100 years ago today, the 19th amendment to the constitution gave women the right to vote.

When we think of the women’s suffrage movement, we often think of the “big” names like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But behind the more famous faces, there were thousands upon thousands of other women fighting for the cause. Let’s look at a couple of the lesser-known great women who made up the backbone of the women’s suffrage movement.

Jane Addams

Jane Addams


Born into an affluent family, Addams decided to work as a reformer instead of being a lady of leisure.

This led her to found Hull House in 1889, a Chicago sanctuary for immigrants. From her base in Hull House, she set out to fight for progressive social issues such as suffrage, better labor conditions, and cleaner city streets, among others.

Photo of Jane Addams from the Library of Congress.

See this great page from the National Parks Service for lots more information.

And check out this page for biographies of more suffragists you should know.

Many times, when talking about the suffrage movement, women of color are not mentioned. Well, they were out there fighting, too! Of course, even after the 19th amendment was passed, women of color still had to fight for equal voting rights because of their color.

Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell


After attending Oberlin College as a young woman and becoming one of the first African American women to earn a college degree, Terrell moved to Washington, D.C., and became involved in the suffrage movement. In the 1880s and 1890s, a schism occurred in the women’s rights movement over the issue of race and education. In 1896, Terrell and other activists formed the National Association of Colored Women, of which Terrell was the first president.

Photo of Mary Church Terrell from the Library of Congress.

See this great page from the National Museum of African American History & Culture for more African American suffrage heroes.

Be sure to check out our blog post about a traveling poster exhibit from the Smithsonian called Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence that will be coming to our library in the future.