Date of Award
Master of Arts
Between 1870 and 1920, suffragists in Iowa gradually adopted direct and creative methods of suffrage work in order to give publicity to the movement. During the late nineteenth century, suffrage leaders struggled to engage rural Iowans with the cause. They preferred to work within their own social circles at the state level. Their efforts garnered few results as suffrage leaders failed to attract a wide base of support for the cause and struggled to balance proper feminine behavior with more radical political activism. Eventually, suffrage leaders in local communities took measured steps toward more dramatic public demonstrations in order to get word out about the cause. With the dawn of the twentieth century, suffragists stepped up efforts to publicize the cause further. They planned a parade and open-air meeting and took their message to Chautauquas, the Iowa State Fair, and small communities during an automobile tour of the state. Suffrage leaders realized that enfranchisement depended on the rural vote and that they had to bridge the gap between rural and urban to convince rural people to support woman suffrage. They had to educate and agitate the people through direct campaigns designed to fit the lifestyle of rural Iowans. They sought to build face-to-face relationships with the voters of Iowa in order to secure a suffrage victory. Finally, in 1916, suffrage work in Iowa culminated in one of the largest grassroots campaigns in the state's history with the passage of the suffrage bill in the Iowa General Assembly. Going door-to-door, suffragists hoped to convince rural people of the benefits of woman suffrage and secure their vote for the bill. Tailoring their message toward the values of rural communities, they argued that women required the right to vote as a protective measure for the home and family. For their part, rural men and women came out in droves to hear about suffrage and learn about its benefits. Demonstrating a high level of curiosity and enthusiasm, rural people wholeheartedly engaged with the movement. Farm people read about it in newspapers, leaflets, and billboards and listened to suffrage speakers and songs. They were keenly aware of the woman suffrage movement and developed strong convictions both for and against it. At the close of the suffrage bill campaign, suffragists continued to bring their message to the people of Iowa, especially through war work and Americanization efforts.
Egge, Sara, "The grassroots diffusion of the woman suffrage movement in Iowa: the IESA, rural women, and the right to vote" (2009). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 10489.