Women’s Suffrage & Suffragettes: Collections

The history of women’s suffrage is long and imperfect, filled with important milestones and female trailblazers. In the United Kingdom and the United States, that history begins in the early nineteenth century and can be traced through the unique materials available in Gale’s Women’s Studies Archive.

In the UK, the campaign for women’s suffrage began with suffragists, such as the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies founder Millicent Fawcett, who focused on peaceful methods, such as lobbying, public speaking, and publishing on women’s issues to advocate for women’s rights. The work of these women, however, is frequently overshadowed by the more violent suffragettes, whose antics regularly placed them in the public eye. Frustrated by the lack of progress, from 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, decided that more direct action was needed. Initially, their tactics involved disruption and civil disobedience, but this soon devolved into violence and lawbreaking, which in turn led to imprisonment and hunger strikes. Women like Marion Wallace-Dunlop, the first to undergo a hunger strike in 1909; Emily Wilding Davison, who ran in front of the king’s horse; and Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, are remembered for their involvement in the movement. The work of both groups led to the Representation of the People Act in 1918, which allowed some women over the age of 30 to vote, but it wasn’t until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women were fully extended the same voting rights as men.

The United States had an equally long and turbulent history when it came to giving women the right to vote. The most well-recognized starting point was the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, the first women’s rights convention in the United States, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. The work of other key female trailblazers, such as Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Alice Paul, whose National Woman’s Party employed on more radical, militant tactics, eventually led to the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920: the single largest extension of democratic voting rights in American history. Yet the Nineteenth Amendment only prevented discrimination in voting based on sex, women from racial minorities remained disenfranchised. It wasn’t until 1965, and the Voting Rights Act, that racial discrimination in voting became legally prohibited.

This history of women’s suffrage has been paralleled in countries across the globe and, in many instances, it took well over 100 years for women to truly get the vote, with many governments restricting suffrage based on race, wealth, or education long after they had made discriminating in voting based on gender illegal. This century of advocacy and campaigning, both constitutionally and through more direct action, can be thoroughly explored through the periodicals and papers included in Gale’s Women’s Studies Archive.

  • Anna Garlin Spencer Papers, 1878‒1931

    Anna Garlin Spencer was a minister, feminist, educator, pacifist, and writer on ethics and social problems. She dedicated her life to social reform and was active in the cause of women’s rights for more than 40 years. Her interest in pacifism led to prominent positions in the cause for peace, including with the National Arbitration and Peace Congress and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, as well as being a founding member of the Woman’s Peace Party in 1915. The papers featured in this collection include correspondence and writings by Spencer as well as biographical and family material.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • European Women’s Periodicals

    This collection contains European women’s publications from Austria (over 20), Belgium (over 15), France (over 40), Germany (over 50), Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Dutch Indonesia (over 50). The majority of the material dates between 1880 and 1940. These periodicals informed readers and allowed them to express their views on a wide range of topics, including literature and the arts, women’s suffrage, birth control, education, and homemaking. Socialist women’s journals, such as Die Gleichheit, highlight the important role women played in socialist movements. Other periodicals focus on Catholic interests, issues of importance to young women or working women, and specific political parties and movements. Illuminating a wide range of women’s concerns, struggles for equality, and involvement in progressive movements, this collection is vital for researchers interested in the history of feminism in northern Europe.

    The collection includes Neues Frauenleben (1902–1915), the periodical of the General Austrian Women’s Organization, which advocated suffrage, marriage reform, education, and better working conditions for women. French publications comprise the earliest periodicals in the collection, among them the arts-focused Psyche (1836–1841) and the socialist La Vague (1918–1937). La Française (1906–1940), written for moderate, middle-class feminist women, advocated suffrage, battled stereotypes, and, after 1930, condemned the rise of fascism. German periodical Die Neue Generation (1908–1932) was edited by sexual reformer and pacifist Helene Stöcker, and advocated legal abortion, sexual education, and women’s equality.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Hannah Clothier Hull Papers, 1889‒1958

