Skip to main content
Select Source:

Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt

The American reformer Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) designed the strategy for the final victory of the woman's-suffrage movement in 1920 and founded the League of Women Voters.

Carrie Lane was born in Ripon, Wis., on Jan. 9, 1859. She was raised in lowa and graduated from the state college. Her first husband died soon after their marriage, and 4 years later, in 1890, she married George Catt, a prosperous engineer. In 1895 she became chairman of the Organization Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and in 1900 she succeeded Susan B. Anthony as president of NAWSA. Her husband's ill health forced Catt to resign in 1904, but after his death the next year she returned to active service as president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. Later she assumed command of the New York woman's-suffrage movement, then struggling to win a statewide referendum authorizing the vote for women. Although the New York campaign was not completed until 1917, Catt's brilliant management of it made her the obvious choice to become president of NAWSA in 1915, when discontent with Dr. Anna Howard Shaw's faltering leadership forced her to step down.

Catt reorganized NAWSA, installed her own people in key positions, and in 1916 worked out a 6-year plan to secure a constitutional amendment that would enfranchise women. America's entry into World War I forced the issue. No doubt women would have gained the ballot some day, but they got it in 1920 mainly because of Catt. Under her direction the amendment was lobbied torturously through Congress and then, in the face of substantial opposition, through the state legislatures. The issue was in doubt until Tennessee, at the last minute, became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 1920.

Catt was notable for her intelligence, strength of character, and self-discipline. An effective speaker, a superb organizer, a diplomat and a politician, she converted NAWSA from a loose coalition of societies into a tightly knit political machine. She had pacifist inclinations and helped launch the Woman's Peace party, but she broke with it when American entry into World War I was imminent. By the same token, although she served on the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense during that war, she did only enough work to establish her credentials as a patriotic American. In both cases her first loyalty and best energies went to the suffrage movement.

In 1919 Catt founded the League of Women Voters as a vehicle for nonpartisan suffragists and as an instrument to advance those reforms for which women had sought the ballot. Later she fulfilled her early pacifist ambitions by establishing a Committee on the Cause and Cure of War, which was the largest of the women's peace groups during the 1920s. A lifelong internationalist, she supported both the League of Nations and the United Nations. Unlike many feminists, Catt was not discouraged by the modest gains women made after receiving the vote. She never thought that enfranchising women would revolutionize the human condition, and as long as her strength held out she continued to work for social justice and social welfare in a variety of fields. She died on March 9, 1947.

Further Reading

The only biography of Catt is Mary G. Peck, Carrie Chapman Catt (1944). The fact that the author was a friend and colleague of Catt for 40 years gives the book a special authority, but a full study of this important woman based on the extensive documentary material now available is needed. Carrie C. Catt and Nettie R. Shuler, Woman Suffrage and Politics (1923), is informative since it draws on some of Mrs. Catt's own experiences. Volumes 4 (1903), 5 (1922), and 6 (1922) of the History of Woman Suffrage, edited by Ida H. Harper, contain much useful material. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Carrie Chapman Catt." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Carrie Chapman Catt." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/carrie-chapman-catt

"Carrie Chapman Catt." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/carrie-chapman-catt

Carry Amelia Moore Nation

Carry Amelia Moore Nation

The actions of Carry Amelia Moore Nation (1846-1911), American temperance reformer and moral agitator, helped bring on the prohibition era.

Carry Amelia Moore was born in Garrard County, Ky., on Nov. 25, 1846, into a well-to-do slave-holding household. She was raised in an intensely religious atmosphere. On her mother's side there was evidence of eccentricity and insanity, and Carry's youth mixed emotionalism with stern suppression. The Moores moved a number of times, and during the Civil War her father lost his fortune. In 1865 the family settled in Belton, Mo. Carry earned a teaching certificate at the state normal school.

In 1867 Carry married Dr. Charles Gloyd. He soon proved an irresponsible alcoholic, and though she loved him and was pregnant, she returned home. He died shortly after. Her child, born weak of mind, was an expense and trouble for years. After teaching school for a few years, Carry married David Nation, a lawyer, minister, and journalist, in 1877.

The Nations moved to Medicine Lodge, Kans. In 1889 a great fire stopped short of Nation's hotel, convincing her that she was divinely shielded. Her religious fervor increasingly took the form of hallucinations and public displays. She found an outlet in the work of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) throughout the 1890s. This group became very active because the Kansas law prohibiting the sale of liquor was not being enforced.

In 1899 and into 1900 Nation and other WCTU women developed a campaign of prayer and religious song outside local saloons. A tall, powerful, determined woman, Nation was first treated roughly and with contempt. She then began an offensive which made her internationally famous. She and her friends returned to the "joints" and in violent confrontations and challenges to the law, which she held remiss for not enforcing prohibition, they succeeded in closing the saloons.

The tumult Nation had stirred up inspired her to broaden her campaign. In Wichita and Topeka, Kans., and other cities, wearing her famous black dress and bonnet and carrying a Bible and an iron rod, she roused citizens and officials. On Jan. 21, 1901, at Wichita, she first used the hatchet that became her trademark.

Strongly convinced of divine guidance—she thought her name (Carry A. Nation) had been predestined—Nation extended her activities, though on occasion she stood trial and served time in jail. The WCTU was not in wholehearted support of her. Her husband divorced her on grounds of desertion. Her lectures and publications (The Smasher's Mail, The Hatchet) earned money that she spent freely on such reforms as a home for wives of alcoholics in Kansas City, Kans.

A trip to New York City was picturesque but ineffective, and increasingly, during raids in major cities from San Francisco, Calif., to Washington, D.C., Nation became a symbol of aggression rather than of temperance reform. Her distaste for tobacco and contemporary women's clothes accentuated her conservative character. By the time of her death in Leavenworth, Kans., on June 2, 1911, it was clear that she had outlived her time.

Further Reading

Carry Nation's autobiography, The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation (1904), is vivid and informative. Her major biographers have been remarkably judicious and understanding, though philosophically opposed to her on most counts. See Herbert Asbury, Carry Nation (1929); Carleton Beals, Cyclone Carry: The Story of Carry Nation (1962); and Robert Lewis Taylor, Vessel of Wrath: The Life and Times of Carry Nation (1966).

Additional Sources

Madison, Arnold., Carry Nation, Nashville: T. Nelson, 1977. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Carry Amelia Moore Nation." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Carry Amelia Moore Nation." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/carry-amelia-moore-nation

"Carry Amelia Moore Nation." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/carry-amelia-moore-nation

Catt, Carrie Chapman

Carrie Chapman Catt, 1859–1947, American suffragist and peace advocate, b. Carrie Lane, Ripon, Wis., grad. Iowa State College (now Iowa State Univ.), 1880. She was superintendent of schools (1883–84) in Mason City, Iowa. In 1885 she married Lee Chapman, a journalist (d. 1886), and in 1890, George Catt, an engineer (d. 1905). From 1890 to 1900 an organizer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, she became its president in 1900. She led the campaign to win suffrage through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920), she organized the League of Women Voters for the political education of women. At the Berlin convocation of the International Council of Women she helped organize the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, of which she was president from 1904 to 1923. After 1923 she devoted her efforts chiefly to the peace movement. With Nettie R. Shuler she wrote Woman Suffrage and Politics (1923).

See study by R. B. Fowler (1986).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Catt, Carrie Chapman." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Catt, Carrie Chapman." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/catt-carrie-chapman

"Catt, Carrie Chapman." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/catt-carrie-chapman