19th Amendment: Women’s Right to Vote (1920)

19th Amendment: Women's Right to Vote (1920)
The cover of the program from a women’s suffrage procession in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 1913. | 19th Amendment: Women’s Right to Vote (1920)

19th Amendment: Women’s Right to Vote (1920)

The 19th amendment, passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, gave women the right to vote.

The 19th Amendment provides women in the United States the right to vote. This achievement came after a long and arduous struggle—victory came after decades of agitation and resistance. Several generations of women’s suffrage supporters spoke, wrote, marched, lobbied, and engaged in civil disobedience beginning in the mid-nineteenth century to obtain what many Americans considered a radical amendment in the Constitution. Only a small percentage of early supporters lived to see the final victory in 1920.

Women began organizing, petitioning, and picketing to gain the right to vote in the 1800s, but it took decades for them to succeed. Women’s voting rights advocates worked diligently between 1878, when the amendment was originally submitted in Congress, and August 18, 1920, when it was ratified, but their techniques varied. Some advocated for suffrage laws to be passed in each state, and by 1912, nine western states had done so. Others went to court to challenge male-only voting laws. Picketing, silent vigils, and hunger strikes were among the most confrontational tactics utilized by suffragists. Supporters were frequently faced with vehement opposition. Opponents taunted them, imprisoned them, and even physically assaulted them.

By 1916, nearly all of the major suffrage organizations had banded together to push for a constitutional amendment. The political balance began to shift when New York granted woman suffrage in 1917 and President Wilson modified his position to favor an amendment in 1918.

The House of Representatives enacted the amendment on May 21, 1919, and the Senate followed two weeks later. The amendment crossed its final hurdle of securing the approval of three-fourths of the states when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify it on August 18, 1920. On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification, irrevocably altering the American electorate.

Despite the fact that ratification ensured full enfranchisement, the struggle for women’s suffrage was lengthy, tough, and at times tragic. Decades of battle to ensure that African Americans and other minority women were included in the promise of voting rights remained. Because of restrictive state voting laws, many women were unable to vote well into the twentieth century.

 

SEE ALSO:

New Zealand Women’s Suffrage (1893);

The Voting Rights Act (1965);

Enfranchising Eighteen-Year-Olds (1971);

The Equal Rights Amendment (1972).

 

SOURCES:

19th Amendment: Women’s Right to Vote (1920)

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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