116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
I am writing in response to the article by Vanessa Miller ('First Up for renaming debate at Iowa State: Catt Hall,” March 15). Ms. Miller quotes from two requests to rename Catt Hall that express common misperceptions that the 19th Amendment enfranchised only white women and that Catt supported this goal.
Carrie Chapman Catt grew up in Iowa and graduated from Iowa State in 1880. She was president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) from 1900-1904 and 1915-1920. Catt designed its 'Winning Plan” that led to the 19th Amendment's ratification.
The 19th Amendment did not enfranchise white women only. Catt opposed any effort to insert the word 'white” into the amendment. Moreover, the South was steadfastly opposed to suffrage because it would enfranchise African American women and thus undermine its system of white supremacy.
African American suffrage organizations were members of the NAWSA. On several occasions, Catt advocated for suffrage for all Americans irrespective of race or ethnicity, and as a member of the Committee of 100 in New York, she asked upon Congress to enforce the 15th Amendment. Catt's support of African Americans' voting rights was cited by her opponents in state ratification debates.
The 19th Amendment is the single largest expansion of voting rights in the nation's history, enfranchising some 26 million Americans. Approximately 500,000 African American women lived in states - including Iowa - that did not restrict voting rights and were able to vote in 1920.
Thank you for this opportunity to refute these oft-repeated misperceptions.
Karen M. Kedrowski, Ph.D.
Director, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics
Iowa State University