Women's Suffrage Biographies

Biographies of Key Women Who Worked for Woman Suffrage

Included here are key biographies of women who worked for women's right to vote, as well as a few anti's.

Note: while the media, especially in Britain, called many of these women suffragettes, the more historically-accurate term is suffragists. And while the struggle for the right of women to vote is often called women's suffrage, at the time the cause was called woman suffrage.

Individuals are included in alphabetical order; if you're new to the topic, be sure to check out these key figures: Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, the Pankhursts, Millicent Garret Fawcett, Alice Paul, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

Jane Addams

Jane Addams
Jane Addams. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jane Addams' major contribution to history is her founding of Hull-House and her role in the settlement house movement and the beginnings of social work, but she also worked for woman suffrage, women's rights, and peace.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson - about 1875
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson - about 1875. Frederick Hollyer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, a British activist in the late 19th and early 20th century for women's suffrage, was also the first physician woman in Great Britain.

Susan B. Anthony

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

With Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony was the best-known figure through most of the international and American suffrage movement. Of the partnership, Anthony was more the public speaker and activist.

Amelia Bloomer

Amelia Bloomer, American feminist and champion of dress reform, c1850s.
Amelia Bloomer, American feminist and champion of dress reform, c1850s. Print Collector/Getty Images / Getty Images

Amelia Bloomer is known more for her connection to an attempt to revolutionize what women wore—for comfort, for safety, for ease—but she was also an activist for women's rights and temperance.

Barbara Bodichon

Barbara Bodichon
Barbara Bodichon. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A women's rights advocate in 19th century, Barbara Bodichon wrote influential pamphlets and publications as well as helping win married women's property rights.

Inez Milholland Boissevain

Inez Milholland Boissevain
Inez Milholland Boissevain. Courtesy US Library of Congress

 Inez Milholland Boissevain was a dramatic spokesperson for the women's suffrage movement. Her death was treated as martyrdom to the cause of women’s rights.

Myra Bradwell

Myra Bradwell
Myra Bradwell. Archive Photos / Getty Images

Myra Bradwell was the first woman in the United States to practice law. She was the subject of the Bradwell v. Illinois Supreme Court decision, a landmark women's rights case. She was also active in the Women's Suffrage movement, helping to found the American Woman Suffrage Association.

Olympia Brown

Olympia Brown
Olympia Brown. Kean Collection/Archive Photos/Getty Images

One of the earliest women ordained as a minister, Olympia Brown was also a popular and effective speaker for the woman suffrage movement. She eventually retired from active congregational ministry to focus on her suffrage work.

Lucy Burns

Lucy Burns
Lucy Burns. Library of Congress

A co-worker and partner in activism with Alice Paul, Lucy Burns learned about suffrage work in the United Kingdom, organizing in England and Scotland before returning to her native United States and bringing the more militant tactics home with her.

Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt
Carrie Chapman Catt. Cincinnati Museum Center/Getty Images

Alice Paul's counterpart at the National American Woman Suffrage Association during the latter years of the suffrage movement, Carrie Chapman Catt promoted more traditional political organizing which was also important to the victory. She went on to found the League of Women Voters.

Laura Clay

Laura Clay
Laura Clay. Visual Studies Workshop / Archive Photos / Getty Images

A spokesperson for suffrage in the South, Laura Clay saw women's suffrage as a way for White women's votes to offset votes by Black people. though her father had been an outspoken anti-enslavement Southerner.

Lucy N. Colman

Quote from Lucy Colman
© Jone Johnson Lewis

 Like many early suffragists, she began working in the anti-enslavement movement. She knew about women's rights first-hand, too: denied any widow's benefits after her husband's workplace accident, she had to earn a living for herself and her daughter. She was also a religious rebel, noting that many of the critics of women's rights and North American 19th-century Black activism based their arguments on the Bible.

Emily Davies

Part of the less-militant wing of the British suffrage movement, Emily Davies is also known as the founder of Girton College.

Emily Wilding Davison

The Suffragette newspaper depicts Emily Wilding Davison
The Suffragette newspaper depicts Emily Wilding Davison. Sean Sexton/Getty Images

Emily Wilding Davison was a radical British suffrage activist who stepped in front of the King's horse on June 4, 1913. Her injuries were fatal. Her funeral, 10 days after the incident, drew tens of thousands of observers. Before that incident, she had been arrested multiple times, jailed nine times, and force-fed 49 times while in jail.

Abigail Scott Duniway

Abigail Scott Duniway
Abigail Scott Duniway. Kean Collection/Getty Images

She fought for suffrage in the Pacific Northwest, contributing to wins in Idaho, Washington and her home state of Oregon.

Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Millicent Fawcett
Millicent Fawcett. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the British campaign for woman suffrage, Millicent Garrett Fawcett was known for her "constitutional" approach: a more peaceful, rational strategy, in contrast to the more militant and confrontational strategy of the Pankhursts.

Frances Dana Gage

Frances Dana Barker Gage
Frances Dana Barker Gage. Kean Collection / Getty Images

 An early worker for North American 19th-century Black activism and women's rights, Frances Dana Gage presided at the 1851 Woman's Rights Convention and much later wrote down her memory of Sojourner Truth's Ain't I a Woman speech.

Ida Husted Harper

Ida Husted Harper
Ida Husted Harper, 1900s. FPG / Getty Images

Ida Husted Harper was a journalist and women's suffrage worker, and often combined her activism with her writing. She was known as the press expert of the suffrage movement.

