The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives Receiving a Deputation of Female Suffragists, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
On this date, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to address a congressional committee. Woodhull was one of the more colorful suffrage figures of the era: an advocate of free love, the first woman stockbroker on Wall Street, a self-proclaimed “medical clairvoyant,” and the first woman presidential candidate, nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1872. Wealthy, forthright, and persuasive, she spent several months in the capital agitating for woman suffrage, and convinced the Judiciary Committee's Benjamin Butler
—a high-ranking, Massachusetts Republican who would later chair the panel—to allow her to deliver her “Woodhull memorial” in person. Flanked by suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Isabella Beecher Hooker, Woodhull declared before the committee that the 14th and 15th Amendments implicitly granted women the right to vote. She believed that “whereas the continuance of the enforcement of [local laws] denying and abridging the right of citizens to vote on account of sex, is a grievance to your memorialist and to various other persons” that the committee should draft legislation granting women the vote. Only Butler and Representative William Loughridge
, an Iowa judge, supported the proposal. Their minority report recommended “that female citizens . . . are competent voters. . . .” The committee, however, overwhelmingly voted to table the request. For several weeks afterward suffragists descended on Capitol Hill, according to the New York Times
, setting up headquarters in a room belonging to the House Committee on Education. In early February, the House rejected an appeal by Woodhull to use the chamber to deliver a suffrage address. Women nationally were not granted suffrage until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.