When people hear the term 'feminist' today, the images that come to mind are not always pleasant. It can be associated with un-shaved legs, angry women, and the belittlement of men. However, the term feminism has been around for longer than this and is something that should be celebrated. The women's suffrage movement was an era that changed the course of American history for the better.
The two groups I will focus on are the National Women's Association (NWA) and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Before these movements happened, women were treated as property and valued only for their mild manners. This was seen with the cult of domesticity that arose in the 1800's. Women were 'placed' on pedestals and were not meant to be anything other than objects to please men. If this had continued, women would not be able to receive educations, get jobs, or participate in society today. That would mean no J.K. Rowling (and no Harry Potter!!!), no Jane Goodall, and many other women that have made a large impact on society today. This is why the suffrage movement was so important.
Alice Paul, the leader of the NWA, made large strides towards women's rights with her actions. Paul's group undertook radical actions, including picketing the White House, in order to convince Wilson and Congress to pass a woman suffrage amendment. This meant that Paul was often imprisoned for her cause. She was beat and after she tried to go on a hunger strike, she was force fed with a tube. This radicalism brought more media attention that propelled the cause forward.
The NAWSA, led by Carrie Chapman, was a more moderate group. They focused on legislation and undertook campaigns to enfranchise women in individual states, and simultaneously lobbied President Wilson and Congress to pass a woman suffrage Constitutional Amendment. This more neutral approach led to it having almost a million members in 1910.
Combined, both of these groups worked together and in 1920 the 19th amendment was passed and women could vote. This was a monumental move and allowed women to become a part of society as a whole. Today, it is important to remember that feminism is still something that can be worked on. The radicals that you hear about in the media are trying to make a difference. Their methods happen to get more media coverage, just like the NWA. It is important to see that feminism encompasses more than just their views. It includes all of the efforts of the women from the 1800's and 1900's. The women's suffrage movement has influenced great change in the world today and it will be interesting to see what today's movement will impact in the future.