Preserving The Legacy of Carrie Chapman Catt

At the Carrie Chapman Catt Girlhood Home, we are dedicated to preserving the legacy of Carrie Chapman Catt, a prominent suffragist and advocate for women's rights. Through education, exhibits, and community outreach, we strive to inspire and empower women to make a positive impact in society.

Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Clinton Lane was born on January 9, 1859, in Ripon, Wisconsin, the second of three children of Lucius and Maria (Clinton) Lane. At the age of seven, her family moved to rural Charles City, Iowa, where she graduated from high school in 1877. In 1880, she graduated from the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm in Ames (now Iowa State University) at the top of her class, having worked her way through school by washing dishes, working in the school library, and teaching. She was also the only woman in her graduating class. After college, she returned to Charles City to work as a law clerk and, in nearby Mason City, as a school teacher and a principal. In 1883, she became one of the first women in the nation appointed superintendent of schools.

Years At The Farm

During the next 11 years, Carrie lived with her family at the farm. Carrie's ties to the home remained strong, however, as she continued to visit her family. In 1885, at age 26, Carrie married Leo Chapman in a wedding ceremony in the Lane home's living room (the east addition). Six years later, in 1891, the Lane family sold the property and moved into a house on Ferguson Street in Charles City. That house also remains at its original site today. As an adult, Carrie fondly recalled her childhood and young adult years at what was known as Spring Brook Farm. She often spent afternoons on the bough of a large oak tree nearby, reading books. The farm was also the setting for an early lesson in American civics when, at age 13, she openly questioned why her mother was not voting in the 1872 presidential election, like her father and his hired man. Her sincere question was greeted with laughter. Voting, she was told, was too important a civic duty to leave to women. As an adult, Mrs. Catt recalled that day as a turning point in her life.

Marriage & Personal Life

In February 1885, Lane married Leo Chapman, editor and publisher of the Mason City Republican, in a wedding ceremony at her parents' rural Charles City home. Mr. Chapman died of typhoid fever the following year in San Francisco, California, where he had gone to seek new employment. Arriving a few days after her husband's death, the young widow decided to remain in San Francisco, where she was employed by a newspaper during part of that time. In 1887, she returned to Charles City and joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association for whom she worked as a professional writer and lecturer. After a short period of time, she became the group's recording secretary. From 1890 to 1892, she served as the Iowa association's state organizer.

Loss & The Winning Plan

In 1902, Catt helped organize the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA), which eventually incorporated sympathetic associations in 32 nations. In 1904, she resigned her NAWSA presidency in order to care for her ailing husband. His death in October 1905, followed by the deaths of Susan B. Anthony (February 1906), Catt's younger brother William (September 1907) and her mother (December 1907) left Catt grief-stricken. Her doctor and friends encouraged her to travel abroad; as a result, she spent much of the following eight years as IWSA president promoting equal-suffrage rights worldwide. Catt returned to the United States in 1915 to resume the leadership of NAWSA, which had become badly divided under the leadership of Anna Howard Shaw. In 1916, at a NAWSA convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Catt unveiled her "Winning Plan" to campaign simultaneously for suffrage on both the state and federal levels, and to compromise for partial suffrage in the states resisting change. Under Catt's dynamic leadership, NAWSA won the backing of the U.S. House and Senate, as well as state support for the amendment's ratification. In 1917, New York passed a state woman suffrage referendum, and by 1918, President Woodrow Wilson was finally converted to the cause.

At Long Last, Suffrage

On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment officially became part of the United States Constitution. One hundred forty-four years after U.S. independence, all women in the United States were at last guaranteed the right to vote. Stepping down from the NAWSA presidency after its victory, Catt continued her work for equal suffrage, promoting education of the newly-enfranchised by founding the new League of Women Voters and serving as its honorary president for the rest of her life.

A Long Legacy

In 1923, with Nettie Rogers Shuler, she published Woman Suffrage and Politics: The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement. In her later years, Catt's interests broadened to include the causes of world peace and child labor. She founded the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War in 1925, serving as its chair until 1932 and as honorary chair thereafter. She also supported the League of Nations and, later, the United Nations.This arrangement presents Carrie Chapman Catt's life events in a logical, chronological order, making it easy to follow her accomplishments and personal milestones.

Discover the Inspiring Life of Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt was a prominent suffragist and women's rights activist. She played a crucial role in the fight for women's right to vote in the United States.

Legacy:

Carrie Chapman Catt's tireless efforts paved the way for American women's rights and social progress.

Impact:

Carrie Chapman Catt's work continues to inspire and empower women around the world.

The Girlhood Home

The Carrie Chapman Catt Girlhood Home, located three miles southeast of Charles City, Iowa, is a celebrated example of Victorian-era architecture. Constructed between 1865 and 1866 by Lucius Lane, the brick home is noted for its innovative insulation tailored to Iowa's diverse seasons. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house has been restored by the National 19th Amendment Society, a volunteer-led group based in Charles City. Originally from Ripon, Wisconsin, the Lane family, including young Carrie and her brother Charles, moved into the home in 1866, with final additions completed by 1875 to give the house its present appearance.

Early life & Education

Carrie Clinton Lane was born on January 9, 1859, in Ripon, Wisconsin, and moved with her family to rural Charles City, Iowa at age seven. She graduated from Charles City High School in 1877 and from Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm (now Iowa State University) in 1880, topping her class and becoming one of the first women to be appointed superintendent of schools in Mason City, Iowa. Carrie's formative years on Spring Brook Farm profoundly influenced her views on women's rights, a realization sparked when she questioned why her mother couldn't vote during the 1872 presidential election. Carrie married Leo Chapman in 1885, but after his death in 1886, she relocated briefly to San Francisco, returning to Iowa to further her involvement in women's suffrage.

Suffrage Leadership & National Impact

Returning to Charles City, Carrie Chapman Catt immersed herself in the suffrage movement, marrying George Catt in 1890, who supported her activism. She revitalized the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and spearheaded the successful campaign for women's voting rights. Carrie's strategic "Winning Plan" combined state and federal suffrage efforts, significantly contributing to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Following this victory, she founded the League of Women Voters, advocating for the education of newly enfranchised women and playing a key role in international suffrage as the president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance.

Preservation of Legacy and Historical Home

Carrie Chapman Catt's legacy extends through her tireless advocacy for women's rights and her efforts towards world peace and the elimination of child labor. Her girlhood home, the setting of her early life and education, was preserved and restored by the National 19th Amendment Society, highlighting its historical significance and Victorian architecture. The farm, now a museum open to the public, serves as a tribute to her life and work, offering insight into the environment that shaped a pivotal leader in the women's suffrage movement. Carrie passed away in 1947 and is remembered as a foundational figure in the fight for gender equality.