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Abolitionists & Suffragists


In the 1840s and 1850s, two important issues concerned people all over the United States: one was slavery, and the other was women's voting rights.



The issue of slavery caused many people to become abolitionists.  An abolitionist was a person who wanted to abolish, or end, slavery.  (Remember, slavery was legal in the southern states, and illegal in the northern states.)  `Abolitionists believed that slavery was against the idea that all men are created equal; they also believed slavery was cruel and inhumane, and many demanded that slavery be ended all over the United States.

Many people, particularly in the north, were abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the famous book "Uncle Tom's Cabin."  Her book was so popular and turned so many people against slavery that President Abraham Lincoln called her "the little lady that started this great Civil War" in the 1860s.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Tubman


The other issue of this time period was women's suffrage.  Suffrage is simply the right to vote.   Suffragists were people who during this time were trying to help American women gain the right to vote.  

Originally in the United States, only white men who owned land could vote.  This meant that blacks, women, and other minorities were disenfranchised.  Eventually, men could vote, but women still could not.  Many women organized rallies, led marches, and even were arrested because of their beliefs that women should have the right to vote.  

Suffragists also believed that women should have the same rights as men in educational opportunities.  They wanted the opportunity to go to college and get a good education like many men already had.  They wanted equality in work opportunities and business, and the right to own their own property.

Eventually, the suffragists' hard work paid off, when the 19th Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1920.  Finally, women had the same right to vote as men.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton-


Could someone be both an abolitionist AND a suffragist?  Absolutely!  Check out the speech "Ain't I a Woman" by Sojourner Truth, a former slave, who traveled all over the United States preaching and talking about equality for blacks and women.


It's hard to think that back then, and not that long ago, racial minorities and women didn't have equal rights as white men; but it's important that you know this, and realize that the struggle for equality didn't happen overnight, nor is it completely "finished."  Hopefully as you grow, you will treat ALL people, of all colors, ages, and different backgrounds the way that you would want them to treat you.


Remember:  Be the change you want to see in the world.


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