On this day in history, Carrie Chapman Catt was born in Ripon, Wisconsin. (Today Ripon is primarily known as the site of the first meeting, in February 1854, of the group that would become the Republican Party.) She was born Carrie Clinton Lane. She graduated from Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) in three years, not just the only woman in her class, but the class valedictorian.
In 1885 Carrie married newspaper editor Leo Chapman, but he died in California soon after. In 1890, she married George Catt, a wealthy engineer. Catt supported his wife’s work strongly, and spoke occasionally at suffrage conventions himself. “We made a team to work for the cause,” she often said. She became a dynamic speaker, exhibited a great talent for administration and organization, and by 1915 was picked by Susan B. Anthony as her successor as head of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).
In 1893 a Congress of Representative Women of All Lands opened the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Catt, deeply impressed, began thinking about an international organization of women that would strengthen them all by sharing their experiences and expertise. In 1902 she founded the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) at a meeting in Washington, D.C., in spite of opposition from her friend and mentor Susan B. Anthony. By 1904, when the IWSA met in Berlin, it had become an important and influential source of support for women throughout the Western world. Catt served as its president from 1904 until 1923. The IWSA remains in existence, but changed its name in 1946 to the International Alliance of Women (IAW) with the subtitle: Equal Rights – Equal Responsibilities. Since 1947, the IAW has had general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. You can learn more about it here.
In 1920 Catt helped found the League of Women Voters (a successor to the NAWSA) and in the same year, she ran as the Presidential candidate for the Commonwealth Land Party.
She was active in anti-war protests both prior to and during both world wars. She died in 1947 and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY.