Carrie Chapman Catt Quotes

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859 - 1947)

Carrie Chapman Catt, 1920s
Carrie Chapman Catt, 1920s. Cincinnati Museum Center/Getty Images

Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader in the women's suffrage movement in its last years (leading the more "conservative" faction), was also the founder of the League of Women Voters after suffrage was won, and a founder of the Women's Peace Party during World War I.

Selected Carrie Chapman Catt Quotations

• The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guarantee of your liberty. (From "On Women Voting" 1920)

• To the wrongs that need resistance, To the right that needs assistance, To the future in the distance, Give yourselves.

• This world taught woman nothing skillful and then said her work was valueless. It permitted her no opinions and said she did not know how to think. It forbade her to speak in public, and said the sex had no orators.

• When a just cause reaches its flood-tide, as ours has done in that country, whatever stands in the way must fall before its overwhelming power.

• The time has come to cease talking to women and invade town meetings and caucuses...

• There are two kinds of restrictions upon human liberty -- the restraint of law and that of custom. No written law has ever been more binding than unwritten custom supported by public opinion.

• There are whole precincts of voters in this country whose united intelligence does not equal that of one representative American woman.

Catt issued a number of statements in her life about race, including some that defended white supremacy (especially as the movement tried to win support in southern states) and some that promoted racial equality.

•  White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women's suffrage.

• Just as the world war is no white man's war, but every man's war, so is the struggle for woman suffrage no white woman's struggle, but every woman's struggle.

• The answer to one is the answer to all. Government by "the people" is expedient or it is not.

If it is expedient, then obviously all the people must be included.

• Everybody counts in applying democracy. And there will never be a true democracy until every responsible and law-abiding adult in it, without regard to race, sex, color or creed has his or her own inalienable and unpurchasable voice in government.

• Some of you hold to the doctrine of states' rights as applying to woman suffrage. Adherence to that theory will keep the United States far behind all other democratic nations upon this question. A theory which prevents a nation from keeping up with the trend of world progress cannot be justified. (From "Woman Suffrage Is Inevitable")

• Your party platforms have pledged women suffrage. Then why not be honest, frank friends of our cause, adopt it in reality as your own, make it a party program, and "fight with us"? As a party measure--a measure of all parties--why not put the amendment through Congress and the legislatures? We shall all be better friends, we shall have a happier nation, we women will be free to support loyally the party of our choice, and we shall be far prouder of our history. (From "Woman Suffrage Is Inevitable")

• Frances Perkins: "The door might not be opened to a woman again for a long, long time and I had a kind of duty to other women to walk in and sit down on the chair that was offered, and so establish the right of others long hence and far distant in geography to sit in the high seats." (to Carrie Chapman Catt)

Celebrating the Women's Suffrage Victory

On August 26, 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt celebrated the winning of the vote for women with a speech including these words:

The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guarantee of your liberty. That vote of yours has cost millions of dollars and the lives of thousands of women. Money to carry on this work has been given usually as a sacrifice, and thousands of women have gone without things they wanted and could have had in order that they might help get the vote for you. Women have suffered agony of soul which you can never comprehend, that you and your daughters might inherit political freedom. That vote has been costly. Prize it!

The vote is a power, a weapon of offense and defense, a prayer. Understand what it means and what it can do for your country. Use it intelligently, conscientiously, prayerfully. No soldier in the great suffrage army has labored and suffered to get a “place” for you. Their motive has been the hope that women would aim higher than their own selfish ambitions, that they would serve the common good.

The vote is won. Seventy-two years the battle for this privilege has been waged, but human affairs with their eternal change move on without pause. Progress is calling to you to make no pause. Act!

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About These Quotes

This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.