grandmother. By 1907 societies were formed which appealed to upper class and middle class women throughout the United States, most of them affiliated with the NAWSA. In 1909 the World Suffrage Party was formed modeled on the lines of Tammany Hall, with its members for the most part remaining loyal to the NAWSA. Where before the public view of women working with the suffrage movement was mostly negative, the reforms of the progressive era created a more accepting atmosphere.
The NAWSA continued to accept few black women, although they did allow some, but not in the South. It continued to focus on obtaining the franchise in individual states until enough allowed women could vote and an amendment could be forced through Congress. In 1913 the Southern States Woman Suffrage Committee was formed by Kate Gordon to stop the process from going beyond the state level. Gordon believed that enforcement of an amendment allowing women to vote would lead to enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments regarding Black voters, which most southern states were avoiding through poll taxes and other means.