They said it couldn’t be done. Then they met the Suffs.

Whether you want to get to know the Suffs before seeing the musical, or want to dive in to learn more about the struggles and accomplishments of the characters you met on stage, start your journey of discovery right here.

Alice Paul, full-length portrait, standing, facing left, raising glass with right hand
Library of Congress: Alice Paul full-length portrait, standing, facing left, raising glass with right hand; 1920

They say well-behaved women seldom make history. Just ask the Suffs.

Library of Congress: Woman Suffrage Parade, Wash., D.C.; 1913

Forward by Elaine F. Weiss, suffrage scholar and author of the highly-acclaimed narrative history The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.

When the curtain rises on SUFFS, we witness the first, tense meeting of two of the greatest political leaders of the 20th century. Alice Paul is a headstrong 27-year-old activist with bold ideas. Carrie Chapman Catt, 53, is a protégé of Susan B. Anthony, the leader of the American woman suffrage movement, and one of the most famous women in the world. American women’s struggle to win the right to vote is entering its seventh decade, with a third generation of dedicated activists trying to convince the nation that “We The People” also includes women. After hundreds of state and local campaigns across the country, little progress has been made.

Paul and her generation of suffragists have had enough, challenging Catt’s plan of astute, but slow political persuasion. It is a clash of will, ego, strategy, and vision. Two brilliant women of different generations dedicated to the same cause, but convinced of their own methods of achieving equality. It falls on the dedicated Black suffragist Ida B. Wells to remind them of their obligation to fight for all women, not just white women. We are headed into the maelstrom of one of the most pivotal political battles in American history, with the enfranchisement of half of the citizens of the nation at stake.

Library of Congress: Suffragists with Flag; between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915

The fight for women’s suffrage is one of the defining civil rights struggles in our history, one that cuts to the heart of what Democracy means: who gets to participate in our government. Yet the debate over women’s suffrage was never just a political argument; it was also a social, cultural, and moral debate about women’s role in society. That debate is, of course, still ongoing.

SUFFS is a tale of women’s rights and voting rights, racism and sexism, political expediency, and moral obligation. It is about how citizens can work to make change; why protest is patriotic. The women of SUFFS try to answer the question they ask themselves: “How can we do it if it’s never been done?” A question for all of us to ponder today.

Timeline of the American Women’s Suffrage Movement


The first Women’s Rights Convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. There, 68 women and 32 men sign a Declaration of Sentiments modeled on the Declaration of Independence, which outlines grievances and sets the agenda for the women's rights movement.


The first National Women's Rights Convention takes place in Worcester, Massachusetts.


At a Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth, a former slave, delivers her now memorable speech, “Ain't I a woman?”


Carrie Chapman Catt is born.


The American Civil War grinds the women’s suffrage movement to a standstill.


The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, addressing citizenship rights and equal protection under the law.


The introduction of the 15th Amendment, which would enfranchise Black men, splinters the early women’s suffrage movement. The choice between universal rights or accepting the priority of Black male suffrage leads to the creation of two organizations: The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).


Wyoming becomes the first state to adopt women’s suffrage in its state constitution.


Utah grants women the right to vote at the state level.


The largest women’s organization at the time, The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), joins the general suffrage movement giving the effort an enormous boost.


The Woman’s Suffrage Amendment is introduced in Congress. Many more variations on a suffrage amendment are introduced and fail over the next several years.


Alice Paul is born.


After tensions dissipate, NWSA and AWSA combine to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. NAWSA’s mission is to lobby for women’s voting rights on a state-by-state basis.


Colorado grants women the right to vote at the state level.


The National Association of Colored Women (NACW) is formed to achieve equality for women of color.


Idaho grants women the right to vote at the state level.


Carrie Catt becomes the President of NAWSA.


Washington grants women the right to vote at the state level.


California grants women the right to vote at the state level.


Arizona and Oregon grant women the right to vote at the state level. 


The first-ever Women's March on Washington is held on Pennsylvania Avenue the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration calling for a federal suffrage amendment.


