Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 2, Spring 2005, pp. 87-103.
In September 1882, Nebraska was the setting for a significant moment in the history of the United States women's rights movement: the two rival suffrage organizations, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) and the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), both held their annual conventions in Omaha, an event Sally Roesch Wagner describes as "an unprecedented move."1 Furthermore, the AWSA and NWSA "act[ed] in conjunction with the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association" to schedule speakers during the 1882 campaign.2 Susan B. Anthony even participated in the AWSA thirteenth annual meeting held in Omaha in 1882. "I feel at home," she said, "on every woman suffrage platform, and am most glad to speak to you to-day. This is the third campaign in which my friend Lucy Stone and myself have shared."3 National activists focused their attention on Nebraska in 1882 because the state's suffrage amendment was about to go before the male electorate.
The alliance of the AWSA and NWSA during the September 1882 conventions was a notable point in the gradual reunification of the two suffrage organizations. "During the decade of 1880-1890," Eleanor Flexner writes, "it was becoming increasingly evident that the factors which had brought about the existence of two separate suffrage associations were steadily diminishing in importance."4 Because suffragists in Thayer County, Nebraska, associated with both organizations and incorporated the ideas of both groups into their suffrage rationale, it is possible that they represented the early stages of the two groups beginning to merge back together. It is also possible that the suffragists' location on the Great Plains provided a context in which both groups realized they could, when they needed to, cooperate despite their larger disagreements.
The Western Woman's Journal, a Nebraska suffrage periodical, wrote encouragingly about the upcoming Nebraska conventions: "Much good is expected to result from the meetings of the American and National Associations, in this state in September."5 Prominent Thayer County suffragist Erasmus Correll noted that "Local workers, noble ones, too numerous to mention, are doing much local work to advance the cause. Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, H. B. Blackwell, Helen M. Gougar, Margaret W. Campbell, and many other able and experienced workers, will soon be on Nebraska soil, to aid us in our noble struggle. The writer is also devoting his whole time to the work. The cause is everywhere progressing."6 Anthony, the "suffrage war veteran," was scheduled to arrive in mid-September "to aid in carrying the amendment."7 Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell, according to Leslie Wheeler, "extended their stay [in Nebraska] from ten days, as originally planned, to more than a month, and spoke in twenty-five counties."8