When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, stalwart reformers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the Women’s National Loyal League. Frustrated by the limitations of Lincoln’s proclamation, League members collected nearly a half million signatures on petitions demanding that Congress pass an act “emancipating all persons of African descent held to involuntary service or labor in the United States.” Senator Charles Sumner supported the League’s effort by allowing petitions to be mailed under his congressional frank. In turn, he used the petitions as ammunition in the battle for expanded emancipation. When Senator Sumner accepted a bulky collection of petitions containing thousands of signatures in February 1864, he thanked the “mighty army, one hundred thousand strong, without arms or banners, the advance guard of a yet larger army” responsible for the effort. Sumner credited the League as the principal force behind the drive for the Thirteenth Amendment. The League disbanded after the war but many drew upon its example to build new organizations to campaign for equal rights for women.
citation: "To the Women of the Republic," address from the Women's Loyal National League supporting the abolition of slavery, January 25, 1864, SEN 38A-H20 (Kansas folder); RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.