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Carrie Chapman Catt papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00031

Scope and Contents

The Carrie Chapman Catt Papers date from 1880 to 1958 and consist of 1.75 linear feet of material relating primarily to her public life. Types of material include correspondence, speeches, pamphlets, photographs, reports, journal and newspaper articles, and political cartoons. The bulk of the papers surround Catt's work as president of both the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. There is also a significant amount of material pertaining to her peace activities, including the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War. Major topics include federal- and state-level suffrage for women, the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and building an international network promoting women's equality. The collection is compelling as a record of the lengthy struggle for women's suffrage in the United States, and the powerful network of women's organizations that sprang out of that struggle. Catt published many short pamphlets describing her vision of feminism and women's suffrage that may be of particular interest to scholars. The papers also contain a rich collection of photographs, including many of the Women's Land Army, created in Great Britain during World War II to aid in the war effort. Most women lived at home and were transported each day to farms, where they hoed, weeded, thinned, and harvested crops of all kinds; many supervised youth platoons, especially teachers out of school for the summer. A few worked year round, especially on poultry and dairy farms, while others worked in canneries or were leaders for recruiting other women.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1880-1958


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright owner of this collection is unknown, though it is likely that the unpublished writings of Carrie Chapman Catt are in public domain. The Library of Congress, which holds the bulk of the Catt Papers states that "copyright in the unpublished writings of Carrie Chapman Catt in these and in other collections of papers in the custody of the Library of Congress has been dedicated to the public." Copyright to works by others in this collection may be owned by their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Carrie Lane Chapman Catt was born on January 9, 1859 in Ripon, Wisconsin, the second of three children of Lucius Lane and Maria Clinton. When Carrie was seven years old the family moved to Charles City, Iowa, where she spent the rest of her childhood. She taught at a country school until she saved enough money to pay for college, and entered Iowa State College in 1877. In 1880, following her graduation, she studied law before becoming principal of the high school in Mason City, Iowa. She later became the first female superintendent of the district.

In 1885, Catt married Leo Chapman, editor-owner of the Mason City Republican, which she helped him manage. Following his death in 1886, she was employed in the newspaper business in San Francisco, where she became increasingly aware of the inequalities facing women in the business and industrial arenas. Leaving San Francisco less than a year later, she returned to Iowa where she began lecturing on the status of women in the United States. Catt was convinced that women's inequality was based on their lack of political power, and she focused her efforts on women's suffrage. She joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association and was elected State Organizer in 1887. In 1890 she was invited to address the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in Washington, D.C., where she met important suffrage activists, among them Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Julia Ward Howe. Following the convention, she married George W. Catt, a successful hydraulic engineer. When Susan B. Anthony retired as president of NAWSA in 1900, she named Catt her successor. Catt used her position to forge new alliances with women across the world, calling an international suffrage conference in 1902. The conference was attended by representatives from nine countries and led to the founding of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. By the time Catt retired as president of NAWSA twenty-one years later, forty countries had branches of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and twenty of these had enfranchised women fully.

After 1904, when she was forced to step down from the NAWSA presidency because of her husband's poor health, Catt turned her attention to achieving suffrage in New York State, which she felt was critical to passage of a federal suffrage amendment. Due largely to her efforts, which included consolidating disparate city groups into the Woman Suffrage Party (1910), and organizing and chairing the Empire State Campaign (1913-14), in 1917 the New York State Legislature finally passed a referendum granting women the right to vote.

From this point, the struggle for national women's suffrage became more intense and Catt was an increasingly charismatic symbol of the movement. During World War One she was asked to take on the presidency of NAWSA once again, in part to facilitate keeping the idea of women's suffrage in the forefront of American politics. As a member of the Woman's Division of the Council for National Defense, she was able to push Congress to submit the Nineteenth Amendment in June of 1919, and on August 26, 1920, the federal amendment granting women's suffrage was signed into law. After suffrage was won, Catt founded the National League of Women Voters to help newly-enfranchised women navigate the election process.

Throughout the rest of her life, Catt worked tirelessly for pacifism, disarmament, and the peaceful settlement of international disputes, most notably by attempting to create a common international program of peace. In 1925, she invited international women's organizations to work together to form a disarmament program at the First Conference on the Cause and Cure of War in Washington, D.C. At this conference, a permanent Committee on the Cause and Cure of War was formed, comprised of the chief officers of the member organizations. Catt served as chairman until 1933, when she retired. The committee specialized in "marathon round tables" for the study of international conflicts.

In addition to being a prolific writer of editorials, speeches and pamphlets on the women's movement, she collaborated with Nettie Rogers Shuler in writing Woman Suffrage and Politics (1923) and on her own wrote a book, Why Wars Must Cease (1935).

Catt was given honorary doctorates from the University of Wyoming, Iowa State College, Smith College, and Moravian College for Women. In 1936, during her fiftieth anniversary celebration as a suffragist and pacifist, she was escorted to the White House by the presidents of several national women's organizations where President and Mrs. Roosevelt received her.

In 1940, Catt organized the last event of her career, the Woman's Centennial Conference in New York, which celebrated the first one hundred years of the feminist movement in the United States. Carrie Chapman Catt died at home in New Rochelle, New York on March 9, 1947 at age 88.


1.752 linear feet (6 containers)


Suffragist, president, National American Women Suffrage Association, and pacifist. Papers relate primarily to Catt's public life, primarily her work as president of both the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. There is a significant amount of material pertaining to her peace activities. There is also a rich collection of photographs, including many of the Women's Land Army, created in Great Britain during World War II to aid in the war effort.


This collection is organized into four series:

  1. I. Biographical Material
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Writings
  4. IV. Subject Files

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers were donated in 1947 by her friend and biographer, Mary Grey Peck. Additional donations were later received from Ruhe V. Linn, Catt's niece, in 1969; Louisa K. Fast, in 1963; and the American Jewish Historical Society, in 1977.

Related Material

The bulk of Catt's papers are in the Library of Congress. There is related material in the Josephine Schain Papers in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College; the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of the New York Public Library; the Woman's Rights Collection in the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University; the Bryn Mawr College Library; the Northwestern University Library; the National Woman Suffrage Collection at the Library of Congress; and the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, New York. The New York Public Library has an incomplete set of stenographic reports on the annual meetings of the Conference on the Cause and Cure of War, 1925-33.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Burd Schlessinger, 2002.

Carrie Chapman Catt papers
Finding Aid
Burd Schlessinger
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss144 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:11-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2022-03-02: Integrated description of oversized materials

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063