Suffragette Remembered: Carrie Chapman Catt of New Rochelle

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Sydell Hertzberg, moderator for the February 15 meeting of the Huguenot and New Rochelle Historical Association, was honored with a New York State Assembly Citation presented by Assemblyman George Latimer.  A talk about a famous person, Cary Chapman Catt, who lived in New Rochelle followed.   

Nat Levin, author of “Carrie Chapman Catt, A Lifetime of Leadership,” characterized Catt as most important for both the suffragette movement and for her “fight” for women’s right to vote.  In l916 when President Wilson won a close election many people believed that woman’s votes in states that gave women the right to vote had helped Wilson win.  The Democratic Party then gave more support for women’s suffrage.  Acknowledging the obvious need for the United States to help England and France in the war (World War I) against Germany, Catt along with other groups began to campaign for Americans to assist in the war.  Not surprisingly, the Women’s Peace Party which she had helped start, asked her to resign and she did.  

Since purpose of World War I was to save democracy, more people began to believe that women’s right to vote should be a part of this democracy.  The suffrage amendment was finally passed in both houses of Congress in l9l9.  By 1920 when the amendment was approved by the State of Tennessee, the total number of states giving approval was enough to give women in this country the right to vote.

Catt’s death at 88 years old did not end her “fight.”  Instead it became “more successful after her death.”  Before her death she helped guide the newly formed League of Women Voters. In l921 she made a powerful speech to the League stressing that women should step forward to say, ‘No you shall no longer kill your fellow men!’  She wrote many letters to warn about the treatment Jewish people were receiving during the second world war. 

She died locally, at her home in New Rochelle. Her life of caring was reflected by the many miles she traveled for the things she believed in.  She is one of an impressive list of famous people who have claimed New Rochelle as their home.