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The Women’s Movement during the Civil War Period

During the American Civil War, suffrage activism largely ceased. Women in both North and South threw themselves into war work, founding numerous local organizations. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were determined to mobilize the power of women, founding the Women’s Loyal National League in 1863 in New York City.. The League’s primary purpose was to support the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which emancipated all persons of African descent held to involuntary service or labor in the United States. Stanton and Anthony led a petition drive, ultimately sending over 400,000 signatures to Washington by 1864.

At the end of the Civil War, women’s rights advocates became concerned with affirming citizenship and the right to vote for newly-freed African Americans. In May 1866, women’s rights advocates founded a new organization, the American Equal Right Association (AERA) to campaign for universal suffrage. Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell both became officers of the organization. The Fourteenth Amendment granting the rights of citizenship to African Americans, which had been introduced the previous year, was up for ratification. For the first time, the amendment inserted the word male into the Constitution, indicating that these rights applied to males 21 years old and over. The Fourteenth and later the Fifteenth Amendment, which protected the right to vote for African-Americans, posed a dilemma for abolitionists who supported women's rights. The ratification drive caused division in the women’s suffrage movement, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony choosing to campaign against the amendments, while Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell chose to support them. In 1869, the AERA split, leading to the foundation of two separate women’s suffrage organizations, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) based in New York and led by Stanton and Anthony, and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) based in Boston and founded by Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, the composer of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Lucy Stone founded the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA) in 1867.

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Lucy Stone

Leading abolitionist and suffragist Lucy Stone (1818-1893) and her husband Henry Blackwell moved to Orange, New Jersey in 1858. Their house was in Stone’s name. In that year, Stone refused to pay property taxes, stating in an open letter that it was “taxation without representation.” The case gained some attention, even inspiring other women around the country to refuse to pay taxes. When some of Stone’s possessions were impounded to pay the tax, kindly neighbors bought and returned them.


Antoinette Brown Blackwell

Lucy Stone’s sister-in-law Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825–1921), the first ordained woman minister in the United States, was born in Henrietta, New York. With her husband Samuel Blackwell and newborn daughter, she moved to Newark in 1856, and then to a farm near Millburn in 1858. Like Stone, Blackwell, who became the first woman to be ordained a minister in the United States, was a graduate of Oberlin College. She was a lifelong suffrage advocate, who became of the few pioneers to witness the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.

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Woman Suffrage in New Jersey

In 1866, Lucy Stone appealed to New Jersey’s Republican state legislature, which was considering a constitutional amendment striking the word “white” from the 1844 constitution, on behalf of women’s suffrage. She and Antoinette Brown Blackwell petitioned the committee, advocating for universal suffrage at the state level. Her speech, which was published and circulated, marked the beginning of formal organizing for women’s suffrage in New Jersey. Lucy Stone founded the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association in 1867. Along with Pennsylvania, New Jersey was the first state to have its own suffrage organization. Shortly after its establishment, the NJWSA published a four-page pamphlet by Lucy Stone, Reasons the Women of New Jersey Should Vote, essentially a summary of the arguments that Stone had presented to the legislature. This version of the pamphlet appeared in about 1876.

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Vineland in rural Cumberland County, where the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association’s founding convention took place, was established by Charles Landis, a wealthy young Philadelphia merchant. The new town attracted progressive individuals from throughout the country. Its reputation as a haven for radicals led it to sometimes be the object of ridicule, as can be seen in this cartoon about dress reform.

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Susan Pecker Fowler

Susan Pecker Fowler (1823-1911) was a suffragist, tax protestor, and dress reformer. In 1851, she designed her first pair of bloomers. They were loose trousers worn under a long coat or short dress, which were much more comfortable than long dresses and corsets, which most women at the time wore. Fowler said bloomers made her feel “like a bird uncaged.” In 1867, Vineland suffragists formed their own Equal Rights Association, of which Fowler served as secretary. In 1868, Fowler led a group of Vineland women in a protest vote in that year’s presidential election. They set up a 12” x 6” grape box that served as a women’s ballot box. In total, 172 women including four African Americans voted at the Vineland poll.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton

After the Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton emerged as a major theorist and proponent of the women’s rights movement. Along with her friend and colleague Susan B. Anthony, she formed the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 and was active in the movement for over fifty years. Stanton caused controversy in her support for divorce and her critique of Christianity’s treatment of women as seen in The Woman’s Bible, published in 1895.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton house, Tenafly

Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself moved to New Jersey—to Tenafly—in Bergen County in 1868. Although she lived there for almost 20 years, she did not get involved in local New Jersey suffrage activities, focusing instead on the national scene and New York. Stanton lectured all over the country, using Tenafly as a base. In 1868, Stanton and Susan B. Anthony started The Revolution, a national women’s rights newspaper. Stanton also worked with Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage to write the first three volumes of the monumental History of Woman Suffrage, while living in Tenafly.