Many times throughout history, talented teachers earn national recognition for achievements outside of the classroom. Such is certainly the case for Carrie Chapman Catt, a schoolteacher from Iowa who labored tirelessly to earn the vote for women.
She was born Carrie Clinton Lane in Ripon, Wisconsin, to parents Lucius and Maria Louisa Lane. Carrie was raised in Charles City, Iowa, where her family had moved when she was seven.
After high school, Carrie graduated from Iowa State Agricultural College, having worked her way through school as a teacher in the summer months. Her father, a subsistence farmer, contributed only $25 a year to her education, partly because he didn’t have a lot of financial resources, but mostly because he didn’t believe in advanced education for girls. But the young woman was determined to get a college degree. After her graduation, she continued to teach, earning a stellar reputation as an educator. In time, she was promoted to the position of superintendent of schools.
Carrie could have remained in that comfortable job until retirement, but she was determined to improve the lives of the women of her day. The right to vote for women became her life’s passion. The intrepid teacher became one of the leading forces for the Suffragist movement, which lobbied state by state, and eventually descended upon Washington, DC, to pressure Congress into passing a constitutional amendment that would grant women the right to vote. Once that goal was accomplished, Carrie spent the rest of her life advocating for peace and human rights.
You can read about the life of this remarkable educator in my recently published book, Chalkboard Heroes: Twelve Courageous Teachers and Their Deeds of Valor, now available on amazon.