During the Progressive era, female activists used traditional constructions of womanhood, which imagined all women as mothers and homemakers, to justify their entrance into community affairs: as "municipal housekeepers," they would clean up politics, cities, and see after the health and wellbeing of their neighbors.
The national political leaders included Theodore Roosevelt, Robert M.
La Follette, Sr., and Charles Evans Hughes on the Republican side, and William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson and Al Smith on the Democratic side.
As part of this tradition of maternal activism, the Progressive-era General Federation supported a range of causes from the pure food and drug administration to public health care for mothers and children to a ban on child labor, each of which looked to the state to help implement their vision of social justice.
The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was an American women's rights organization formed in May 1890 as a unification of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).
A breakaway group, the National Woman's Party, tightly controlled by Alice Paul, used civil disobedience to gain publicity and force passage of suffrage.
Paul's members chained themselves to the White House fence in order to get arrested, then went on hunger strikes to gain publicity.
The movement primarily targeted political machines and their bosses.
By taking down these corrupt representatives in office a further means of direct democracy would be established.
Middle class women formed local clubs, which after 1890 were coordinated by the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC).
Historian Paige Meltzer puts the GFWC in the context of the Progressive Movement, arguing that its policies:built on Progressive-era strategies of municipal housekeeping.
The NAWSA set up hundreds of smaller local and state groups, with the goal of passing woman suffrage legislation at the state and local level.