    Hannah Clothier Hull was one of the founders of the Woman’s Peace Party and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), serving as their national officer for nearly 40 years. She was active in a number of other social reform movements, including women’s suffrage, women’s rights, and temperance. The collection features correspondence, both personal and professional; articles and manuscript notes; alongside biographical material, such as family papers and photographs. A large part of the material focuses on Hull’s work in the peace movement, including correspondence with other Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom members, financial statements, press releases, and documents of the League. Her interest in women’s rights is represented by items on women’s suffrage, correspondence on WILPF relations with the National Council of Women of the United States, and material on women’s movements in China and India. Among the many correspondents in this collection are key figures such as Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Hamilton, Lida Gustava Heymann, Lola Maverick Lloyd, Lucia Ames Mead, Jeannette Rankin, Rosika Schwimmer, Anna Garlin Spencer, Ellen Gates Starr, and Mary E. Woolley.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Hannah Johnston Bailey Papers, 1858‒1923

    Hannah Johnston Bailey was a Quaker pacifist, suffragist, reformer, and temperance leader. She was the superintendent of the Department of Peace and Arbitration of the national Woman’s Christian Temperance Union from 1887 to 1916, president and superintendent of the Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, and an officer in the Universal Peace Union. An active participant in the suffrage movement, she was also interested in the influence of militarism on children, the reform of women’s prisons, the abolition of capital punishment, and women’s missionary work. The collection includes personal papers, correspondence, diaries and journals, published and unpublished articles, biographical information, and memorabilia, alongside material on Bailey’s work with the national and world Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the National Council of Women, and the financial and legal papers of the Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association. Correspondents and others in this collection include Cora Slocomb di Brazzà Savorgnan (Countess di Brazza), Alice May Douglas, Anna Gordon, Lucia Ames Mead, Anne Sturges Duryea, and Frances Willard.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Lydia G. Wentworth Papers, 1902‒1947

    Lydia G. Wentworth was a writer and ardent peace advocate. She carried on prolific correspondence and contributed hundreds of articles to newspapers and magazines, despite illness leaving her bedridden. Many of her articles were used as editorials or printed in leaflet form and distributed to peace societies. Wentworth believed that socialism and pacifism were synonymous and urged women to play a role in promoting peace both by seeking election to public office and by becoming leaders in the peace movement. She was on the advisory committee of the Women’s Peace Society and was a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Association to Abolish War, and the Boston League of Women Voters. The papers featured in this collection include correspondence with many friends and peace movement colleagues, newspaper editors, and organizations, as well as manuscripts, printed articles, and poems.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Papers of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

    Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was an agitator and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, an official for the Communist Party, and one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union. Dubbed “The Rebel Girl,” she was notorious and, for more than half a century, was a professional revolutionary against capitalism. The eldest daughter of a family of reformers and activists, she spoke; organized workers; led immigrant worker’s strikes; and wrote pamphlets, articles, and books with the aim of convincing the public that private ownership and the profit system were inhumane. An excellent orator, she left a permanent record of her protest campaigns through her writings, which call attention to the critical issues of the twentieth century: war, poverty, sexism, and civil liberties.

    Many of the papers in this collection are concerned with Flynn’s political activities and her time in the Communist Party (1937‒1964), although some cover her earlier years, including the papers of her son, Fred Flynn. Made up of correspondence, biographical sketches, autobiographical notes, telegrams, published and unpublished articles, speeches and poems, diaries, itineraries, clippings, programs, invitations, course materials, documents pertaining to legal proceedings, and files produced by various government agencies, alongside printed materials, including election campaign literature, annotated books, galley proofs, articles, and pamphlets, the materials tell the story of a lesser known, but nonetheless significant, figure of the feminist movement.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Papers of Mary E. Gawthorpe

