2024 Broadway
Suffs the Musical - SYNOPSIS

Act 1

At the 1913 National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Convention, Carrie Chapman Catt gives a speech calling for support for women's suffrage ("Let Mother Vote"). Alice Paul, frustrated at NAWSA's slow progress proposes a march on Washington, D.C. on the day of President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration, to pressure him to support a federal amendment for suffrage. Carrie refuses, preferring NAWSA's approach of gaining suffrage state-by-state. Alice resolves to see equality for all achieved in her lifetime ("Finish the Fight"). She recruits her college friend Lucy Burns[a] to help organize the march themselves, joined by socialite Inez Milholland, Polish labor organizer Ruza Wenclawska, and student Doris Stevens ("Find A Way"). Conflict arises when Alice elects to compromise with the Southern delegations' objections to black women marching by setting up a separate colored women delegation; prominent African-American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells confronts the organizers to declare her intention to march with her own state delegation, and wearily states she knows the movement will continue to ignore the rights of women of color ("Wait My Turn").

On the morning of the march, Ida runs into her friend and fellow Black activist Mary Church Terrell, along with her daughter Phyllis. Ida favors forceful acts to draw attention, while Mary prefers an approach of "dignified agitation", working within the system to fight for colored women's rights ("Terrell's Theme"). The Woman Suffrage Procession faces some violent pushback, but they succeed in completing the march ("The March (We Demand Equality"). As the organizers celebrate, Doris expresses distress over having been called a "bitch" by one of the counter-protestors. The rest of the women encourage her to embrace this label as a sign of her independence ("Great American Bitch"). Carrie offers NAWSA's backing to the newly-formed Congressional Union (CU) for Woman Suffrage, made up of the march's organizers, although she and Alice still disagree on their respective approaches. The CU go to the White House for a meeting with Wilson, who offers them lip service about his—condescending and chauvinistic—adoration for women ("Ladies"), but continually puts off publicly showing support in his first term. A frustrated Alice suggests NAWSA withdraw their support, but Carrie refuses to antagonize Wilson as he has pledged to keep the U.S. out of the war in Europe.

Alice's commitment to the movement takes a toll on her personal and social life, but she tells herself focusing on achieving women's suffrage will be worth the sacrifice ("Worth It"). Doris educates Wilson's chief of staff Dudley Field Malone on the movement by offering a hypothetical scenario of her rights if they were husband-and-wife; the two gradually fall for each other ("If We Were Married"). At the 1916 NAWSA Convention, Ida accuses Mary of allowing herself to be used as a prop by white women ("The Convention Part 1"). The CU disrupts the convention by publicly calling for a boycott of Wilson's reelection, criticizing the slower approach of "old fogies" like Carrie. Offended at having her contributions to the movement ignored ("This Girl"), Carrie publicly condemns Alice and privately informs her that her actions have no place in NAWSA ("The Convention Part 2"). With the CU effectively kicked out of NAWSA, Alice recruits NAWSA donor and socialite Alva Belmont to fund the National Woman's Party (NWP) and continue with their boycott ("Alva Belmont"). The NWP plans a campaign tour calling for women in states where they have voting rights to vote against Wilson. Inez tries to take a leave of absence due to exhaustion, but is convinced by Alice to go on the tour ("Show Them Who You Are"). The boycott ultimately fails and Wilson is re-elected ("The Campaign"); to make matters worse, a devastated Lucy returns from the tour with the news that Inez collapsed and died after one of her speeches, having hid her anemia from the others. The group hold a vigil for Inez, and resolve to continue in her honor ("How Long?").

Act 2

The NWP organize the Silent Sentinels, standing in silence outside the White House gates until Wilson publicly supports suffrage. When Wilson declares that the U.S. will join the Great War, they hold up banners with his own words printed on them to highlight his hypocrisy, only to be arrested on Wilson's orders ("The Young Are At The Gates") and sentenced for the trumped up charge of obstructing traffic. Dudley, disgusted with Wilson and convinced of the cause, publicly resigns ("Respectfully Yours, Dudley Malone"). At Occoquan Workhouse, the group lead a hunger strike to protest their arrest, but soon fall into conflict as Ruza accuses Alice of trying to get them all killed with her methods; meanwhile, Carrie continues to back Wilson despite misgivings about his broken promises and treatment of the suffragists in prison ("Hold It Together"). Dudley helps free Doris from prison by posing as her husband and joins the NWP. Mary argues with Ida about publicly condemning the war, as both express their fatigue over constantly fighting for Black women's rights and being ignored at every turn ("Wait My Turn (reprise)"). The strikers smuggle letters out of the prison with the help of the matron Mrs. Herndall, describing the horrific abuse by prison staff ("The Report"). As Alice slowly starves to death in solitary confinement, she is met by the prison's Dr. White, who threatens to have her committed if she continues striking. A hallucination of Inez confronts her, warning she will be no good to the wider movement if she dies ("Show Them Who You Are (reprise)"). Alice tells Dr. White she is willing to be called insane so long as it is known she is still fighting for what she believes in, and ends her hunger strike ("Insane"). White is moved by her words and refuses to have her committed, despite Wilson's orders.

Doris leaks the letters to the press, forcing Wilson to free them. As the NWP burn Wilson in effigy after the war, a finally fed up Carrie tells him that his broken promises have alienated even his less-radical base in NAWSA, and that he can easily quell dissent by supporting the movement ("Fire & Tea"). Wilson finally does so, but snidely reminds Carrie they still need enough state legislatures to ratify the amendment ("Let Mother Vote (reprise)"). In 1920, on the morning of the final vote for the Nineteenth Amendment in Tennessee, Carrie and Alice run into each other. At first they passive-aggressively blame each other for their struggles, but Carrie has an epiphany when she realizes that she was once the young upstart in the suffrage movement to the more conservative Susan B. Anthony, and that Alice chose the path of forceful resistance that Carrie had left behind ("She and I"). The Nineteenth Amendment vote comes down to a single vote from Senator Harry T. Burn, who is convinced to change his vote from a "Nay" to an "Aye" at the last minute after receiving a telegram from his mother ("A Letter From Harry's Mother"). Ida and Mary celebrate their success, but wearily agree that Black women will still be prevented from voting; Phyllis encourages them to keep faith that the movement will continue. The other women celebrate the amendment's passing ("I Was Here"); as Dudley and Doris plan to wed, Carrie invites her professional and romantic partner Mollie Hay to join her on a diplomatic trip abroad, as they lament that they do not have the freedom to truly live as a married couple ("If We Were Married (reprise)").

Alice pitches the NWP's next goal of getting the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed. However, the entire group is exhausted and decide to quit organizing: Doris plans to publish her memoirs about her experiences in the movement; Ruza wants to act on Broadway; and Lucy decides to retire from activism, though she assures Alice she values their shared fight ("Lucy's Song"). In the 1970s, an aged but still active Alice meets young activist Robin (played by the actress who played Phyllis), a representative from National Organization for Women who seeks Alice's support on radical movements. Alice disagrees with Robin's call for an intersectional approach, preferring the singular focus on the ERA, but is taken aback when Robin accuses her of being behind in her ways ("Finish the Fight (reprise)"). Realizing she has become the "old fogy" like Carrie was to her, Alice accepts she will not live to see the end of the fight for equality, but declares that it will happen one day so long as people maintain their resolve ("Keep Marching").

Review: Suffs the Musical Lyrics
Suffs the Musical Synopsis