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Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Carrie Chapman Catt And The 1918 Pandemic

The flu pandemic of 1918 hit the suffrage movement hard.

Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, extremely ill with the flu herself, wrote from her sick room, “This new affliction… is presenting a serious new obstacle…We must therefore be prepared for failure.”

Not all suffragists were so disheartened. The Illinois Equal Suffrage Association held their annual conference anyway, albeit with social distancing protocols in place. Only one hundred delegates were allowed at the conference and the general public was barred. Chairs were spaced four feet apart.

The Chicago Tribune reported, however, that “Suffragists Scorne[d] [the] Flu by Convening without Masks.”