"The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself."
— Elizabeth Cady Stanton, feminist and first president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
Founded in 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage Association united two suffragist organizations that had pursued opposite policies in the years following the Civil War — the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), founded in 1869 by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), organized the same year by Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone, one of the first women to be awarded an academic degree. Those two organizations differed about whether a woman's right to vote should come from a federal Constitutional amendment, or through state legislatures. The NWSA condemned the 14th and 15th amendments, which defined "citizens" and "voters" as "male," as blatant injustices to women. The organization also advocated easier divorce procedures and an end to discrimination in pay and employment. The AWSA was more conservative, and was only concerned with obtaining the vote. The two groups united in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
The strategy of the newly formed group was to push for the ratification of enough state woman suffrage amendments to force Congress to approve a Constitutional amendment. The organization focused on recruiting new members and winning the vote for women.
Between 1890 and 1896, Wyoming and Utah entered the Union with woman suffrage in their constitutions, and Idaho and Colorado approved it by referenda. Over the next 14 years, suffragists launched nearly 500 campaigns to get the question on other state ballots. They achieved only a handful of referenda, and won none of them.
The situation began to change in 1910, when NAWSA aggressively organized state campaigns that reached beyond the traditional middle-class base of college-educated, privileged, and politically influential members, to include immigrant and working-class women. Between 1910 and 1912, six states gave women the vote, and more followed each year. At the same time, the suffrage movement was garnering more support from national reform groups. In 1915, NAWSA's "Winning Plan" was proposed, which was based on the principle that each state that gave women the right to vote could be pressed to support the effort on the federal level.
The NAWSA ultimately won President Woodrow Wilson's support. In 1919, with more than 30 state legislatures petitioning Congress on behalf of women suffrage, the Nineteenth Amendment passed by a large majority, ending a 72-year struggle. Afterwards, NAWSA disbanded, but many of its members became active in the founding of the League of Women Voters.
See also, Important and Famous Women in America.