Citation: Joint Resolution of Congress proposing a constitutional amendment extending the right of suffrage to women, approved June 4, 1919.; Ratified Amendments, 1795-1992; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives.
By 1916, almost all of the major suffrage organizations were united behind the goal of a constitutional amendment. When New York adopted woman suffrage in 1917 and President Wilson changed his position to support an amendment in 1918, the political balance began to shift.
The campaign for woman suffrage was long, difficult, and sometimes dramatic; yet ratification did not ensure full enfranchisement. Decades of struggle to include African Americans and other minority women in the promise of voting rights remained. Many women remained unable to vote long into the 20th century because of discriminatory state voting laws.
Failure is Impossible is a play that brings to life the facts and emotions of the momentous struggle for voting rights for women. It was first performed in 1995, as part of commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the 19th amendment at the National Archives. The story is told through the voices of Abigail Adams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Frances Gage, Clara Barton, and Carrie Chapman Catt, among others. The script is available for educational uses.
In 1890, the NWSA and AWSA merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). It became the largest woman suffrage organization in the country and led much of the struggle for the vote through 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified. Stanton became its president; Anthony became its vice president; and Stone became chairman of the executive committee. In 1919, one year before women gained the right to vote with the adoption of the 19th amendment, the NAWSA reorganized into the League of Women Voters.
Wealthy white women were not the only supporters of women's suffrage. Frederick Douglass, formerly enslaved and leader of the abolition movement, was also an advocate. He attended the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. In an editorial published that year in The North Star, the anti-slavery newspaper he published, he wrote, \"...in respect to political rights,...there can be no reason in the world for denying to woman the elective franchise,...\" By 1877, when he was U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia, Douglass's family was also involved in the movement. His son, Frederick Douglass, Jr.; daughter, Mrs. Nathan Sprague; and son-in-law, Nathan Sprague, all signed a petition to Congress for woman suffrage \"...to prohibit the several States from Disfranchising United States Citizens on account of Sex.\"
In the second decade of the 20th century, suffragists began staging large and dramatic parades to draw attention to their cause. One of the most consequential demonstrations was a march held in Washington, DC, on March 3, 1913. Though controversial because of the march organizers' attempt to exclude, then segregate, women of color, more than 5,000 suffragists from around the country paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. Capitol to the Treasury Building.
Many of the women who had been active in the suffrage movement in the 1860s and 1870s continued their involvement over 50 years later. In 1917, Mary O. Stevens, secretary and press correspondent of the Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War, asked the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to help the cause of woman suffrage by explaining: \"My father trained me in my childhood days to expect this right. I have given my help to the agitation, and work[ed] for its coming a good many years.\"
When New York adopted woman suffrage in 1917 and President Woodrow Wilson changed his position to support an amendment in 1918, the political balance began to shift in favor of the vote for women. There was still strong opposition to enfranchising women, however, as illustrated by petitions from anti-suffrage groups.
It took the election of 1918, which ushered in new members of Congress friendlier to suffrage, to pass the 19th Amendment, using the same language that Sen. Sargent had first introduced 40 years earlier in 1878. The House of Representatives voted to approve it May 21, 1919, and the Senate followed June 4. The legislatures of 36 states had to vote for it. By the end of 1919, 22 states had done so, but anti-suffragists defeated the measure in some Southern states, where white legislators opposed federal laws enforcing voting rights due to fears about disrupting segregation. Tennessee was the last state to ratify the amendment. As the story goes, a 24-year-old representative received a last-minute note from his mother urging him to vote yes. Eight days after the state of Tennessee voted to ratify the amendment, it was delivered via mail to the Secretary of State, becoming law on Aug. 26, 1920.
The 19th Amendment prohibits the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on the basis of sex, but it did not guarantee the right to vote to all women. First-generation Asian Americans of all sexes were barred from citizenship until 1952. Congress granted citizenship to Native Americans in 1924, but some states barred them from voting until 1957. Poll taxes, literacy tests and voter intimidation prevented generations of African American voters from going to the polls until the 24th Amendment banned poll taxes in 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 prohibited racial discrimination in voting. In Puerto Rico, local voting rights for all women were not assured until 1935, and language barriers still kept some from voting until bilingual ballots were required in 1975. To date, full access to federal voting rights are not assured in U.S. territories.
On December 10, 1869, the Wyoming territorial legislature granted women the right to vote and to hold public office. This article explains the history of woman suffrage in Wyoming, how it happened, the arguments for and against women's right to vote, and how The Equality State reacted to women at the ballot box.
Kiwis Lead the WayIn 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the same voting rights as men. Australia did the same in 1902, followed by Finland in 1906 and Norway in 1913.
1820 to 1880Evidence from a variety of printed sources published during this period--advice manuals, poetry and literature, sermons, medical texts--reveals that Americans, in general, held highly stereotypical notions about women's and men's roles in society. Historians would later term this phenomenon \"The Cult of Domesticity.\"
1833Oberlin College becomes the first coeducational college in the United States. In 1841, Oberlin awards the first academic degrees to three women. Early graduates include Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown.
1836Sarah Grimké begins her speaking career as an abolitionist and a women's rights advocate. She is eventually silenced by male abolitionists who consider her public speaking a liability.
1837Mary Lyon founds Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, eventually the first four-year college exclusively for women in the United States. Mt. Holyoke was followed by Vassar in 1861, and Wellesley and Smith Colleges, both in 1875. In 1873, the School Sisters of Notre Dame found a school in Baltimore, Maryland, which would eventually become the nation's first college for Catholic women.
1844Female textile workers in Massachusetts organize the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA) and demand a 10-hour workday. This was one of the first permanent labor associations for working women in the United States.
1848The first women's rights convention in the United States is held in Seneca Falls, New York. Many participants sign a \"Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions\" that outlines the main issues and goals for the emerging women's movement. Thereafter, women's rights meetings are held on a regular basis.
1850Amelia Jenks Bloomer launches the dress reform movement with a costume bearing her name. The Bloomer costume was later abandoned by many suffragists who feared it detracted attention from more serious women's rights issues.
1859The successful vulcanization of rubber provides women with reliable condoms for the first time. The birth rate in the United States continues its downward, century-long spiral. By the late 1900s, women will raise an average of only two to three children, in contrast to the five or six children they raised at the beginning of the century.
1861 to 65The American Civil War disrupts suffrage activity as women, North and South, divert their energies to \"war work.\" The War itself, however, serves as a \"training ground,\" as women gain important organizational and occupational skills they will later use in postbellum organizational activity.
1865 to 1880Southern white women create Confederate memorial societies to help preserve the memory of the \"Lost Cause.\" This activity propels many white Southern women into the public sphere for the first time. During this same period, newly emancipated Southern black women form thousands of organizations aimed at \"uplifting the race.\"
1869The women's rights movement splits into two factions as a result of disagreements over the Fourteenth and soon-to-be-passed Fifteenth Amendments. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the more radical, New York-based National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe organize the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which is centered in Boston. In this same year, the Wyoming territory is organized with a woman suffrage provision. In 1890, Wyoming was admitted to the Union with its suffrage provision intact.
1870The Fifteenth Amendment enfranchises black men. NWSA refuses to work for its ratification, arguing, instead, that it be \"scrapped\" in favor of a Sixteenth Amendment providing universal suffrage. Frederick Douglass breaks with Stanton and Anthony over NWSA's position. 153554b96e