CHARLES CITY, Iowa — On July 2, 1919, the State Legislature in Iowa ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. The suffrage movement reached its goal in August of 1920 when the Tennessee Legislature also ratified the 19th Amendment, making it law in all the United States.
One of those leaders in the women’s suffrage movement was Carrie Chapman Catt, who grew up near Charles City before attending Iowa State University.
The National 19th Amendment Society is an organization dedicated to preserving the Catt story. They have purchased her childhood home near Charles City and have a museum along with the house she grew up.
“This is what we call a stock farm out here,” said Nancy Simerson, of the 19th Amendment Society, on how Catt’s father was a farmer. “He did raised hay. He raised apples. He raised vegetables and things.”
Ivadelle Stevenson is Catt’s great-great-niece. She had her picture taken with Catt but does not recall meeting her as a young child.
“As a little girl, I just remember grandpa talking about all the things that she did and how active she was on trying to get women to vote,” said Stevenson. “My father, mother, and grandpa and grandma were very much supportive of her.”
Catt went to college at Iowa State University, where she became a member of the debate team. She was not allowed to speak in the debates, but she could submit her debate in writing.
“Carrie persisted and persevered and she was spunky enough to actually stand up and be one of the first ones to speak in public as far as the debate class,” said Cheryl Erb, president of the 19th Amendment Society.
While Catt was at school, she worked as a dishwasher for nine cents an hour. She also worked as an assistant librarian for ten cents an hour.
The 19th Amendment Society is planning a big celebration in 2020 on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment becoming law nationwide.
“Our motto and tag is ‘hard-won, not done,'” said Erb. “So even though we know women have the right to vote, it took 72 years for suffrage to get achieved across the nation.”
If you would like to know more about Carrie Lane Chapman Catt’s Home and Museum, click here.