Carrie arrived in San Francisco in November 1912. This was a special time, for the women of California had won the right to vote in 1911 and were now voting for the first time. Carrie got to see her old friends among the California suffragists voting and encouraging other women to vote.
In six other states the male electorate was deciding whether to extend voting rights to women. Woman suffrage was defeated in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, but there were victories in Arizona, Kansas and Oregon. Women now had the same voting rights as men in nine of the 48 states, including five states that had been added in the last five years. The hopes for more successes were greater than they had ever been.
When Carrie came back to New York, the state Woman Suffrage Party welcomed her with a celebration at Carnegie Hall. She made a speech reporting on her two-year trip around the world. She told her audience that they shared “One Cause” with women everywhere, and now was the time to push harder than ever.
To her friends, Carrie seemed more rested and relaxed than before her trip. She was easier to talk to and reached out to people more often. She was ready to make her greatest accomplishments as a leader.
In 1913, the legislature of the state of Illinois granted the women of Illinois the right to vote in presidential elections. This was the first important victory for the suffrage movement east of the Mississippi. Carrie believed that the time had come for an all-out effort to win voting rights for women in New York State, which in those days was by far the most important state in the country. She decided to spend less time working with the International Alliance so that she could concentrate on organizing the suffragists in New York.
Carrie and her co-workers arranged for a referendum on woman suffrage to be held inNew York in November 1915. At that time the voters of New York, who of course were all men, would vote on the question of whether women in New York State should have voting rights. Carrie carefully planned a two-year campaign. Mary Garrett Hay organized New York City ward by ward, and Carrie traveled all around upstate New York making speeches and encouraging the local suffrage organizations.
For a time the start of a great war in Europe distracted the country and the suffrage workers. Like many other people, Carrie was deeply surprised by the start of the First World War. She believed that war had become so terribly destructive that the political leaders would not let a war begin. She was wrong. The politicians of Europe did not understand how great would be the costs of the horrible war they had begun.
The awful news of war was also, in a strange way, good news for Carrie. She knew that the International Alliance would have to shut down during the war and that she would be free to stay at home and lead the New York State campaign. The New York State Woman Suffrage Party set up a school for campaign workers. The state was divided into 12 large districts and a leader was appointed for each of the 150 State Assembly districts. The Assembly district leaders supervised some 5,500 local district captains. Every part of the state had someone who was responsible for organizing it.
By 1915, the New York State Suffrage Association had more than a quarter of a million members, about evenly divided between New York City and the rest of the state. Outside of the city there were 2000 full-time suffrage workers and 200 speakers.
Other good things were happening for the suffrage movement. Carrie persuaded two very important national organizations to declare their support for woman suffrage. These were the National Education Association, which was the main teachers’ organization, and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which was the largest organization of women in the country. It was getting harder and harder for opponents of woman suffrage to say that women did not want the vote!
Mrs. Frank Leslie, a wealthy woman who had for a long time admired Carrie’s work, died and left her large fortune for Carrie to spend on the suffrage movement. Carrie was thrilled when she learned this news.
Part of Mrs. Leslie’s estate included a collection of jewelry, diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Carrie and her friends in the office looked over and admired everything, then packed the jewels away to be sold. Although it would take several years to settle many claims and lawsuits against Mrs. Leslie’s estate, eventually Carrie received almost a million dollars that she was able to use in her suffrage work.
Just before the election in November 1915, the New York suffrage campaign climaxed with a huge parade in New York City. Thirty thousand women and five thousand male supporters marched up Fifth Avenue. Some of the women in the parade were wealthy and socially prominent. Others were workers – teachers, sales clerks, stenographers and nurses. Women from all parts of the city were joining together to fight for their rights.
On Election Day, the men of New York voted against the equal suffrage proposal. There were defeats at the same time in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. But in all of those states except Massachusetts, the vote had been close. Carrie was encouraged, not disappointed. She started working immediately for another vote in New York to be held in two years. “Victory in 1917” was the slogan she announced to a large and enthusiastic meeting. One hundred thousand dollars was raised on the spot to get the new campaign going. She was confident that one more push would bring success in New York.