Isabella Beecher Hooker

Isabella Beecher Hooker
Isabella Beecher Hooker. Kean Collection/Getty Images

Among her many contributions to the woman suffrage movement, Isabella Beecher Hooker's support made Olympia Brown's speaking tours possible. She was a half-sister of author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe. Culture Club / Getty Images

Allied with Lucy Stone after the Civil War in the American Woman Suffrage Association, Julia Ward Howe is remembered more for her anti-enslavement activism, writing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and her peace activism than her suffrage work.

Helen Kendrick Johnson

She, with her husband, worked against woman suffrage as part of the anti-suffrage movement, known as "anti's." Her Woman and the Republic is a well-reasoned, intellectual anti-suffrage argument.

Alice Duer Miller

Writers Alice Maud Duer, Mrs. James Gore King Duer and Caroline King Duer, at home
Writers Alice Maud Duer, Mrs. James Gore King Duer and Caroline King Duer, at home. Museum of the City of New York/Byron Collection/Getty Images

A teacher and writer, Alice Duer Miller's contribution to the suffrage movement included the popular satirical poems that she published in the New York Tribune making fun of anti-suffrage arguments. The collection was published as Are Women People?

Virginia Minor

Virginia Minor
Virginia Minor. Kean Collection / Getty Images

 She tried to win the vote for women by voting illegally.  It was a good plan, even if it didn't have immediate results.

Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott
Lucretia Mott. Kean Collection/Getty Images

A Hicksite Quaker, Lucretia Mott worked for ending of enslavement and for women's rights. With Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she helped found the suffrage movement by helping to bring together the 1848 women's rights convention in Seneca Falls.

Christabel Pankhust

Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst
Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst. The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

With her mother Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst was a founder and member of the more radical wing of the British women's suffrage movement. After the vote was won, Christabel went on to become a Seventh Day Adventist preacher.

Emmeline Pankhurst

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

Emmeline Pankhurst is known as a militant woman suffrage organizer in England in the early 20th century. Her daughters Christabel and Sylvia were also active in the British suffrage movement.

Alice Paul

Unidentified woman with Alice Paul, 1913
Unidentified woman with Alice Paul, 1913. Library of Congress

A more radical "suffragette" in the later stages of the suffrage movement, Alice Paul was influenced by British suffrage techniques. She headed the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and the National Woman's Party.

Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin Testifying for House Naval Affairs Committee, 1938
Jeannette Rankin Testifying for House Naval Affairs Committee, 1938. New York Times Co. / Getty Images

First American woman elected to Congress, Jeannette Rankin was also a pacifist, reformer and suffragist. She is also famous for being the only member of the House of Representatives to vote against U.S. entry into both World War I and World War II.

Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger
Nurse and reformer Margaret Sanger, 1916. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though most of her reform efforts were directed to women's health and birth control, Margaret Sanger was also an advocate of the vote for women.

Caroline Severance

Also active in the Woman's Club movement, Caroline Severence was associated with Lucy Stone's wing of the movement after the Civil War. Severence was a key figure in the California woman suffrage campaign of 1911.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, about 1870
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, about 1870. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

With Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the best-known figure through most of the international and American suffrage movement. Of the partnership, Stanton was more the strategist and theorist.

Lucy Stone

Lucy Stone
Lucy Stone. Fotosearch / Getty Images

A key 19th century suffrage figure as well as anti-enslavement activist, Lucy Stone broke with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony after the Civil War over the issue of Black male suffrage; her husband Henry Blackwell was a co-worker for women's suffrage. Lucy Stone was considered a suffrage radical in her youth, a conservative in her older years.

M. Carey Thomas

M. Carey Thomas, formal Bryn Mawr portrait
M. Carey Thomas, formal Bryn Mawr portrait. Courtesy Bryn Mawr College via Wikimedia

M. Carey Thomas is considered a pioneer in women's education, for her commitment and work in building Bryn Mawr as an institution of excellence in learning, as well as for her very life which served as a model for other women. She worked on suffrage with the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth at table with knitting and book
Sojourner Truth at table with knitting and book. Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Known more for her speaking against enslavement, Sojourner Truth also spoke for women's rights.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman lecturing from a stage
Harriet Tubman lecturing from a stage. Drawing from about 1940. Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

Underground Railroad conductor and Civil War soldier and spy, Harriet Tubman also spoke for women's suffrage.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

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

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, known for her work against lynching, also worked to win for the vote for women.

Victoria Woodhull

Claflins Denied Vote
Victoria Claflin Woodhull \and her sister Tennessee Claflin attempt to vote in the 1870s. Kean Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

She was not only a woman suffrage activist who was among the radical wing of that movement, first working with the National Woman Suffrage Association and then with a breakaway group. She also made a run for the presidency on the the Equal Rights Party ticket.

Maud Younger

Maud Younger of California, about 1919
Maud Younger of California, about 1919. Courtesy Library of Congress

Maud Younger was active in the latter stages of the women's suffrage campaigns, working with the Congressional Union and National Woman's Party, the more militant wing of the movement aligned with Alice Paul. Maud Younger's cross-country automobile tour for suffrage was a key event of the early 20th century movement.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Women's Suffrage Biographies." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/womens-suffrage-biographies-3530536. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2023, April 5). Women's Suffrage Biographies. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/womens-suffrage-biographies-3530536 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Women's Suffrage Biographies." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/womens-suffrage-biographies-3530536 (accessed June 4, 2023).