American suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton famously wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal.” Yet when suffragettes spoke of “all” men and women, they were clear about exceptions. Immigrants did not qualify. Indeed, in her own address at the First Women’s Rights Convention, held in Seneca Falls, New York, in July 1848, Stanton said that “to have . . . ignorant foreigners . . . fully recognized, while we ourselves are thrust out from all the rights that belong to citizens, it is too grossly insulting to the dignity of woman to be longer quietly submitted to.”
This Article begins with an exploration of the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the suffragettes, noting how their nativist approach helped to secure the ultimate passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Next, this Article explores modern parallels to the suffragettes’ story, where nativist approaches propelled success for movements around issues, people, and political parties. Finally, this Article calls upon the modern women’s movement to take a different path: rising up without pushing down.