The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy.
On August 18, 1920, with the final state ratification coming from Tennessee, the 19th amendment went into effect. Women finally had won the right to vote. It had been a long and often difficult battle and Mason City women were very much a part of it.
Interest in working toward the vote was building before the Civil War, but was waylaid by that. After the war, renewed efforts began. When Mason City women first became involved is not clear; however, the first Iowa Suffrage Association began in 1870 and some were part of it. Their efforts took a turn to much more serious action when Carrie Lane came to Mason City in 1880, first to work as a school principal and then as superintendent of schools. Here she met women like Mary Emsley and Dr. Stella Mason and many others, encouraging particularly members of the local Temperance Union and the Women’s Civic Club.
While here, Carrie organized a group of women to circulate a petition which would contain the signatures of all but a dozen Mason City women urging the Iowa Legislature to pass a bill giving women the right to vote in municipal elections. Dr. Mason would later say, “When people saw me coming, they immediately thought ‘suffrage’.” Their work was unsuccessful at that time, but such a bill was passed in 1894.
In 1885, Carrie married newspaper man Leo Chapman. Unfortunately, Chapman angered prominent citizens with his writing and fled to California. Carrie stayed to finish up her work, intending to go join him. However, Chapman died before she could. She did move briefly to California, then moved back to Iowa in 1887 when she took the lead in the Iowa suffrage movement which she held until 1900. At that time, she took over the leadership of the National Women’s Suffrage Association when Susan B. Anthony retired.
In 1904 one of the first suffrage parades in the nation was held in Boone, Iowa. The purpose: to increase state interest in the cause. Mason City women were there.
In 1906, the Mason City Women’s Club changed its name to the Women’s Suffrage Club, instigated by the urging of Eleanor Stockman. After considerable debate and some opposition, the name change was made. Their efforts intensified. . . the battle heated up.
ABOUT THIS SERIES: To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, Visit Mason City is sharing a 5-part series of articles about the Mason City women who made many contributions to the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Many thanks to Pat Schulz for sharing these stories.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pat Schultz, former executive director of Wright on the Park, found her interest in women in Mason City sparked when she was researching Mary Emsley Adams. Mrs. Adams was the president of the City National Bank when its board hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new building. She was also, as Pat discovered, an ardent suffragist, so active that she was recognized as one of the 24 Iowa women honored for their outstanding efforts when the 19th amendment was ratified. Pat’s continued research found that Mary was not the only local woman deeply involved in getting the vote for women. Her book “Amazing Women of Early Mason City” tells their stories as well as those of other women. Pat began her work with Wright on the Park after she retired from teaching in the language arts department at Clear Lake High School for 29 years. She has also taught communication skills for North Iowa Area Community College and currently teaches in NIACC’s Life Long Learning Program. A widow, she lives on an acreage northeast of Mason City with her feline friends, Katzanova and Charles Dickens. She also continues to be a member of WOTP’s Education Committee.