The 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all American women have the right to vote.
To achieve this milestone, a difficult and lengthy struggle was required, and this victory had taken decades of protest and agitation.
It began around the middle of the 19th century, and it needed many generations of woman supporters who wrote, lectured, lobbied, marched, and practiced some serious civil disobedience to attain something that many Americans in those days considered one radical constitutional change.
There weren’t many first-hour supporters that lived to see victory, finally, in 1920.
Starting in the 1800s, American women organize, petition, and picket for winning voting rights. It took them, however, many decades to see their purpose come true.
Between 1878, the year this amendment was initially introduced in the U.S. Congress, and 1920 when it was ratified on August 18th, many champions of American women voting rights were working tirelessly, but strategies for reaching their goals were varying greatly.
Some women tried to get suffrage acts passed in all states, and actually, by 1912, nine western states had already adopted woman suffrage legislation.
Others were challenging their state’s voting male-only laws in court, and some militant suffragists were using tactics like hunger strikes, parades, or silent vigils, but very often, their supporters were facing fierce resistance. Their opponents jailed, heckled, and even physically abused them.
By 1916, practically all of the big suffrage organizations had come together to achieve their goal of an amendment to the Constitution in unity. When in 1917, New York State adopted woman voting rights, and President Wilson was changing his position in 1918 and supported an amendment, the political clout and balance started to shift.
In 1919, on May 21st, the U.S. House of Representatives had passed the important amendment, and just two weeks later, the U.S. Senate followed suit.
So when in 1920, the state of Tennessee was the 36th state that ratified this amendment on August 18th, the amendment had passed the final hurdle as it obtained the required okay from three-fourths of all states.
That year, on August 26th, Bainbridge Colby, U.S. Secretary of State, certified this ratification, which changed the American electorate’s face forever.
Next lesson: Civil Rights Act
Last Updated on April 8, 2021.