Guest Author - Vance Rowe
It was August 26, 1920 when the 19th Amendment had passed, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Women’s suffrage began in the mid 19th century during the abolitionist and temperance movements. They were starting to get politically active as well. Women like Carrie Nation and Victoria Woodhull, who had intentions on running for president in 1872, but was a year too young, and Harriet Tubman who was instrumental in freeing slaves via the Underground Railroad. Other notable women include Susan B, Anthony, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Staton and Lucrecia Mott.
Elizabeth Cady Staton and Lucrecia Mott held a convention in July of 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. A convention attended by two hundred women suffragists. While the convention was created to try and give women educational and employment opportunities, the attendees also passed a declaration stating “it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.”
The convention quickly became fodder for public ridicule, as the right for women to vote was proposed. Backers of the movement quickly withdrew their support when the declaration for women’s right to vote had come to fruition. This was the genesis of the women’s suffrage movement.
Two years after the Seneca Falls Convention, the first national woman’s rights convention was held. These conventions quickly provided a platform for the suffrage movement. Then in 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Staton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. That same year another women’s suffrage organization was formed by Lucy Stone, called the American Woman Suffrage Association. The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1870, it granted African Americans the right to vote but unsuccessfully went to the range of gender.
In 1890, these two groups united into one and became known as the National American Woman Suffrage Association. It was this same year that Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote.
The Women’s suffrage movement finally gained speed during World War I in 1917, when women provided vital aid in the war effort. This helped dissect most of the opposition to women having the right to vote. In 1918, women gained equal suffrage with their male counterparts in fifteen states as both political parties openly endorsed the idea of women voting.
In fact, in January of 1918, the amendment passed the House of Representatives and in June of 1919, the amendment was approved by the Senate. Finally, in August of 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. This gave the amendment the two-thirds majority of state ratification in order to make it the law of the land. Secretary of State Bainbrige Colby signed the certified record of the Tennessee legislature’s action on the morning of August 26th. He did it in his residence without pomp or ceremony of any kind and none of the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement were present.
After more than 70 years of struggle by suffragists and the suffragist supporters, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was finally ratified on August 26th, 1920. The amendment reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” and “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”