Voting is a sacred right held by the citizens of the United States and a promise from the nation’s founding as a democratic republic. Even the USPOD and USPS have reminded citizens of the importance of voting. On August 1, 1964, a new stamp was issued to remind people to register to vote. Four years later, Postmaster General W. Marvin Watson said, “The register and vote stamp is a reminder of the privilege and responsibility that voting entails.” Both stamps were issued in a presidential election year (Figure 1).
Figure 1. In past presidential election years, the USPS has issued stamps serving as a reminder of this civic duty. Left: A first day of issue cancellation of the 1964 Register Vote stamp (Scott 1249); Right: A first day of issue cancellation of the 1968 Register & Vote stamp (Scott 1344).
Because of the power that comes with the vote in a democratic republic, leaders and lawmakers of the colonies and then the states wanted to keep the power to a limited few – in the early years of the U.S., specifically property-owning white men. Except for a few instances where states allowed women to vote in local and state elections, women, with the notable early example of Abigail Adams in 1776, struggled for over 144 years to be included in all state and national elections.
Abigail Adams – America’s First Fully Emancipated Woman
Abigail and John Adams owned a small farm in Quincy, Massachusetts. When John became involved in politics, they wrote letters daily, leaving behind an incredible record of women’s lives at that time. Adams’ letters describe her running the farm; raising and educating their four children; caring for neighbors in sickness and death; and spying and reporting to John about actions by the British navy in the Boston harbor.
On March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams wrote the following to John, who was in Philadelphia as the Massachusetts representative to the Continental Congress which was debating the question of independence:
Remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
Adams’ letter does more than imply that women wouldn’t pay taxes without representation – a significant colonial argument for independence from Britain – she clearly stated that women won’t obey “any law [they had not] voice or representation” in creating. Fred Collins described Adams on his hand painted cachet in Figure 2 as “America’s first fully emancipated woman.” Most Americans know Adams as the first Second Lady, the second First Lady, and for her son, who also became president. Fewer Americans know of this letter encouraging John Adams to fight for the equal representation of women through the vote.
The USPS recognized Adams’ role in history with this commemorative stamp designed by Bart Forbes of Dallas, Texas, under the art direction of Stevan Dohanos. This first-class stamp, valued at 22¢, was issued in panes of 50 on June 14, 1985, in Quincy, Massachusetts. Cachet maker Fred Collins created this first day cover as a combo cover. He chose the second postmark location, Whitehouse, New Jersey, because the Adams were the first presidential family to live in the official executive residence, the White House. Other cachets for Scott 2146 can be found from first day cover dealers and online stores.
Figure 2. Abigail Adams is America's first fully emancipated woman in this combo FDC designed by Fred Collins.
Seneca Falls, 1848
The “rebellion” Abigail Adams spoke of coalesced 72 years later, on July 19 and 20, 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized what was called a “women’s rights” convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Mott, who with Stanton had experienced gender discrimination as delegates to an anti-slavery convention in London eight years prior, suggested that they hold a convention to discuss the role of women in society and the barriers they face. With the help of other local women, Jane Hunt, Mary Ann M’Clintock, and Mott’s sister Martha Coffin, they planned the two-day convention, created advertising posters, and verbally spread the word about the convention. Stanton wrote what would become known as the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments. Three hundred attendees, both women and men, gathered at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls to discuss this document, which was based on the format and words of the Declaration of Independence:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
The document listed a variety of grievances against mankind – discrimination against women in education, employment, religion, property, marriage and most importantly, the denial to women of the right of the elective franchise (taxation without representation). Like the Declaration of Independence, the signers (68 women and 32 men) pledged to use what powers and rights they had, such as freedom of speech, press, petition and assembly, to bring about change. As a side note, Frederick Douglass was one of the men/signers in attendance. He had come from Rochester, New York, to take notes on the convention for his newspaper, The North Star. It is thanks to his documentation that history has detailed notes of the convention and a copy of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments. The original copy has not been found.
Developing the Susan B. Anthony “Suffrage” Stamp
Before I discuss the well-known Progress of Women stamp issued for the 100th anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention, I shall explain some important context to that stamp’s development: the prior relationship of the Post Office Department to stamps for women suffragists, as documented in the National Postal Museum archives in Washington, D.C.
Beginning in 1934, the chairman of the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Committee, Ethel Adamson of the National Woman’s Party, began a letter writing campaign to Postmaster General James Farley and Third Assistant Postmaster Clinton Eilenberger. She enlisted several other organizations, such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, women’s business organizations, and teacher groups. Adamson’s goal was to put in motion a stamp honoring their “patriotic hero” Susan B. Anthony on her 115th birthday, February 15, 1935. Hundreds of letters were sent out, not only to Post Office officials but to senators and representatives enlisting their support, which they gave by sending additional letters to Farley or Eilenberger. By September of 1934, Eilenberger’s replies were largely the same: it is too late in the year to decide on a stamp for February 1935, but they may consider an Anthony stamp “if conditions are found favorable later for such an issue, the desired action will be taken.” In her frustration, Adamson sent a letter on February 7, 1935, asking for a list of the women and men – besides presidents – who had been depicted on stamps. Eilenberger’s reply only reinforced the Committee’s belief that women of importance were ignored by the post office, for he could only list Martha Washington, Pocahontas, Isabella (Queen of Spain) and Whistler’s Mother. There were 23 men.
The Committee began writing again, asking for a stamp honoring Anthony’s 116th birthday. Eilenberger replied to every letter, but in another reply to Adamson on September 13, 1935, he wrote, “This matter will be taken under advisement, but it is impossible this far in advance of the date of the anniversary to render any decision as to the provision of a special postage stamp in accordance with your suggestion” – the opposite of his response the year before. In frustration, the Committee began to write to President Franklin Roosevelt, hoping he would use his influence on Farley or Eilenberger.
A new opportunity arose after March 7, 1936, when President Roosevelt announced a new series of stamps to be issued honoring naval and military heroes, including Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Over twenty representatives from women’s organizations, led by Adamson, marched into Eilenberger’s office demanding a stamp “for a true patriot, Susan B. Anthony, rather than treasonous Confederate generals.” When the president was informed of their actions and demands, he said, “By all means authorize the stamp immediately before those ardent ladies reach the White House.”  Finally the stamp was issued on August 26, 1936.
Developing the “Suffrage” Stamp with Mott, Stanton and Catt
The Progress of Women stamp, issued on July 19, 1948, was no less of a battle. It had been 12 years since the Susan B. Anthony stamp was issued. The Post Office had rejected calls for individual stamps for other suffrage leaders like Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Post Office did include three women in the 1940 Famous Americans series: author Louisa May Alcott, educator Francis Willard and scientist Jane Addams. Finally, eight years later (in late March 1948), the Post Office announced a stamp celebrating the Progress of Women with Stanton and Mott as the featured individuals (Figure 3).
Figure 3 (Above left). The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) original design of the Progress of Women stamp. Figure 4 (Right). The BEP final approved design, incorporating a last minute addition of Carrie Chapman Catt's portrait. The new design, along with Catt's portrait, speaks to the more general "Progress of Women" instead of the Seneca Falls convention, specifically.
The National Woman’s Party was excited to finally have a stamp honoring two more suffragists, but almost as soon as the stamp was announced, its leaders began to receive letters from women and organizations, asking that suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt be added to the design. Catt had led the final charge for ratification of the 19th Amendment. She had created and led the League of Women Voters from 1920 to her death in 1947. There was also a fear that Catt would never be honored by the Post Office. Edna Stantial of the Woman’s Journal Fund Committee immediately wrote to President Truman and Postmaster General Donaldson on March 29, forwarding her message through George W. Coleman (of the Ford Hall Forum and a close friend of the President’s Administrative Assistant, David Niles) and Alice Stone Blackwell (journalist and daughter of suffragist Lucy Stone). Stantial detailed Catt’s role in the suffrage movement. She asked that Catt’s portrait be included in the Progress of Women stamp .
By April 6, both David Niles and Postmaster General Donaldson had received and acknowledged Stantial’s position. Unlike the Farley and Eilenberger decisions, Catt’s portrait was approved as an addition to the stamp in less than a single month and announced to the public by June 11 (Figure 4).
In a brief letter a year after the stamp’s release, on April 8, 1949, Stantial credits David Niles as the one who “really [was] responsible for our getting Mrs. Catt included on that postage stamp.” She details how Niles went through a change of heart: “He wrote that there was no possible chance of a separate stamp for Mrs. Catt last year because of the one planned for Mrs. Mott and Mrs. Stanton. He said the design for that stamp had been drawn and that it was too late to add Mrs. Catt’s picture . . . after a good deal of lobbying, we got word that ‘if it could possibly be done Dave would see that Mrs. Catt’s portrait was added.’”
The stamp was designed/engraved by Victor S. McCloskey, Jr. Carl T. Alt engraved the vignette or “picture story,” and James S. Edmondson engraved the lettering. The final design was approved by Postmaster General Donaldson on June 1, 1948. It was released on July 19, 1948, twenty-eight years after the 19th Amendment had been approved, in Seneca Falls, NY.
As I collect first day covers for this stamp issue, I have found, interestingly enough, that the majority of the cachets only include portraits of Stanton and Mott. Edna Stantial herself offers an explanation for this: in her 1949 letter, she implies that the quick turnaround of the new design left little time for cachet designers to add Carrie Chapman Catt. “The first-day cover in some instances carried only the pictures of Mrs. Stanton and Mrs. Mott, you may remember, since they were prepared before the o.k. was given to include Mrs. Catt’s portrait.”
Figure 5. This FDC's Artmaster cachet only depicts Stanton and Mott, but has autographs from relatives of all three stamp honorees.
This Artmaster cachet (Figure 5) included details of the Seneca Falls convention with portraits of Stanton and Mott, the image of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, and an image depicting the convention with both female and male attendees. Also, as many collectors will agree, autographs add to the excitement of finding any cover. On this cover, Anna Lord Strauss was the great granddaughter of Lucretia Mott, Nora Stanton Barney was a granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Ruhe Linn was a niece of Carrie Chapman Catt. All three were present for the stamp’s release at the Seneca Falls Post Office .
Enter Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
Three years after the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, Susan Brownell Anthony was living in Rochester, New York, asking “What service can I render humanity; what can I do to help right the wrongs of society?” The Anthony home became a meeting place for a variety of guests such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, speaking on topics of temperance and anti-slavery.
1852 was a pivotal year for Anthony, who organized and led the first New York Woman Temperance Convention with Stanton’s help, and attended her first Women’s Rights Convention at Syracuse, New York. By 1853, Anthony was immersed in the women’s movement, acting as the finance chair for a woman’s rights committee, organizing speaking engagements throughout southern New York, and securing signatures on petitions. As Stanton and Mott were married with family responsibilities, Anthony became the “front woman” and expanded her role to doing those jobs all over the United States for the next 52 years.
In 1872, Anthony was arrested, along with ten other women, in Rochester, New York, for voting. Anthony gave an impassioned speech about the rights she was denied, starting with the fact that the jury did not include any of “her peers.” The judge found her guilty, not even giving the all-male jury the chance to discuss the facts.
In 1905 as the suffrage association officers were traveling by train to New York, Anthony insisted on stopping in Washington D.C. to meet with President Theodore Roosevelt, who was willing to meet with her to discuss the issue of suffrage. Anthony went in prepared. Her agenda included asking Roosevelt for more speeches including the issue of suffrage; more appointments of women to commissions; and a committee to investigate why women successfully vote in the western United States.
Then she said, “Before you leave the presidential chair, recommend Congress to submit to the Legislatures a Constitutional Amendment which will enfranchise women.” He replied, “Miss Anthony, I have not the slightest intention of doing so.” Anthony responded that she hoped “he would not be a candidate again!” 
To honor the 50th anniversary of this meeting, the USPOD issued a 50¢ stamp with Anthony’s portrait (Figure 6), in Louisville, Kentucky, on August 25, 1955. The stamp, designed by Charles Chickering, used a portrait from the Library of Congress. The hand drawn and painted cachet is by William Nelson Wright and is signed by Chickering.
Figure 6. This 1955 stamp and cover celebrate Anthony's achievements on the 50th anniversary of her disappointing meeting with Theodore Roosevelt. Designed by William Nelson Wright.
On February 15, 1906, the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NASWA) annual convention in New York City celebrated Anthony’s 86th birthday. In failing health, and though she had given over 50 years of her life to the movement, Anthony knew she would not see the passage of an amendment giving women the right to vote. Anthony encouraged the next generation to continue the fight: “There have been others just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible.” 
Susan B. Anthony died on March 13, 1906, and the stamp honoring her work toward the 19th amendment, as described above, was issued on August 26, 1936. The stamp was issued on the “sweet sixteenth” anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, a decision which angered many collectors. In letters to Linn’s Weekly Stamp News, collectors wrote that historically a document was not honored by the USPOD until the 50th or 100th anniversary. Some wondered if President Roosevelt was trying to remind women to vote for him in the upcoming November election. 
The stamp, shown on a FDC in Figure 7, was issued from the Ben Franklin Post Office, Washington, D.C., and over 197,000 covers were canceled. This first day of issue cover was created by Robert Beazell. He is known for his cachets made from photos and printed onto his homemade envelopes. This photo of Anthony was taken in her last year of life and was the most popular picture used on cachets.
Figure 7. Left: This 1936 Suffrage for Women/Susan B. Anthony stamp was the first to use a sculpture created by a living artist, Adelaide Johnson. It received pushback from collectors for celebrating the "sweet sixteenth" anniversary of the 19th Amendment - an unusual anniversary for such a commemoration. Right: The cachet, designed by Robert Beazell, features a photo of Susan B. Anthony that can be found on several similar covers.
The Younger Generation – Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) & Alice Paul (1885-1977)
After Anthony’s death, the younger generation did in fact take over the movement. Carrie Chapman Catt, a school teacher and then-superintendent of Mason, Iowa, schools, joined the suffrage movement in the 1880s. By 1900, Catt had been elected president of the NASWA where she served until 1904, then again from 1915-1920. Catt’s goal was to use the methods laid out by Anthony – continue to work with state suffrage organizations, provide speakers and money for publicity, petition state and national legislatures, and speak face to face with male legislators as to why women need to vote. The plan was to pressure more states, just like those in the western U.S., to allow women to vote one by one. Then, in her mind, a constitutional amendment would be a natural next step.
As mentioned above, Catt is the middle portrait in the Progress of Women stamp depicted in Figure 8. As a first day of issue, it was hand canceled in Seneca Falls, New York, at 9:00 a.m. Present at the ceremony was 3rd Assistant PM Joseph Lawler, the Superintendent of Division of Stamps Robert F. Fellers, and Herbert S. Chamberlin, Assistant Superintendent of Division of Stamps. The hand drawn and painted cachet is the second of two created by William Nelson Wright, one of a “young Catt” and another, as shown, of the “elder Catt.” His first cachet used the 1945 FDR stamp.
Figure 8. The second of two "Catt" cachets by William Nelson Wright, using the Progress of Women stamp.
Another woman representing the next generation of women’s suffrage was Alice Paul, a Quaker from New Jersey. Young, and trained in the British women’s suffrage movement, Paul returned to the U.S. in 1910 determined to change the methods of the suffrage establishment. NAWSA’s – and Catt’s – path to suffrage was too mild for Paul. By 1913, Paul had put together a pageant and parade that would march down Pennsylvania Avenue, demanding a constitutional amendment. This was the second protest parade held in the nation’s capital. It took place on March 3, 1913, one day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, effectively putting the president-elect on notice that a new generation of woman suffragists were rising up. That day was marred by violence from the hostile male crowd, prompting a congressional investigation into the D.C. police’s lack of protection for the marchers. But Paul’s goal – to put suffrage back in the news – was successful, as headlines from national papers show.
NAWSA refused to back Paul’s plan for continued peaceful protest, so in 1916 Paul and others formed the National Woman’s Party. Although the NWP used many methods, their peaceful civil disobedience kept the issue in the news. “Silent Sentinels” were posted in front of the White House, in all weather and in the face of threats, taunts and physical violence. This was the first time that anyone had picketed at the White House. Their banners asked “Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for their Liberty?” and “Mr. President What Will you do for Woman Suffrage?” When Wilson took the nation to war, banners questioned how Wilson’s slogan “Make the World Safe for Democracy” was possible when democracy in the U.S. did not include women. After the Sentinels, including Paul, were jailed, the women went on hunger strikes, treatment that made the news, and the women were released. Undaunted by their time in prison, they went right back to picketing at the White House.
Finally, in June 1919, President Wilson asked Congress to release to the states the “Susan B. Anthony” amendment giving women the right to vote. Whether it was the organized state-by-state work of Catt’s team, the daily use of civil disobedience by Paul’s team or the war-time volunteering efforts of women across the country, the federal government decided to let the states decide the issue. Should women have the right to vote?
Both suffrage organizations ramped up their efforts. Catt mobilized her volunteers based on states that were “on the fence.” She was confident that the western states would vote yes, so it boiled down to Tennessee. They took over the top floor of a hotel in Nashville and worked each legislator. The anti-suffrage liquor lobby took over the floor just below and served beer 24 hours a day to legislators. But finally, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to vote yes, and the amendment’s ratification was certified by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby on August 26, 1920.
On August 18, 1995, the 75th anniversary of Tennessee approving the 19th Amendment, the USPS issued this stamp for Alice Paul (Figure 9). It was designed and illustrated by Chris Calle and engraved by Martin Morck as part of the Great Americans series. It was postmarked from her birthplace, Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. The hand drawn and painted cachet by Fred Collins portrays Alice and other women of the National Woman’s Party sewing the 36th star on the NWP banner that was unfurled at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., in celebration of that vote in 1920.
Figure 9. A Fred Collins-designed cachet for the first day of issue of the 1995 Alice Paul stamp celebrates Tennessee's role in passing the 19th Amendment.
Including African-American Suffragists in the Narrative
It is difficult to weave a story of the suffrage movement when so many women and men were involved. In recent years the USPS has issued several stamps honoring suffragists, but not necessarily for their work in suffrage: Lucy Stone, Dr. Mary Walker, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Jane Adams, Ida B. Wells, Julia Ward Howe, Frances Willard and Frederick Douglass, just to name a few. In recent years, and some in response to the #Me2Movement, several historians and editorialists have published works detailing the racist nature of the suffrage movement. Even though Stanton, Mott and Anthony were abolitionists and worked for the freedom of enslaved people, including the passage of the 13th Amendment (abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude), they did not support and actively worked against the 15th Amendment (the right to vote shall not be denied on account of race or previous condition of servitude). They were appalled that African-American men would receive the right to vote over white women. This belief caused a split in the suffrage movement, as many leaders did not agree with Stanton’s and Anthony’s position. Those who believed that Black men should be given the right to vote, like Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, formed the American Woman Suffrage Association. That split was not healed until 1890 when the two organizations formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association. But even then, African-American women suffragists were never included as leaders in the national or state organizations.
In 1866, poet, lecturer and civil rights activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper spoke at the 11th National Woman’s Rights convention in New York City. Being born free, Harper did not fit the stereotype of a former enslaved women, as Sojourner Truth did. Harper’s speech, which called for white women to be “lifted out of their airy nothings and selfishness,” was not included in The History of Woman Suffrage by Stanton and Anthony (published in volumes from 1881-1922).
Educator and civil rights/suffrage activist Mary Church Terrell created the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 to organize and educate African-American women on the importance of suffrage, which she saw as essential to elevating the status of African-American women, and consequently, all Black Americans. She even picketed the Wilson White House with members of the National Woman’s Party in her zeal for women’s suffrage. Terrell fought for suffrage and civil rights because she realized that she belonged “to the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount . . . both sex and race.” 
Figure 10. Civil Rights activist Mary Church Terrell, depicted in the 2009 issue and Fred Collins cachet here, is also remembered for her suffrage activism.
Mary Church Terrell, while not celebrated specifically for her suffrage activism, is featured in the Figure 10 stamp, part of the USPS Civil Rights Pioneers series. The series was issued in 2009 to honor the 100th anniversary of the NAACP. Twelve leaders, including Terrell, were portrayed on six stamps designed by Greg Berger working with Art Director Ethel Kessler. The hand drawn and painted cachet was created by Fred Collins.
Instead of working together to organize all women, the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, with its focus on a state-by-state ratification, reinforced the Jim Crow laws and racial segregation of Southern states. State chapters of the NAWSA were allowed to set their own membership requirements, so Southern states could effectively block admission to African-American women. NAWSA did not want to offend white American legislators of the Southern states who would be voting on suffrage. Alice Paul’s suffrage parade also faced its own acts of discrimination. Northern state delegations only wanted “white women” marching for fear of angering southern state chapters.
Journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett of Chicago was a co-founder of the NAACP in 1909, but was turned away from marching with the Illinois chapter at the NWP parade in 1913. Once the march started, Wells stepped off the sidewalk and joined the Illinois group. African-American women did march with state chapters of Delaware, New York, West Virginia and Michigan. The African-American women from Howard University’s Delta Sigma Theta Sorority joined Mary Church Terrell in the education component of the parade.
The Ida B. Wells stamp, Figure 11, is the 13th issue of the Black Heritage Series. It was designed by Thomas Blackshear and issued from Chicago, where Wells had published her own newspaper, using it to awaken our nation’s consciousness about the horrors of lynching. Wells worked to educate African-American women on the power of the vote. This cachet is by ArtCraft.
