The American Woman's League and the American Woman's Republic









In 1907, the United States Postal Service denied use of second class mailing privileges for the Woman’s Magazine and the Woman’s Farm Journal, claiming that the magazines were primarily advertising and did not qualify for the lower rate. Edward Gardner Lewis battled postal authorities during most of 1907. Although he regained the right to mail the magazines at the second class rate he had lost many of his subscribers. In December 1907, in an effort to rebuild his subscriber base, Lewis established the American Woman’s League as a subscription gathering organization for his magazines and newspaper. It was common practice at the time for publishers to pay a fee to those selling subscriptions. Lewis’ plan was for women to qualify for memberships by selling $52 in magazine subscriptions. The fees that would otherwise have been paid to individuals would be paid to the American Woman’s League. The League would use these funds to provide benefits that the women wanted…education, a foundation for social organizations within their communities and security for their old age…among other things. League membership grew rapidly. There were a reported 700 Chapters formed across the country. But financial difficulties soon developed, and the League struggled to keep its promises. A parallel organization was established in 1911, in response to the desire of members for equal rights. The American Woman’s Republic, a membership fee-based organization, was established to help women learn about government and politics in preparation for the time when they would have the right to vote. By early 1912, the League folded and the Republic became the surviving organization.

At their first convention in June 1912, members of the American Woman’s Republic ratified the Declaration of Equal Rights and adopted the Constitution, with more than 400 members signing the final document. The Capital was University City. Plans were made to convert the former Woman’s National Daily Building into quarters for the Republic’s Supreme Court, Senate, and House of Representatives. League chapters became chapters of the American Woman’s Republic, organized into regions within each state. Members became active in suffrage organizations, and as World War I raged in Europe, the Republic was actively involved in the Woman’s Peace Army and other peace organizations. A delegation even attended the Peace Conference in Budapest in 1913.

In 1913, Edward Gardner Lewis established a colony for the Republic in Atascadero, California. This was to be a planned agrarian community. By late 1914, the Lewises had decided to make California their permanent home. The capital of the Republic remained in University City until 1916 when all remaining Republic business ventures and activities were moved to Atascadero. The Republic was intended to have remained a political force until women received the right to vote, but very little was heard about members or activities after 1916.

About the Collection:

The University City Public Library’s collection of materials about the American Woman’s League and the American Woman’s Republic includes promotional materials, minutes, reports, and correspondence relating to the League and the Republic. Much of the material was donated by George Lewis, nephew of Edward Gardner Lewis. The collection of brochures and promotional materials provides a look at Mr. Lewis’ remarkable talent for targeting markets. Each brochure had a specific audience…teachers, students, advertisers… identifying just the benefits that would most appeal to each.

The minutes of the Board of Managers of the American Woman’s League begin on a positive note, just after the first Convention in 1910. But they soon begin to chronicle the financial difficulties of the League and the struggle to continue to provide the promised benefits. The minutes are often very brief, and too often, the lack of detail raises questions for which we do not have answers. The reports of the various committees at the convention of the American Woman’s Republic in 1912 are more positive, and the congratulatory telegrams and letters reflect the support for the Republic and for Mr. Lewis from chapters across the country.

The two most significant items in the collection are the Grand Prize certificate awarded to the American Woman’s League for pottery at the International Exposition of Industries and Achievement in Turin, Italy in 1911 and the original Declaration of Equal Rights and Constitution of the American Woman’s Republic signed by 400 senators, representatives and delegates attending the first convention in 1912.

In addition to viewing images of the original documents, two publications, University City and the American Woman’s League and The Pioneer of an American Woman’s Republic are available as word searchable documents. Look for the icon on the "Browse" page.

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