After The Fight

Women of the nation get the ballot

"Women of the Nation Get the Ballot," The Bridgeport Times 8.26.1920.

On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to pass the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Connecticut had never ratified the amendment. On August 25, 1920, women's right to vote became the law of the entire country. In reality, African American women (and men) in some southern states were still disenfranchised, and did not gain real suffrage until the 1968 Voting Rights Act was passed.

Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association ends long career: fifty-one years of activity now brought to close

Hartford Courant criticism of the tactics used in the suffrage movement.

Mrs. Thomas Hepburn [Katharine Houghton Hepburn] of Hartford, Conn.

Katharine Houghton Hepburn, who believed that the picketing and more militant demonstrations were necessary for the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Letters from the people: the suffragettes Mrs Hepburn says picketing did it

Response to the Courant, defending the motives and tactics of the suffragist picketers.

After women won the right to vote, controversy over the movement and the tactics used by some goups remained. In October 1920 the Connecticut chapter of the National Woman Suffrage Association disbanded. The Hartford Courant wrote that the organization had sought:

"publicity at any expense even to heckling the government by picketing the White House in the trying days when the government and nation were trying to put every ounce of energy into supporting the boys in the trenches. Some of its members so disturbed the President that he had to have them removed by arrest and then came the hunger strike--all for the sake of publicity."

The Courant recognized that the women who embraced a more militant approach were savvy users of the media. Those who advocated for more militant protest were correct that images of women being arrested would aid their cause. Their willingness to push for suffrage during wartime opened them to criticism, even within the movement, but ultimately their methods succeeded where women's suffrage groups had failed for generations. 

One of the former leaders of the Connecticut NWSA, Katherine Houghton Hepburn, strongly objected to the Courant's description of their motives and the characterization of their actions as stunts and a "wild hunt for publicity." In response to the article, she wrote:

"On the part of the militants, I resent your saying that we picketed the White House simply for the sake of publicity. The fact of the case is that we took our disfranchisement as seriously as men have--only that we behaved in a much more orderly way than men have in protesting against disfranchisement. We realized that if we did not adopt vigorous methods our sons could be drafted to fight for democracy abroad, but we should be denied democracy at home. Would men in our position have behaved as mildly as we did? I doubt it. Remember that our American Revolution was fought for votes for men."

Mrs. Seymour polls large vote in Connecticut

In Connecticut, Mary T. Seymour continued to fight for the rights of women and African Americans. In 1920 she ran for a seat in the Connecticut legislature on the Farmer-Labor party. The Chicago Defender noted that "she is the only woman member of the Race who is out for a seat in any state legislature." In 1922 she ran again as the Socialist and Farmer-Labor Party candidate for Secretary of State, the first African American woman to run for statewide office in Connecticut. She was defeated as were all the Farmer-Labor party candidates, although the Hartford Courant reported she "ran about 250 or 300 (votes) ahead of her mates and seems to have been aided by women in other parties."

Jahana Hayes, a former "national Teacher of the Year" who won a long-shot primary race, will become the first black Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress.

Jahana Hayes at a victory celebration when she was elected the first African American to represent Connecticut in Congress, November 6, 2018.

Although Mary Seymour was never successful in a bid for elected office, other women were.

Sara Crawford, Republican from Westport, became the first woman to hold statewide office in Connecticut when she was elected the Connecticut Secretary of State in 1939. Ella Grasso became the first Connecticut woman governor in 1974, and was the first woman United States governor not preceded by her husband in office. In 2018 Johanna Hayes became the first African American to be elected to the United States Congress from Connecticut.