American Equal Rights Association

The American Equal Rights Association (AERA) was formed in 1866 in the United States. According to its constitution, its purpose was "to secure Equal Rights to all American citizens, especially the right of suffrage, irrespective of race, color or sex." Some of the more prominent reform activists of that time were members, including women and men, blacks and whites.

The AERA was created by the Eleventh National Women's Rights Convention, which transformed itself into the new organization. Leaders of the women's movement had earlier suggested the creation of a similar equal rights organization through a merger of their movement with the American Anti-Slavery Society, but that organization did not accept their proposal.

The AERA conducted two major campaigns during 1867. In New York, which was in the process of revising its state constitution, AERA workers collected petitions in support of women's suffrage and the removal of property requirements that discriminated specifically against black voters. In Kansas they campaigned for referenda that would enfranchise African Americans and women. In both places they encountered increasing resistance to the campaign for women's suffrage from former abolitionist allies who viewed it as a hindrance to the immediate goal of winning suffrage for African American men. The Kansas campaign ended in disarray and recrimination, creating divisions between those who worked primarily for the rights of African Americans and those who worked primarily for the rights of women, and also creating divisions within the women's movement itself.

The AERA continued to hold annual meetings after the failure of the Kansas campaign, but growing differences made it difficult for its members to work together. Disagreement about the proposed Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would prohibit the denial of suffrage because of race, was especially sharp because it did not also prohibit the denial of suffrage because of sex. The acrimonious AERA meeting in 1869 signaled the end of the organization and led to the formation of two competing women's suffrage organizations. The bitter disagreements that led to the demise of the AERA continued to influence the women's movement in subsequent years.

Full article...

American History USA Articles


Women's History

American History

Political History

The Civil War and Reconstruction (1860-1877)

Spread the Word