Masks required in Abakanowicz Research Center; optional for rest of Museum MORE

Stepping Stones to Suffrage

Yellow button that reads "I march for full Suffrage June 7th. Will You?" and photograph of women in hats standing along the street
Suffrage march button, c. 1915; CHM, ICHi-061937. Grace Wilbur Trout (second from left), returning to Chicago after campaigning in Springfield to secure a statewide suffrage law, June 14, 1913; DN-0060624, Chicago Daily News collection, CHM.

In December 1869, the Territory of Wyoming passed the first women’s suffrage law in the US, forty-four years before Illinois women would be granted limited suffrage in June 1913 to vote for local offices and in presidential elections—the first steps on the path to a national amendment.

Suffragists faced serious opposition, but without the vote, women had an uphill battle getting politicians to back their causes. In the decades before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920, Chicago women of different backgrounds pursued varied goals—working to reform society, achieve economic and political empowerment, and promote racial equality. These issues and efforts also propelled many to campaign for suffrage.

Some Illinois women traveled to Washington, DC, to persuade lawmakers to back a women’s suffrage amendment. Others attended national party gatherings held in Chicago, including the 1880 Republican National Convention, to seek support for women’s rights. Though frequently excluded, bit by bit they achieved local victories—stepping stones to full suffrage.

Learn more about women’s activism in Chicago leading up to the campaign for a national amendment in Episode 3 of our digital experience, Democracy Limited: Chicago Women and the Vote.


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