Friday, February 21, 2020

Remembering Carrie Chapman Catt, sorority woman and suffragist

Sorority women have been making positive changes and leaving the world a better place
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than they found it. Carrie Chapman Catt is no exception.
Carrie, an alumna of Pi Beta Phi, helped lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association and give women a political platform at a time when women’s voices were often overlooked. All of this stemmed back to her childhood when she noticed that her father had more voting rights than her mother. This did not sit well with Carrie. From there, she grew passionate to give women equal rights in politics and all together. 

Before she got involved with the suffrage movement, she attended Iowa State Agricultural College, which is now Iowa State University and was the only woman in her graduating class. Not only was Carrie the only woman in her graduating class, but she was at the top of her class. She did so while also managing to balance her schoolwork, her job in the library and washing dishes and fulfilling her officer position in her sorority. She was actually the first woman to be initiated into her sorority’s chapter at Iowa State after it’s charter. A handful of years after graduating, Carrie worked as a law clerk, a teacher, a principal and then became one of the first women to be appointed as a superintendent of a school district. All of which was not an easy task for Carrie. However, her strong work ethic and organizational skills helped her achieve this success.

Later in the 1880s, Chapman joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association, where she worked as a writer and lecturer. She began to move up within the organization which led her to begin working for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Following the beginning of her work with the organization on a national level, Carrie spoke at its convention in Washington D.C. in 1890. This speaking opportunity lit a spark within Carrie that encouraged her to become more involved with her writing and speaking assignments. Both of which helped her become more of an established suffragist. This sparked an exciting new chapter in her life. 

Susan B. Anthony asked Carrie to talk to Congress regarding the suffrage amendment, which then led to her becoming the next president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1900. In her presidency role, she spent most of her time planning campaigns, writing speeches and obtaining more political experience. These efforts in this role enabled her to help found the International Woman Suffrage Alliance to help spread awareness of the issue to a much broader scale. 

In 1904, she took time away and retired for a brief period of time to care for her ill husband. Sadly, he later passed away. His passing, in addition to her brother, mother and Susan B. Anthony, left her needing a break, emotionally and physically. She decided to travel abroad, where she promoted equal suffrage rights, globally. This helped her greatly in developing the positive mindset that got her to where she was to begin with. While traveling during that time period, she helped organize the Women’s Peace Party and shortly after, resumed her role as president of the NAWSA in 1915. This was the next step in her life that helped her prove she was ready to pick up where she left off.

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Around this same time, the 19th amendment, also known as the suffrage amendment, had become a part of the U.S. Constitution. Carrie played a role in developing what was referred to as the “Winning Plan,” which would help ensure that this amendment’s place in the constitution. That plan became reality on August 26, 1920. After this huge milestone for equality amongst women, she resigned from her presidency role. Her success as a suffragist and adored reputation would leave a legacy that would last for generations. Carrie continued to advocate for equal suffrage even after stepping down as president. She founded the League of Women Voters to continue to educate women on many issues, mainly focusing on politics. She remained president of the organization until her passing. She continues to be remembered and honored by many for her passion for equal suffrage and endless efforts and successes in public service. Well before her passing, she was awarded Chi Omega’s National Achievement Award and was the first fraternity woman to do so. This award is given to a woman of great accomplishments. Even decades after her years as a collegian in her sorority, her sisters continued to acknowledge the impact she had. Not only did she inspire the future generations of Pi Beta Phi members, but she paved the way for women and gave them the voice she felt they deserved. 

A Biography:
Carrie Chapman Catt:
On Election Day, Let us Honor Carrie Chapman Catt, a Proud Fraternity Woman!: