Partial Suffrage and Full Citizenship?

After the New York state suffrage referendum passed in November of 1917, Carrie Chapman Catt greeted celebrants with the phrase “Fellow citizens!” and was promptly drowned out by cheering suffragists.1 As a leader of the national and international woman’s suffrage movement, Catt selected her words as carefully as any politician. Indeed, her language articulated what many men across the North Atlantic Triangle sought to avoid: an understanding of citizenship as gender neutral. Suffragists across the globe directly linked the vote and equal citizenship in international reform magazines like Jus Suffragii. Using suffrage periodicals, metropolitan newspapers and political speeches, this paper examines the debates concerning Canada’s Wartime Election Act, Great Britain’s Representation of the People Bill and New York State’s suffrage referendum from 1917 to 1918 and argues that the partial suffrage gains made during wartime prompted women to present themselves as citizens. The three different case studies expose the gender divide concerning the meaning of suffrage and emphasize the role of international connections in aiding the quest for female citizenship.