Carrie Chapman Catt


Carrie Chapman Catt


Carrie Chapman Catt liked to be in charge, and she was good at it. She ran the National American Woman Suffrage Association twice, first in 1900 when Susan B Anthony stepped down, and then from 1915 until the ratification of the 19th Amendment. 🐱🧵

(In between Catt's terms was Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, a great orator but a lousy leader.)

NAWSA was most effective under Catt’s leadership. Catt was politically centrist and always decorous. She played the inside game to Alice Paul’s radical outsider - for example, building a relationship with Pres. Wilson in the Oval Office while Alice picketed outside. Not so many years before, though, Catt was in Alice Paul’s shoes: the young upstart whom the old guard feared.

JD Zahniser @jdzah tells the fascinating story of Catt creating a new Organization Committee within NAWSA in 1895. Frustrated at the org’s weak structure, she wanted a clean slate. With Susan B’s backing, Catt got her own committee and a generous budget.

She succeeded in deploying new old, creating new local branches & reinvigorating moribund ones. For her efforts the board elected her President -- and disbanded her committee. “Catt later wrote that she ‘cried for three hours’ after that meeting and considered resigning.”

She stayed, and though the old guard fought her at every turn, she slowly professionalized the place. Catt stepped down in 1904, publicly because her husband was ill; privately she was frustrated with resistance to her efforts. She returned a decade later after Shaw mucked it up.

Eleanor Flexner describes Catt’s approach as: “careful planning, tireless and painstaking care for detail; an imaginative flair and a constant search for new methods; insistence on efficient administrative procedures at the state and local level.”

More ahead about Catt in the last years of the federal amendment fight! Though she lived the last half of her life in New York, Carrie Chapman Catt was a midwesterner in her bones. She grew up in Wisconsin and spent her early adulthood in Iowa.

She worked her way through @IowaStateU washing dishes and working in the library. She was so active in the Iowa Woman Suffrage Assoc. that when she married her 2d husband (her 1st died a year into their marriage), their prenup promised her 4 months each year for suffrage work.

Carrie and Mr. Catt had no children, and his death left her financially independent. As DailySuff has previously mentioned, Catt’s third spouse was Mary Garrett Hay. They are buried under a shared tombstone. #Suffrage100 #19thAmendment #WomensEqualityDay


Daily Suffragist






Daily Suffragist, “Carrie Chapman Catt,” Daily Suffragist, accessed August 17, 2022,

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