Event—Scholarly Seminars

Karen Pastorello, Tompkins Cortland Community College


“Moving Heaven and Earth”: The Uses of Religion in the New York Woman Suffrage Campaign, Karen Pastorello

This article argues that religion, a strategic concern for suffragists since the inception of the movement, was one of the most important factors in winning woman’s suffrage in New York. Motivated by their individual experiences with religion as well as by their quest for full equality, early leaders such as Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton challenged orthodox Christian beliefs risking the alienation of Church leaders and even suffragists with more moderate views. Nevertheless, early on, suffragists recognized the necessity of formulating their strategies to draw clergymen and the faithful into the woman suffrage movement. As the state’s population grew more diverse, it became imperative to move beyond appealing to only Protestant denominations. With the defeat of New York’s first woman suffrage referendum in 1915, Empire State Campaign leader Carrie Chapman Catt realized that without the full support of the state’s religious leaders and their congregants, woman suffrage could not be won. Suffrage leaders immediately devised new tactics to attract priests and rabbis and their immigrant followers into the suffrage coalition that made the 1917 victory in New York possible. By providing a general overview, this work is intended to serve as a starting point for those interested in analyzing the impacts of specific religions on the suffrage movement in New York State.

Respondent: Heath Carter, Princeton Theological Seminary