The national woman suffrage movement, which began in earnest in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention in New York, was slow to gain traction in New Orleans. The first woman suffrage organization in Louisiana, the Portia Club, was not established until almost fifty years later, in 1892. This club was soon followed by the Equal Rights Association, in 1895.

Because African American women were often excluded from white woman suffrage organizations, they founded their own groups, such as the Phillis Wheatley Club—named for the eighteenth-century enslaved African American poet and dedicated to a variety of political and social causes.

Women gained the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. In New Orleans, groups such as the Louisiana Women’s Committee, the Independent Women’s Organization, the Woman Citizens’ Union, and the local chapter of the League of Women Voters were formed. These organizations served a variety of purposes, from encouraging voter registration and voter education to promoting certain candidates and progressive issues. In the 1930s these groups became watchdogs for public corruption and proponents of election reform.

The 1930s also saw the beginnings of the French Quarter preservation movement, and women were at the forefront. The neighborhood, which had fallen into a state of neglect, faced threats of demolition and new construction. Recognizing its historic value, preservation-minded New Orleanians began buying property and reinventing the neighborhood. Women were active in the creation of groups such as the Vieux Carré Commission; the Vieux Carré Property Owners, Residents, and Associates; and the Louisiana Landmarks Society.