By Ashley Nicole Owens
Undergraduate, Meredith College
Caroline Katzenstein was born in 1888 in Warrenton, North Carolina. When her father died in 1907, Caroline and her three sisters moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1910 the Pennsylvania branch of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the Women Suffrage Society of Philadelphia, and the Equal Franchise Society of Philadelphia created a joint headquarters in the city. Caroline was named Executive Secretary for the Pennsylvania branch of N.A.W.S.A. Caroline became an excellent publicist for the association. She became familiar with the local reporters and newspapers and managed to get decent and positive coverage of the organizations’ activities and events.
Caroline joined the Congressional Union, later renamed the National Woman’s Party, when it was created by Alice Paul in 1913 for suffragists who agreed with her militant approach toward achieving the suffrage amendment. Initially, Katzenstein worked for both sides of the suffrage movement, but the rivalry between the two national organizations became intense and led her to choose between them.
Her heavy workload led Katzenstein to resign from the Pennsylvania branch of the N.A.W.S.A. However, her break from the suffrage movement did not last long. A few months later the Equal Franchise Society of Philadelphia asked her to be the executive secretary and publicist. Caroline helped the Equal Franchise Society work toward a state amendment until the suffrage bill failed to pass in 1915 and could not be reintroduced for another seven years.
Frustrated, Katzenstein left her position in 1916 to become the executive secretary and publicity chair for the Congressional Union. Caroline was a part of a group travelling to western states where women had won the vote to encourage them to attend a conference in Chicago to form a new political party, the National Woman’s Party. Katzenstein worked for the National Woman’s Party until August 26, 1920 when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified.
After the fight for woman’s suffrage, Caroline Katzenstein became an insurance agent, but never stopped fighting for women’s rights. She helped the Women Teachers Organization of Philadelphia with their campaign for equal pay for female teachers. She also continued with the NWP as a volunteer and lobbied for the Equal Rights Amendment for forty years. Caroline Katzenstein died on January 31, 1968 having dedicated nearly 58 years of her life working for women’s rights.
Extensive information about Caroline Katzenstein’s life and work can be found in the Caroline Katzenstein Papers at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, which includes a biography, available online at http://hsp.org/sites/default/files/legacy_files/migrated/findingaidam8996katzenstein.pdf. Also see Caroline’s autobiography about her work for woman’s suffrage, Lifting the Curtain (Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1955).