On January 9, we honor the birthday of Carrie Chapman Catt. In a little over a month, we’ll celebrate the birthday of Catt’s most enduring legacy, the League of Women Voters.
Born in Wisconsin in 1859, Catt campaigned for women’s suffrage for decades. On February 14, 1920, roughly six months before the passage of the 19th Amendment, Catt founded the League of Women Voters. Designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters, Catt called the League "a mighty experiment." "…[N]o one could tell…in which direction its evolution would go," Catt remarked at the League’s 1921 National Convention.
In celebration of Catt’s birthday, here are 10 inspiring facts about her life and legacy.
- Originally interested in practicing medicine, Catt received a Bachelor of Science degree in general science in 1880. She was the only woman in her class.
- Before working in the suffrage movement, Catt served as a teacher, principal and superintendent in Iowa.
- Catt began her career as a political activist at the age of 27 when she joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association.
- When her husband died in 1885, Catt made a living by becoming San Francisco’s first female newspaper reporter.
- By 1900, Catt succeeded the 80-year-old activist Susan B. Anthony as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), the organizational predecessor to the League.
- Catt’s relentless campaigning is credited with helping win President Woodrow Wilson's respect and support – which ultimately lead to the passage of the 19th Amendment.
- Catt was close friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, a fellow League leader and women’s rights pioneer.
- Catt advocated for the rights of women across the globe, not just in the U.S. As the president of NAWSA, she founded the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA).
- In her later years, Catt advocated on behalf of working women and tirelessly lobbied for world peace efforts. She supported efforts for both the League of Nations and the United Nation, the latter of which the League of Women Voters helped establish.
- For decades throughout the women’s suffrage movement, Catt traveled across the country to make speeches and lead parades. Even when she was in her late 70s, she remained an effective and impassioned speaker.
We’re still wowed by Catt’s work and determination to help secure the right to vote for women and establish the League of Women Voters!
Nearly 95 years after the League’s founding, we hope Catt would be nothing short of exceedingly proud of the direction in which the League has traveled, including the great process it has made in Making Democracy Work ®. Boasting nearly 800 chapters across the country, the League has educated millions of voters over the past century and helped to protect our democracy at the national, state and local levels.
League of Women Voters National Board of Directors, Chicago Convention, February 1920
The League of Women Voters is celebrating 95 years of Making Democracy Work® at every level of government. In 1920, the League was founded as an outgrowth of the movement that secured women the right to vote to help new voters engage with their government. Today, the League empowers all voters to improve their local, state and national government. Learn more about the League of Women Voters and join our celebration!