Top 10 Women's Suffrage Activists

women's suffragists
Statue of Mott/Anthony/Stanton. Alice Paul. Ida B. Wells. Emmeline Pankhurst. (PhotoQuest. Hulton Archive/Chicago History Museum/Fotosearch/Getty Images)
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Workers for Women's Suffrage You Should Know

women's suffragists
Statue of Mott/Anthony/Stanton. Alice Paul. Ida B. Wells. Emmeline Pankhurst. (PhotoQuest/Getty Images;Hulton Archive/Getty Images;Chicago History Museum/Getty Images;Fotosearch/Getty Images)

Many women and men worked to win the vote for women, but a few stand out as more influential or pivotal than the rest. The organized effort began most seriously in America first, and the movement in America then influenced other suffrage movements around the world. The British radicals, in turn, influenced a shift in the American suffrage movement.

This list features ten of the key women who worked for suffrage. If you want to know the basics of women's suffrage, you'll want to know about these ten and their contributions.

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Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony, circa 1897. (L. Condon/Underwood Archives/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Susan B. Anthony was the best-known suffrage proponent of her time, and her fame led to her image being put on a U.S. dollar coin in the late 20th century. She wasn't involved in the 1848 Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention that first proposed the idea of women's suffrage as a goal for the women's rights movement, but she joined soon after, and often worked in alliance with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with Stanton being known as the more ideological and the better writer, and Anthony being known as the better and more effective speaker and promoter.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. (PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked closely with Susan B. Anthony. Stanton was the writer and theorist, while Anthony was the speaker and strategist. Stanton was married and had two daughters and five sons, which limited the time she could spend traveling and speaking. She was, with Lucretia Mott, responsible for calling the 1848 Seneca Falls convention; she was also the primary writer of the convention's Declaration of Sentiments. Late in life, Stanton stirred up controversy by being part of the team that wrote The Woman's Bible.

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Alice Paul

Alice Paul
Alice Paul. (MPI/Getty Images)

Alice Paul became active in the suffrage movement in the 20th century. Born 70 and 65 years after, respectively, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul visited England and brought back a more radical, confrontational approach to winning the vote. After women won the vote in 1920, Paul proposed an Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst. (Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst were leaders of the more confrontational and radical wing of the British suffrage movement. They were major figures in the founding and history of the Women's Social and Political Union (WPSU), and are often used as iconic figures in Britain when representing the history of women's suffrage.

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Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt
Carrie Chapman Catt. (Interim Photos/Getty Images)

When Susan B. Anthony stepped down from the presidency of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1900, Carrie Chapman Catt was elected to succeed Anthony. She left the presidency to care for her dying husband ​and was elected president again in 1915. She represented the more conservative, less confrontational wing that Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and others split from. Catt also helped found the Women's Peace Party and the International Woman Suffrage Association.

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Lucy Stone

Lucy Stone
Lucy Stone. (Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Lucy Stone was a leader in the American Woman Suffrage Association when the suffrage movement split after the Civil War. This organization, considered less radical than Anthony and Stanton's ​National Woman Suffrage Association, was the larger of the two groups. She's also famous for her 1855 marriage ceremony that renounced the legal rights that men usually gained over their wives upon marriage, and for keeping her own last name after marriage.

Her husband, Henry Blackwell, was the brother of Elizabeth Blackwell and Emily Blackwell, barrier-busting women physicians. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, early woman minister and also a women's suffrage activist, was married to Henry Blackwell's brother; Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell had been friends since college.

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Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott
Lucretia Mott. (Kean Collection/Getty Images)

Lucretia Mott was there at the beginning: at a meeting of the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 when Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were relegated to a segregated women's section, though they had been elected as delegates. It was eight more years until the two of them, with the aid of Mott's sister Martha Coffin Wright, brought together the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention. Mott helped Stanton draft the Declaration of Sentiments, endorsed by that convention. Mott was active in the abolitionist movement and the wider women's rights movement. After the Civil War, she was elected the first president of the American Equal Rights Convention and tried to hold the suffrage and abolitionist movements together in that effort.

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Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Millicent Fawcett
Millicent Fawcett, about 1870. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Millicent Garrett Fawcett was known for her "constitutional" approach to gaining the vote for women, in contrast to the more confrontational approach by the Pankhursts. After 1907, she headed the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). The Fawcett Library, repository for much women's history archival material, is named for her. Her sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, was Britain's first woman physician.

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Lucy Burns

Lucy Burns in Jail
Lucy Burns at Jail. (Library of Congress)

Lucy Burns, a Vassar graduate, met Alice Paul when they were both active in the British suffrage efforts of the WPSU. She worked with Alice Paul in forming the Congressional Union, first as part of the existing National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and then on its own. Burns was among those arrested for picketing the White House, imprisoned at Occoquan Workhouse, and force-fed when the women went on a hunger strike. Bitter that many women refused to work for suffrage, she left activism and lived a quiet life in Brooklyn.

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Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Ida B. Wells, 1920
Ida B. Wells, 1920. (Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)

Known more for her work as an anti-lynching journalist and activist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was also active for women's suffrage ​and critical of the larger women's suffrage movement for excluding black women.

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Learn More About Women's Suffrage

National Woman's Party 1917 pin commemorating suffragists
National Woman's Party 1917 pin commemorating suffragists who were "jailed for freedom," arrested for demonstrating outside the White House. (National Museum of American History)

Now that you've met these ten women, you can find out more about women's suffrage in some of these resources: