Carrie Chapman Catt

(January 9, 1859-March 9, 1947)


“In the adjustment of the new order of things, we women demand an equal voice; we shall accept nothing less.” – Carrie Chapman Catt [10]


Carrie Chapman Catt was a major coordinator of the suffrage movement who came up with different strategies in order to bring the National American Women Suffrage Association to the worlds attention. Carrie Chapman Catt was born in Wisconsin in 1859 and grew up as an only child with her mother and father. When Carrie was seven years old her parents decided to move to Iowa, which is where Carrie started her schooling. Carrie was one of the few women at this time that went to school beginning at a young age and was determined to attend college. When Carrie’s father refused to pay for her to attend college after graduating from high school, she worked as hard as she possibly could in order to pay her way through school. After working throughout local businesses washing dishes, teaching, and working in the school library, Carrie raised enough money to attend Iowa State College. [8]

Carrie graduated at the top of her class in 1880, leaving Iowa State College with a bachelor’s degree. Once Carrie graduated, she continued to support herself and work in all different fields. Carrie worked as a law clerk, a schoolteacher, and a principle in Mason City, Iowa. After working in the Mason City school district for two years, Carrie moved up the career ladder and became one of the first women to be given the position of superintendent for different schools throughout the City. [2]

After spending many years focusing on her success, Carrie met Leo Chapman, who at the time was the editor and publisher of the Mason City Republic. Leo and Carrie married in 1855 and within the first year of their marriage, Leo set off to San Francisco, California in hopes to find a new job. Leo had only been in California for a few days until he came down with typhoid fever and quickly died. [2] Carrie went to San Francisco as soon as she received word on her husband’s death. When she got there she could see why Leo was so eager to move out to California and she decided to stay there herself. Within a few weeks of living in San Francisco came another one of Carrie Chapman Catt’s major accomplishments, which was becoming the city’s first female newspaper reporter. [1]

Carrie had felt as though she had a major impact in San Francisco. She opened up many opportunities for females to work within the city’s newspaper and she was able to write about topics of her interest. Women all throughout San Francisco quickly learned the name Carrie Chapman Catt and admired her a great deal. The impact that Carrie had on the women of San Francisco helped her realize that she wanted to do more in order to help women. In 1877 Carrie returned to Charles City, Iowa and joined the Women Suffrage Movement. Once she became a part of the movement her main focus was on getting females the right to vote during this time. [2] After being asked to address congress by Susan B. Anthony on the proposed suffrage amendment, Carrie Chapman Catt took over Susan B. Anthony’s spot as president of the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Carrie Chapman Catt was influenced by Susan B. Anthony and wanted nothing more but to follow in her footsteps.


Carrie Chapman Catt devoted her life to running the National American Women Suffrage Association in order to support and fight for equal rights for all women. As a young girl Carrie was exposed to males belittling women and a bias attitude toward education for females coming from her father. Once he had told her he was not “wasting” his money on putting her through college, Carrie realized she and every other female had the right to education, even if most people did not believe women were as worthy or intelligent as men when it came to receiving a higher education. Carrie Chapman Catt believed that men were entitled to more privileges than women and someone had to take a stance and change this issue.

During Carrie’s struggle of achieving equal rights for women, a major issue she faced was attempting to “feminize” the government. Carrie believed that women’s natural rights to politics should have been equal to those of men. This became not only a fight for women in general but a fight for women within politics. A well-known quote that was a part of the Women’s Liberation Movement is, “The personal is political.” [6] This quote stands for the personal problems that were caused by the social and political issues, which were shared among most women and could only be resolved by a social and political change. Throughout the movement women activists were constantly denied the responsibility that they wanted and that they deserved. Most of the reactions that Carrie had received from the general population and from the government were predictable but still came across as upsetting and demoralizing at the time. [6]

Even though these issues took a toll on all women, they set back Carrie and her goal to help women vote. The negative views on the female population denied women equality within the movement and denied them the freedom to choose what they could do and what they should do. Carrie strongly believed that if women were allowed to participate in political issues than why are they not entitled to have a voice and make a change for themselves and for their children. She believed that the political decisions being made should involve the views of the citizens rather than the views of politicians. [4] This was the greatest challenge that Carrie had to face. Not only was it a struggle to get her own name in the public and for others to look at her as a leader or role model but it was a struggle to get majority of the male population on her side. Most males during this time stuck to their strong views on women and no one, especially a female, was going to change that.



Moral Leadership: “Describes how leaders make decisions according to beliefs about right and wrong. They will make moral and ethical decisions based on their interpretations of organizational values. A system of morals, or beliefs, is also very personal to leaders.” [7]

The aim of Moral Leadership is to serve others. The main focus of a moral leader is to develop the capacities of others. Carrie Chapman Catt is an example of a moral leader because not only did she fight for her own rights she fought for others. From the beginning of Carrie’s life her main concern was to succeed, as she grew up her main concern was for other women to succeed, for women to gain rights, and for women to have the opportunity to vote. She was concerned for her dignity and the dignity of all women. Carrie Chapman Catt showed great courage even when she faced difficulties and when she was told that her fight was never going to come to a successful end. Carrie was so brave that she was never afraid of putting herself in danger just to fight for what she believed in. She had high expectations for women, which reflected through the work that she did in her every day life. She dedicated her life to better the lives of the women around her. [9]


"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 un-purchasable voice in government." - Carrie Chapman Catt [10]

Carrie Chapman Catt was never forced to make the decisions she made when it came to defending women’s rights. When Carrie was younger it was clear to her the different struggles that women were going through, the main one being the struggle of getting through school as a female student. Carrie decided to dedicate a great deal of her life to the Women Suffrage Movement after her first husband had passed away, which is when she really took a stance for not only herself but for all women. Even through all the struggles of being told she could not attend college, having people tell her she was not worthy of such a high position in the school system, losing her first husband and her second husband to different illnesses, and the struggle of getting the 19th amendment passed. Carrie chose to take her gift dedicate her life to women and she never gave up.



In 1904 Carrie Chapman Catt had to step down from her presidency due to her husband, George Catt’s, health problems. From the year 1905 to 1915, Carrie was no longer a part of the NAWSA and helped with the International Women Suffrage Alliance. At this time Alice Paul, who was also a women’s rights activist, was leading the group. Carrie had taken over Alice’s spot and went to work again. During her second time being president for the NAWSA she developed something that become known as the, “Winning Plan.” [2] Carrie’s first step to turning things around for women at this point was to focus on the issue of suffrage and the federal amendment. Suffrage solely means, “the right or the privilege to vote. To exercise the right to your own opinion and to elect a person in office.” [5] This is when they began to fight for the 19th amendment. The 19th amendment, “Prohibits any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex.” [3] This was an unsettling issue to Carrie, along with many of the issues that women were constantly struggling with during the time.

During this time women were seen, as nothing more than child-bearer’s and most women were not entitled to a career. Women's inequality made it early impossible for Carrie's ideas to strive. To men, the main importance of the women was to do household chores and act as if they were servants. On top of that, women had little or no legal rights at all. If women were to own any property or had access to money, the property and the money became their husbands. Carrie believed that women must have equal treatment and that there is no reason they should not be entitled to household and legal rights. She wanted to fight that women had the right to receive education, own property, make their own general decisions, work on the same level and receive equal pay as males, and have the right to vote. [3] Carrie proved to many people that becoming president of the NAWSA was her calling in life. Once she was president there was a major increase in the number of members, she gave a handful of speeches on women’s rights, planned campaign’s, had many discussions with women who wanted to stand by her side during her fight for rights, and she conducted all different financial fundraisers that helped in the years to come. She was a feminist role model for many females, which meant that the beliefs of men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Carrie was a feminist that took charge, that organized a movement to support the rights and interests of women. [5]

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