    Born in Leeds in 1881, Mary E. Gawthorpe was a British suffragist and campaigner who worked full time for several feminist and social organizations in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, both in the UK and the United States. She initially became involved in socialist and labor politics, working as an organizer for the Women’s Social and Political Union from 1906 to 1912, but became increasingly interested in women’s suffrage, stimulating interest in the cause throughout Yorkshire by writing letters to the press and speaking at local labor events. Alongside Dora Marsden, she started a new radical feminist journal, The Freewoman, in 1911. In 1916, Gawthorpe sailed to the United States and supported the struggle for women’s suffrage in America, joining the Women’s Suffrage Party. The collection includes her diaries, notes, postcards, extensive personal correspondence, and printed materials, such as handbills, flyers, and annual reports of local suffrage societies, which cover the period of her involvement with the militant British suffragettes as well as some of her activities in the United States. The papers form an extensive collection of personal and political material from a woman whose political involvement spanned many decades and went beyond supportive activism. They’re an excellent resource for researchers exploring the British militant suffrage movement, with papers relating to this forming a large part of the collection, while her position as a working-class socialist from northern Britain expands our knowledge of the social, cultural, and geographical basis of the Women’s Social and Political Union’s work. Much of the later material in this collection helps to situate suffrage involvement as part of a broader political life, including communications with fellow suffragettes, outlines of demonstrations and more complex plans, and material on Gawthorpe’s association with The Freewoman publication.

    Although Gawthorpe is best known as a suffragette, the collection also offers evidence of her extensive involvement in a number of political campaigns in the United States, providing valuable material for anyone seeking to understand the complex ways in which class and political activity were connected at the end of the nineteenth century. For suffrage historians and researchers with an interest in the political cultures of feminism, the extent to which the collection allows the key friendship networks of activists to be traced and recreated is a particularly useful dimension.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Women Printing Society Publications

    This collection covers the output of the Women’s Printing Society, 1874‒1943, which played an important role in the British suffrage movement—both through its publication of feminist tracts and in providing employment opportunities for women in a field that had previously been restricted to men.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Women’s Labor League: Conference Reports and Journals, 1906‒1977

    This collection consists of the conference proceedings, annual reports, and publications from the Women’s Labor League (WLL) and the Labor Party Women’s Organization. The Women’s Labor League was a UK-based, feminist-driven organization aimed at increasing women’s involvement in Parliament and other significant political forums. The organization’s primary goal was the achievement of women’s suffrage, but it also advocated for the promotion of women’s rights in the UK more generally. It held its first conference in 1906 and dissolved as an independent institution in 1918, becoming the Labor Party Women’s Organization. Much of the collection relates to organizational conferences. Yearly conference proceedings and annual reports from 1906 to 1918 provide insight into the operations and program work of the Women’s Labor League. The conference proceedings of the subsequent Labor Party Women’s Organization begin in 1919 and continue through its 53rd conference in 1977, after which it merged with the Labor Party’s main conference. The remaining files in this collection are printed periodicals, including 28 issues of the League Leaflet and the complete run of The Labor Woman.

    The proceedings, reports, and periodicals in this collection provide exclusive insight into the progression of the Women’s Labor League, from its origins as a pressure or interest group in 1906 to its affiliations, negotiations, and eventual merger with the UK Labor Party in 1977.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Women’s Periodicals

    In collaboration with the British Library, Gale has digitized a range of nineteenth and twentieth century magazines and journals created both by and for women. The publications shed light on a range of aspects of women’s lives, from work to leisure. These periodicals provide a full and invaluable source for the study of the social and political history of women and their place in society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They cover every aspect of the surge of emancipationist activities between the passing of the Married Women’s Property Act in 1870 and the gaining of full, universal suffrage in 1928, and also cover women’s activism beyond suffrage—including anarchism, pacifism, reproductive rights, and abolitionism. Offering excellent insight into the attitudes and standpoints of a wide variety of women, from suffragettes and philanthropists to working women and the ladies of high society, this material challenges historians and social scientists to understand the complexities of moral and social attitudes to women, as well as providing a deeper insight, in women’s own voices, into a range of political viewpoints on topics such as education, work, religion, temperance, and social reform.

    Answering the call for more female-authored material, this collection represents material that was written by women, for women, ensuring that the female voice is at the center of the story.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

View Collections from Women's Studies Archives