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Women's Rights and Women's Equality, 1848-1970s Primary Sources

Theme: Social Changes and Social Reform
Topic: Women’s Rights and Women’s Equality, 1848-1970s
Date: May, 2004

From Partner Collections| Bowditch Collection
Local Archives and Collections| Articles
Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

Selected and annotated by SALEM in History staff

From Partner Collections

Finding Aid: Mary Abigail Dodge (Gail Hamilton) collection, 1833-1896.  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

Mary Abigail Dodge (1833-1896) used the pen name “Gail Hamilton.”  Dodge was born in Hamilton, MA and lived in Washington, D.C. for much of her life.  She was highly engaged with politics, and published a number of political articles.  She also wrote literary works (poems and prose), many of which likewise have political implications.  Mount Holyoke College and the Schlesinger Library also have collections on Dodge.

Broadside, "Woman Suffrage Convention" Lyceum Hall, Salem, 1856  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.  (Call # BR 324.3 / 1856)

This poster advertises a convention sponsored by the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association to be held at Lyceum Hall.  Speakers will include Julia Ward Howe, James Freeman Clarke, Lucy Stone, Henry B. Blackwell, Margaret W. Campbell, Mary F. Eastman, Hulda B. Loud, Mariana T. Folsom, and others.

Ferrin, Mary Upton "Woman's Defense: A Reply to Horace Greeley's Lecture, Recently Delivered in Providence, R.1." Peabody: Charles D. Howard, 1869.  (Phillips Library Call # E / F392 / 1869)

Ferrin countered Horace Greeley’s arguments with her own, point by point.  For example, in response to his biblical quotations, Ferrin wrote, “Adam and Eve and their descendants were all drowned, long ago, in the flood.  Woman, of the present day , washes her hands and heart too, clean, of all participation of whatever sins and transgressions they may have been guilty.” 

Against his claim that women would not wish to be called upon to serve on juries or in public office as part of the responsibility of suffrage, Ferrin charged, “Her right to office is the same as man’s.”

From the William Ingersoll Bowditch Collection
(Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum)

William Ingersoll Bowditch Bowditch was an avid abolitionist and supporter of women's suffrage. His home in Brookline, Massachusetts, was a stop on the Underground Railroad. See an entry on his home at the National Park Service site:

Blackwell, Alice Stone, Boston, to William 1. Bowditch, Brookline, Massachusetts, October 31, 1902. Bowditch Family Collection.  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.  (Manuscript Collection # MSS 3/1980)

Stone wrote to Bowditch to advise him that “Mrs. Clary” has been nominated to serve on the Northampton, Massachusetts legislature.  In order to apprise people of her nomination and endorse her acceptance, the Suffragists sought to raise supporting funds.  Stone hoped that Bowditch would contribute.

Blackwell, Alice Stone, Boston, to William 1. Bowditch, Brookline, Massachusetts, June 26, 1906, with leaflet, "Progress of Equal Suffrage" by Alice Stone Blackwell" Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, Boston, September, 1903. Bowditch Family Collection.  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.  (Manuscript Collection # MSS 3/1980)

The leaflet notes the range and extent of suffrage achieved by women around the world and the year in which it occured. 

Lawrence, Amos A., Newton, Massachusetts to William 1. Bowditch, Brookline, Massachusetts,  October 16th, n.d.  Bowditch Family Collection.  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.  (Manuscript Collection # MSS 3/1980)

Lawrence wrote:

Dear Sir

         Universal (manhood) Suffrage has proved to be a failure in the cities and thickly settled communities, and all thro. the South: chiefly because it is not based on intelligence, nor on character, nor on property.  To give the right to vote to all the women would only be to increase the evil. 

         It seems to me that the women who are taxed should have the right to vote.  And if that is refused, they have the right to rebel: and the men would have a right to help them; those who chose to do so. 

Yours Truly,
Amos A. Lawrence
(near) Chestnut hill, Newton

Bowditch, William 1. "How Long Shall We Rob and Enslave Women?" The Woman's Journal, Boston, MA, n.d. Bowditch Family Collection.  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.  (Manuscript Collection # MSS 3/1980)


Bowditch, William 1. "Taxation of Women in Massachusetts" The Woman's Journal Supplement, Boston, MA, February 16, 1878. Bowditch Family Collection.  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.  (Manuscript Collection # MSS 3/1980)

The cover of this section includes the headlines, “Women are without Representation. Let us be just now,” “Taxation without Representation is Tyranny – 1776; Women pay more than one eleventh of the taxes – 1876.” 

These statements suggest the main argument set forth by Bowditch.  Women are taxpayers, and therefore, deserve the right to vote. 


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Local Archives and Collections

Finding aid: Florence Luscomb Papers, 1856-1987.  Schlesinger Library, Cambridge, MA.  Online at: [Viewed 05/07/2004].

Florence Lluscomb (1887-1985) was a social an political activist born in Lowell, Massachusetts.  In addition to her work for civil liberties and equal rights for African Americans, she served the Boston Equal Suffrage Association and sold copies of the Woman’s Journal as a “newsboy” on Boston Common. 

These articles in the Salem Evening News suggest the local reaction to suffrage in 1920.  (The sources are available on microfilm at the Salem Public Library.)

"153 Women Qualify to Vote in First Registration Day" Salem Evening News, 26 August 1920.

"'Mother of Suffrage' and Leaders in Notable Victory" Salem Evening News, 28 August 1920.

"Nearly 2000 Women are Now Registered Voters in Salem" Salem Evening News, 28 August  1920.

"Suffrage Amendment Proclamation Signed by Secretary of State Colby" Salem Evening News, 26  August 26, 1920.

"Suffragists Gather to Celebrate their Amendment Victory" Salem Evening News, 28 August 1920.

"Oldest Woman to Register Plans to Vote for Harding" Salem Evening News, 30 August 1920.

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Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

Postcard: Suffragette Madonna, Crop of 1910

"" is a site dedicated to suffragists in the greater western New York area. There are a number of postcards on-line, and a section for educators.

Postcard: The Suffragette "I told You So," 1909
Copyright 1909 by Walter Wellman

The poster reads:
The Morning Suffragette Bulletin.
A New Era of Prosperity at Hand.
With the news that a suffragette has been elected as our next presidentess, several flatiron and rolling pin factories have resumed on full time.
It is stated that 10,000,000 flatirons have been ordered by the new War Department alone.

Texts of the Declaration of Sentiments and the resolutions adopted by the Woman's Rights Convention, Held at Seneca Falls, New York, 19-20 July 1848

Rutgers University Stanton and Anthony Project on-line. *Note: this source is designated as seminal primary source documents according to the 2003 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

"The Sphere of Woman," March 1850
Godey's Ladies Book

"Women often complain that men are unjust towards their sex...." begins the text that accompanies this illustration. The article celebrates the position of women in the home, where they can support husbands to greatness and find independence within the boundaries of her domestic sphere.

First published in 1830 by Louis A. Godey, The Lady's Book became one of the most popular periodicals in the 19th century. It featured artwork, fashion, poetry, and other literature.

Woman's Journal and Suffrage News (Boston, 8 March 1913)
National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection
Library of Congress, on-line at American Memory (

The headline reads: "Parade struggles to victory despite disgraceful scenes." Images depict a women's suffrage parade in Washington on 3 March 1913.

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