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From Rights to Suffrage

Following the American Civil War, the United States ratified the Fourteenth Amendment June 13, 1866. In 1868 North Carolina adopted a new state constitution, which stipulated that women had the right to own property and businesses, work for their own wages, sue in courts, and make wills and contracts without their husband’s consent. Women did not, however, receive the right of enfranchisement as the constitution provided only for universal male suffrage.

In 1869 the National Prohibition Party formed at a convention in Chicago, becoming the first political party to accept women as members. That same year saw the American Woman Suffrage Association hold its first convention in Cleveland. AWSA formed to secure woman suffrage through state constitutions.

Local pockets of women’s suffrage activity surfaced in North Carolina. Black men in Wilmington formed the Cape Fear Lyceum, and members debated female suffrage. By 1870, the dichotomy between woman suffrage supporters and opponents began to show: an anti-suffrage letter by Fanny Murdaugh Downing, a Southern author and poet written from Asheville, contrasted with a letter written to a national suffrage magazine revealing many sympathizers in New Bern.

Major activities and events are listed chronologically. Each item is designated as either primarily national or North Carolina (US or NC).