The Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana was formed in 1911 after a merger and name change with an already existing suffrage league, The Woman’s School League of Indiana. This pre-existing group’s purpose was to strengthen the bond between the community members and the local school. The League was comprised of women who wanted to see change in their local communities. In all areas lending to the development of children, education around the conditions of local schools and the needs of the students, the league wanted to secure some form of agency over operations. In their constitution from 1911, the work that the League board and the branches focused on was “to bring such force to bear upon members of the legislature that they will espouse a bill for women’s municipal suffrage.”
The Woman’s School League of Indiana wanted to secure the right for women to be elected to school boards and hold any form of elected office regarding the education of their city or town, such as school commissioner. In 1910, according to several Indiana newspapers, the League prepared to educate the women of Indiana by distributing 30,000 leaflets and pamphlets. While this was seen as the first steps towards women’s suffrage on a larger scale, the League focused on promoting the idea that women should have a voice in the affairs of Indiana schools. In response to legislative defeat regarding influence in school administration in the state, the League chose to refocus their efforts from school administration to women’s franchise as a whole.
In the summer of 1911, The Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana, which was associated with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, formed and adopted a new constitution. The state league would work towards women’s suffrage in Indiana until the passing of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution in August of 1920.
Women Suffrage at the National Level
As Indiana was increasing its focus on women’s voting rights in the early years of the 20th century, change was afoot on the national stage as well. From the nation’s earliest days, concern about women’s rights existed amongst portions of the population. In addition to property, education, and marital rights, suffrage became an area of concern for many women.
While the term “suffrage” is not regularly used in daily language today, for citizens in the 19th and 20th centuries, the word was commonplace. Simply put, suffrage is the right to vote in political elections. Often, the word “franchise” was used interchangeably. No matter the term used, advocates and members of suffrage and franchise leagues all worked towards the common goal of securing the right to vote for women.
After the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, women’s rights advocates gave more attention to the issue of suffrage. It wasn’t until the 1860s, however, that national organizations working exclusively for women’s right to vote emerged. After a rocky start, the two leading national groups merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in the 1890s. By 1900 only a small handful of states and territories had granted women some form of suffrage.
As the country entered the second decade of the 20th century, a new energy was injected into the national suffrage arena. The NAWSA remained a strong force at the national level, and a new more militant group named the Congressional Union (later the National Woman’s Party) emerged as well. With new women and supporters entering the fray, suffragists began looking for innovative ways to spread their message and appeal to politicians. While some looked towards more militant action, others found ways to harness modern marketing and branding strategies to strengthen their message. From national groups all the way to local organizations, suffragists worked to move the movement closer to securing voting rights for women.