The AMERICAN WOMAN SUFFRAGE ASSOCIATION (AWSA) was founded in Cleveland on November 24-25, 1869, at CASE HALL. The meeting was attended by 1,000 men and women from 21 states, including delegates from the OHIO WOMAN SUFFRAGE ASSOCIATION, established just a day earlier in Cleveland. Prominent abolitionists and woman’s rights advocates added their prestige to the new organization: Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Stephen S. Foster, Mary A. Livermore, Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe, CAROLINE M. SEVERANCE, and Lucy Stone (referred to by the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER as Mrs. Lucy Stone Blackwell). In the keynote address, Higginson maintained that votes for women would not disrupt the home but allow women to make the state more like the home.
The AWSA was committed to enfranchising women by amending state constitutions, in contrast to the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), formed earlier by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, which advocated amending the federal constitution. The AWSA, headquartered in Boston, published The Woman’s Journal. The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher was elected the AWSA’s first president.
The AWSA held its first annual convention in Cleveland on November 22-23, 1870. Dr. H. M. Tracy Cutler of Cleveland, a founder of the Cuyahoga County Woman Suffrage Association, was elected president. The attendance was smaller than in 1869, but the group heard good news: the enfranchisement of women in the territories of Wyoming and Utah (rescinded by Congress but re-instated when Utah became a state in 1896). Anthony also attended, and delegates discussed the possibility of joining with the NWSA. The merger did not take place until 1890, however. The resulting National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) pursued votes for women at both the federal and the state level until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
Updated by Marian J. Morton
Scharf, Lois. "The Women's Movement in Cleveland from 1850," Cleveland: A Tradition of Reform.