The National American Woman Suffrage Convention holds its sixth evening meeting at Seattle's Plymouth Congregational Church on July 6, 1909.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 5/04/2008
  • Essay 8591
See Additional Media

On July 6, 1909, the National American Woman Suffrage Association holds its final evening meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church in downtown Seattle.  The following day the suffragists will move operations to the Auditorium Building on the grounds of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition, where they will participate in Woman Suffrage Day at the fair. The confluence of the widely publicized convention and the hugely popular world's fair will help win supporters for women's right to vote.

Janet E. Richards, a lecturer from Washington, D.C., and Frances Squire Potter (1887-1914) spoke to the crowd, Richards on the theme Sex Antagonism, Why and What Is The Cure? The Reverend Dr. Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919) gave a closing address.

Packed to the Doors

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer stated that the meeting on July 6, 1909, "Plymouth Church, as has been the case on all of the previous occasions since the opening of the convention, was packed to the doors" ("Quits University For Suffrage"). As had been the case in recent days, however, local newspapers gave scant coverage to the speakers' remarks.

During the convention's afternoon meeting that day, treasurer Harriet Taylor Upton, who throughout the conference repeatedly but with humor had made the call for donations at the evening meetings, appeared on the convention floor with a life preserver around her neck. Within 20 minutes Upton had collected some $3,000 in pledges from those present, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which added that Upton's "clever appeal[s]" continued "until the house decided that there was nothing but carfare left in the pockets of the delegates" ("Quits University For Suffrage").

Potter Quits University for Suffrage

Potter announced at the close of the afternoon meeting that she would resign her faculty position at the University of Minnesota in order to work for suffrage full time. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer stated: "What is generally considered by the national delegates as the crowning feature of the annual convention of the Woman Suffrage Association was the announcement yesterday at the closing business session that Prof. Frances Squire Potter, of the Minnesota University, would accept the office of national corresponding secretary and take charge of the new headquarters in New York. To accept that office Prof. Potter resigned her chair of English literature yesterday when the promises made by prominent people in New York became pledges by which the association will be enabled to pay a fitting salary to the new officer" ("Quits University For Suffrage").

National American Woman Suffrage Association President Reverend Anna Howard Shaw closed the session with these inspirational remarks:

"There never has been a more magnificent outlook for the cause of equal suffrage than that of the present day ... . New people are identifying themselves with the movement and finances to further the cause are pouring into our treasury; and the opportunities are increasing beyond our ability to furnish workers" ("Quits University For Suffrage").

Beneath Reverend Shaw's remarks, the Post-Intelligencer ran an article announcing that South Dakota Governor R. S. Vessey was inviting the National organization to hold its 1910 convention in his state. It was the first instance in which a sitting governor had invited the group to meet.

Sources: "Program Seattle Convention," Progress, June 1909; "The National Convention," Progress, August 1909; Forty-First Annual Report of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association Held At Seattle, Washington July 1st to 6th, 1909 ed. by Harriet Taylor Upton (Warren, Ohio: The Association, 1909); The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 5, ed. by Ida Husted Harper (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922); Marte Jo Sheeran, "The Woman Suffrage Issue In Washington, 1890-1910" (master's thesis, University of Washington, May 27, 1977), p. 129; Mary Susan Pacey, "The Breakthrough State: The Washington State Suffrage Campaign of 1906-1910" (master's thesis, University of Washington, June 5, 1978); "Quits University For Suffrage," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 9, 1909.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You