Who were the most influential suffragettes?
Numerous reformers had advocated the need for women's suffrage before 1848, but it was Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Declaration of Sentiments, read at the Seneca Falls Convention (organized by Stanton and Lucretia Mott) in that year, that first publicly demanded the right. Stanton therefore must be considered among the most important of the women's suffrage advocates. She tirelessly struggled for the right to vote for the rest of her life, becoming particularly vocal after the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments granted black men citizenship and the right to vote during the Civil War.
Another important suffrage advocate was Susan B. Anthony, a protege of Stanton who toured the nation giving countless speeches and lectures on the right to vote for women. Anthony also pursued a path of civil disobedience, casting her vote in defiance of the law in 1872. Like Stanton, Anthony died before the right to vote was extended to all women by the Nineteenth Amendment.
Another crucial leader in the suffrage movement was Carrie Chapman Catt, a follower of Anthony who nevertheless took a more conservative approach to securing the right to vote for women. Catt, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) worked primarily through political lobbying, and gave the movement a less radical (and more politically palatable) representative to mainstream politicians, including Woodrow Wilson, who threw his support behind woman suffrage in the wake of World War I.
Finally, Alice Paul, who had spent time in England with more militant suffragists like Emmeline Pankhurst, led a radical faction within the NAWSA that engaged in direct action, including civil disobedience and hunger strikes, during World War I. A strident opponent of Catt, Paul wanted a national amendment rather than pushing for suffrage at the state level.