Figure 11. An Artcraft-designed cachet for the Ida B. Wells FDC.
Suffrage Stamps After 1948
The USPOD began to issue stamps in 1847, a single year before the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. It was not until 1902 that a stamp was issued honoring (not just depicting) a woman, the same year that Elizabeth Cady Stanton died. By the time the Progress of Women stamp was issued, 101 years had passed from the first U.S. postage stamp. From Abigail Adams’ request to “Remember the Ladies” to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, a span of 144 years.
Figure 12. The cachet, (designer unknown) is hand drawn and celebrates the League of Women Voters, which continued educating women about the right to vote after the 19th Amendment was passed.
In the second half of the 20th century, the reluctance to issue stamps honoring suffragists all but disappeared. In 1970, on the 50th anniversary of the suffrage amendment, the USPS issued another stamp, Figure 12, designed by Ward Brackett, portraying a woman in the voting booth, along with suffragists in a car. It was issued from Susan B. Anthony’s birthplace, Adams, Massachusetts. The cachet promotes the League of Women Voters, an organization started by Carrie Chapman Catt after closing up the NASWA. Then again in 1995, the 75th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the USPS issued a stamp – the first designed on an Apple computer – by April Greiman (Figure 13). Greiman was well known for her collages, overlaying images from the suffrage movement with powerful sentiments that the women had fought for: Equality, Freedom, Progress. The cachet is hand drawn and painted by Melissa Fox – a combo cover with the official cancellation from Washington, D.C., and then at the St. Louis Stamp Show.
Figure 13 (left). A combo cover by Melissa Fox, canceled in St. Louis and Washington, D.C., for the 1995 stamp celebrating 75 years of women's suffrage. Figure 14 (right). A Fred Collins cachet for the 1998 Celebrate the Century stamp.
In 1998, in the USPS Celebrate the Century series (Figure 14), the 1920s was remembered in part with a stamp honoring women’s right to vote. As seen in the Fred Collins cachet, there was quite a celebration for the passing of the amendment on August 26, 1920.
Now, this year, the USPS chose to release a stamp celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, designed by Nancy Stahl under Art Director Ethel Kessler’s guidance. Stahl used the National Woman’s Party banner with its traditional gold and purple strips, along with the stars representing the 36 ratifying states and an image of women marching. During an APS Virtual Stamp Show presentation, Stahl explained how important it was to make sure that an African-American suffragist was visible in the line of marchers. The stamp was issued in a virtual ceremony on August 22, 2020, at Seneca Falls, New York, during the celebration of Equality Weekend.
As a first day cover collector interested in women’s suffrage, I took the opportunity to make a first day cover for this issue (Figure 15). I live summers in western Wyoming, so I created a cachet celebrating Wyoming’s suffrage history. My local post office sold me the stamp on August 22 and allowed me to hand cancel the cover. This FDC will have a special place in my collection, to serve as a reminder of the thousands of women who made it possible for me to have the right to vote. Just as the USPOD and USPS has reminded citizens of this right, the philatelic commemorations of the struggle for U.S. suffrage should do the same, and remind all citizens, male and female, to exercise their right to vote in local, state and national elections.
A Kris McIntosh-designed cachet recognizing Wyoming’s role in suffrage history for the 100th anniversary stamp issued in 2020.
Note 1. Baur, Brian B. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Stamps of the United States, 1933-1945.
Note 2. These letters are part of the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers in the Library of Congress Manuscript department, available online (http://aps.buzz/LOCCattPapers).
Note 3. Syracuse, New York, newspaper articles describing the event are available at Ancestry.com.
Note 4. Harper, Ida H. Life & Work of Susan B. Anthony, Vol. 3.
Note 5. As reported in Carmela Karnoutsos’ article “Happy Birthday, Susan B. Anthony,” New York Times (April 8, 1979).
Note 6. The archives of the American Philatelic Research Library has files from multiple journals recording these objections.
Note 7. Michals, Debra, PhD. “Mary Church Terrell,” National Women’s History Museum (2017). Online.
The header image is "Woman Suffrage / Bonfire on Sidewalk Before White House," from the Harris & Ewing photograph collection, courtesy of Library of Congress.
The article "The Fight for Women's Right to Vote" by Kris McIntosh was published in the October 2020 issue of The American Philatelist. The full issue is available to read here.