Collection Title: Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights

Collection Number: 235

Dates of Collection: 1850 – 1921, Bulk 1914 – 1917

Box Numbers: 1

Repositiory: Chester County Historical Society

Project Archivist: Jasmine Smith, Librarian


Support of expanded civil rights has a long history of support and activism in Chester County. Both abolitionists and women’s rights advocates in Chester County were responding to and participating in national activity. Equal suffrage became a central part of the national woman suffrage platform when Elizabeth Cady Stanton introduced a suffrage resolution at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in New York. Just a few years later in 1852, the Chester County Historical Society’s (CCHS) own Horticultural Hall was the host location for the Woman’s Rights Convention, June 2nd and 3rd. Voting rights were the first resolution debated and adopted in West Chester during the first day’s afternoon session. The National Woman Suffrage Association (N.W.S.A.) was founded in 1869 in response to the 15th amendment. By the early 20th century, state and auxiliary chapters of the N.W.S.A., as well as similarly focused organizations for men, existed in Chester County.

The suffrage movement operated in a larger social reform context. It frequently allied with the temperance movement as well as the reproductive rights movement. Some suffragettes promoted other popular yet troubling movements, predicting that eugenics and white supremacy find support among female voters.

By the spring of 1919, over 70 years after the Seneca Falls Convention, fifteen U.S. states allowed women to vote, but no national law guaranteed them the right to do so. The 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by congress June 4, 1919, and ratified August 18, 1920. It reads: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Resources Used

Gertner, Nancy and Gail Heriot. “The Nineteenth Amendment.” Common Interpretation: The Nineteenth Amendment. The National Constitution Center. 

Ginzberg, Lori D. “For Stanton, All Women Were Not Created Equal.” Interview on NPR Morning Edition, July 13, 2011.  

Lange, Allison. (2015.) “Suffragists Organize: National Woman Suffrage Association.” National Women’s History Museum.

Information For Researchers:

  • Access:
    This collection is open to researchers.
  • Preffered Citation:
    Item information. Manuscript Collection 235: Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights Collection. Box number, Folder number. Chester County Historical Society Library, West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Collection Scope:

This collection includes published material, letters, manuscripts, and ephemera related to women’s suffrage. Materials are included from the local auxiliary chapters of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association (P.W.S.A.) as well as the P.W.S.A. itself and the larger National Woman Suffrage Association. The Chester County Equal Suffrage Association is also represented. Similar organizational material for men, sympathetic temperance materials, and anti-suffrage materials are included. 

Collection Arrangement:

Materials are arranged by the creator or source organization. Dated materials are then arranged chronologically. Ephemera files have not been put in chronological order.

Related Material:

Researchers interested in suffrage and women’s rights should browse the CCHS Archival Collection Guides by topic, focusing on the Social Reform and Women’s Organizations sections. The League of Women Voters collection and Women’s Christian Temperance Union materials may be of particular interest, but many of the collections in these categories will have material related to the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights collection.

Researchers can also browse the manuscript catalog in the CCHS library to locate letters and manuscripts written by local noteworthy suffragettes. The Newspaper Clippings Collection will provide more information on local organizations and individuals.

Collections Contents:

Bound item: Book of Women’s Rights Conventions Proceedings, incl. Worcester 1850 and 1851, Syracuse 1852, West Chester 1852, Salem 1850, and Akron 1851. Property of Hannah Darlington.

Bound item: The Suffragists’ Calendar: A Year-book for Every Thinking Woman. P.F. Volland & Co.: New York, 1915.

Folder 1: Notebook of Mary Heald Way, Oxford, PA. 1914.

Folder 2: “Votes for Women” illustrated post cards, National Woman Suffrage Pub. Co. Inc.: New York, 1915. (5 items)

Folder 3: P.W.S.A. Convention post card letters, 1894 (9 items)
Senders: M.E. Longshore, M.A. Merrick, Patience W. Kent
Recipients: Susan Appleton, Lucy E. Anthony

Folder 4 & 5: Letters of local Auxiliary Chapters of the P.W.S.A., Dec. 1893 – Nov.1894. Many letters involve planning the 1894 Annual P.W.S.A. Convention in West Chester.
Senders: Lucretia L. Blankenberg, Lucy E. Anthony, Mary Gawthrop, Jennie Hindman, Patience W. Kent, Martha Smith, Isabel J. Malmesbury, Susan B. Anthony, Jennie Elms, Susan Appleton, Mrs. V. Burrell, Nora M. Crouse, L.M.B. Mitchell
Recipients: Lucy E. Anthony, Lucretia L. Blankenberg, Patience W. Kent, Rev. Anna H. Shaw

Folder 6: P.W.S.A. letters to male supporter and legislators, 1917

Folder 7: Letter regarding suffrage activity, from Marguerite to ‘classmates,’ 1915

Folder 8: Chester County Equal Suffrage Association ephemera

Folder 9: National and Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Associations ephemera for Chester County

Folder 10: Suffrage mailings to CCHS, 1915-1917

Folder 11: Proceedings of the Woman’s Rights Convention, held at West Chester, PA. June 2 & 3, 1852. Merrihew and Thompson, Printers: Philadelphia, 1852.

Folder 12: P.W.S.A. ephemera

Folder 13: Pennsylvania Men’s League for Woman Suffrage ephemera

Folder 14: Non-Pennsylvania and National Woman Suffrage ephemera

Folder 15: The Woman’s Justice Bell flyer for Philadelphia Parade, October 22, 1915

Folder 16: Pennsylvania Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage ephemera

Folder 17: Temperance-related Suffrage ephemera

Folder 18: Sanger, Margaret. “Appeals from American Mothers.” New York Womans Publishing Co., Inc.: New York, 1921.