Feminists and suffragists had agreed to suspend the women’s rights conventions until after the Civil War, but many of those same women continued the fight to abolish slavery. In 1863 two leading feminist reformers, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the Woman’s National Loyal League, the first national women’s political organization in the United States, to organize support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would end slavery forever.
At the May 1863 meeting of the newly formed Woman’s National Loyal League, Lucy Stone reminded the members that while women did not yet have the vote, they had what the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all citizens, the right to petition the government. The League’s other speakers likened them all to the women of the Revolution who “were not wanting in heroism and self-sacrifice.”
Stanton and Anthony laid the groundwork for the League by publishing an “Appeal to the Women of the Republic” in the New York Tribune, an anti-slavery newspaper. They then circulated the Appeal as a tract that included the call for the convention. Anthony opened the convention and nominated Lucy Stone as president of the meeting. Other officers of the convention included such well-known figures as Martha Wright, Amy Post, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Angelina Grimke and Ernestine Rose.
Nine months later, on February 9th 1864, the League’s first 100,000 signatures were delivered to Senator Charles Sumner in two trunks. Each contained a scroll of the amendment petitions glued end to end. He accepted the petitions with his speech The Prayer of 100,000. During the next two years, they enlisted the assistance of numerous other leading feminists. Widely praised for its work, the League ultimately collected some 400,000 signatures.
Before war’s end, their signatures, combined with other voices and pressure from Lincoln, persuaded the U.S. Senate (April 8, 1864) and the House of Representatives (January 31, 1865) to pass the Republican proposed Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. It was ratified by enough states to become law in December 1865.