Born in Alabama, she joined New York Society after her marriage to William Kissam Vanderbilt. She shocked the social world in 1895 when she divorced Vanderbilt and married Oliver Hazzard Perry Belmont. After the death of her husband in 1908, Alva emerged as a militant feminist and reformer. She not only financed many facets of the movement but also wrote articles, marched in parades and organized rallies. As founder and president of the Political Equality League she reached out to striking shirtwaist workers in 1909-10 and helped to forge links between the middle class suffragists and organized labor. She entered the suffrage movement as a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and served on the board of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the Congressional Union.




At the turn of the century, Catt became a leader of the suffrage movement. When Susan B. Anthony retired as the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1900, she chose Catt as her replacement. She led the women’s movement in its final drive to get the vote and spearheaded the effort to pass a Federal suffrage amendment. Her weapons were petitions, testimony, lobbying, cooperation with the party in power, and proving women’s loyalty and worthiness in all arenas. After the passage of the Constitution Amendment in 1920, she established the League of Women Voters.



MARY GARRETT HAY (1857–1928)

Before she was thirty, this activist was heading a department of the national Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She soon advanced to state office in the suffrage movement and met Carrie Chapman Catt, who was then organizing Western women to campaign for suffrage amendments within their states. She became president of the state Federation of Women’s Clubs. Hay worked the trade unions and undermined Tammany’s opposition to women’s suffrage. Her attention to detail and her organization of parades and street rallies helped to pass the suffrage amendment in New York in 1917.




Elizabeth Cady Stanton led America’s first suffrage movement and was an articulate advocate for a whole panoply of other successful reforms that improved the lives of all Americans. “In an era of outspoken reformers, she was an innovative and radical thinker.” (Griffith) In addition to suffrage, she advocated coeducation, girl’s sports, job training, equal wages, labor unions, birth control, cooperative nurseries and kitchens, property rights for wives, child custody rights for mothers, and reform of divorce laws. Many in her generation thought of her as a revolutionary rather than a reformer.