Alice Paul and Lucy Burns form the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. Their focus is lobbying for a federal constitutional amendment to secure the national right to vote for women.


Montana and Nevada grant women the right to vote at the state level. 


A revised Woman’s Suffrage Amendment fails again without President Wilson’s support.


Alice Paul breaks away from NAWSA, and renames the Congressional Union as the National Woman's Party (NWP). They begin to introduce some of the more radical tactics of the suffrage movement in Britain over the refusal of President Woodrow Wilson and other incumbent Democrats to actively support the Suffrage Amendment.


Inez Milholland dies. Her memorial is the first ever held at the U.S. Capitol for a woman.


The Suffs, calling themselves the Silent Sentinels, picket the White House in the United States first-ever silent protest. For two and a half years, more than 2,000 women protested Wilson. 


The United States enters WWI.


Alice Paul and other picketers are arrested over charges of “obstructing traffic” and taken to Occoquan Workhouse where they go on hunger strike and are forcibly fed.


North Dakota, New York, and Rhode Island grant women the right to vote at the state level.


WWI ends.


A revised Suffrage bill is introduced, this time with President Wilson’s support. The 1918 Suffrage Bill passed the House with only one vote to spare but failed the Senate by two votes.


Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Michigan grant women the right to vote at the state level.


The Woman Suffrage Amendment is passed by the House of Representatives and Senate.


Tennessee becomes the 36th state to ratify the Woman Suffrage Amendment, solidifying it into law.


The 19th Amendment is adopted and officially becomes part of the U.S. Constitution.

Meet The Suffs

Alice Paul

Co-founder and head of the National Woman’s Party (NWP).

Carrie Chapman Catt

President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

Ida B. Wells

Co-founder of the NAACP, prominent journalist and lynching rights activist.

Inez Milholland

Labor lawyer and socialite. The public face of the NWP.

Lucy Burns

Alice’s best friend and co-founder of the NWP.

Ruza Wenclawska

Polish factory union organizer in the NWP.

Doris Stevens

College student, writer, and secretary of the NWP.

Dudley Malone

President Wilson’s aide turned Suffrage ally.

Mary Church Terrell

American civil rights activist, journalist, and teacher.

Alva Belmont

Funder of the NWP

Mary “Mollie” Garrett Hay

Carrie’s second-in-command at NAWSA.

Phyllis Terrell

Suffragist and civil rights activist who worked alongside her mother, Mary Church Terrell

Other Historical Figures

Woodrow Wilson

28th President of the United States.

Harry Burn

Youngest member of the Tennessee state legislature who cast the deciding vote in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment.

Phoebe Burn

Mother of Harry Burn and the reason Harry Burn voted in favor of women’s suffrage.

Keep Marching

Stay engaged with the Suffs. Check out some of the books, documentaries, and podcasts that inspired the musical.

Jailed for Freedom by Doris Stevens

Uphill with Banners Flying by Inez Haynes Irwin

Alice Paul: Claiming Power by J.D. Zahniser and Amelia R. Fry.

African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn

From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights by Christine Lunardini


Alice Paul: Claiming Power by J.D. Zahniser and Amelia R. Fry.

Conversations with Alice Paul: Woman Suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment, interview conducted by Amelia R. Fry (Suffragists Oral History Project, UC Berkeley)



Carrie Chapman Catt: A Public Life by Jacqueline Van Voris

Carrie Catt: Feminist Politician by Robert Booth Fowler

Woman Suffrage and Politics: The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement by Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler



Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells by Ida B. Wells

Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula Giddings

To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells by Mia Bay

Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells by Michelle Duster



Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland by Linda J. Lumsden



A Colored Woman in a White World by Mary Church Terrell

Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell by Alison Parker

All In: The Fight for Democracy (Amazon Prime)

The Vote (PBS’ American Experience)

Educational One-Sheet

Take a deeper dive into the history of the Suffs, or use this educational one-sheet as a guide for discussions in your classroom.

Library of Congress: Sewing stars on suffrage flag; 1920