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History Timeline 1920's

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U.S. Timeline - The 1920s

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  • 1920 Detail

    August 18, 1920 - Women are given the right to vote when the 19th Amendment to the United States constitution grants universal women's suffrage. Also known as the Susan B. Anthony amendment, in recognition of her important campaign to win the right to vote.

    Women Voting in Wyoming


    It had been a long hard struggle to gain the right of women to vote across the breadth of the United States. With early success in territories such as Wyoming 1869, what seemed inevitable within decades had taken over fifty years. Efforts begun with Lucy Stone and her American Women's Suffrage Association going state to state and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and their National Woman Suffrage Association on a national level had been plying the waters of women's suffrage since that Wyoming vote.

    The fifty year struggle since that initial significant victory was rife with thoughts that a national effort would never succeed. Lucy Stone's advocacy on the state level was not gaining enough traction. Some state's had allowed, even before 1869, women to vote in specific elections, such as school boards (Kentucky 1838). However, by 1914, forty-five years after the Wyoming victory, only ten more states had adopted full women's suffrage. Judicial rulings had also been ineffective. A national amendment, it seemed, was the only way to rectify the laxity on the state level.

    It's not that May 19, 1919, was the first time Congress had considered the 19th Amendment. California Senator Aaron A. Sargent had introduced the legislation in January 1878, but the bill went nowhere, voted down 17 to 34 in 1879. Sargent's wife, Ellen Clark Sargent, was a friend of Susan B. Anthony. For forty-one years after its initial introduction by Sargent, it was introduced, year and year, but not voted on by the Senate again until 1914. However, not until 1919, did it pass. President Woodrow Wilson was an advocate. After the House of Representatives passed it by forty-two votes on May 21, 1919, the Senate passed it June 4, 1919 by a vote of 56 to 25. Three fourths of the states, with Tennessee being the final state to push it past the threshold, ratified the amendment in 1920. Tennessee's vote, however, had not been easy. Of the ninety-nine legislators in their body, it got fifty yes votes.



    Text of the 19th Amendment

    Transcript of 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Womens Right to Vote (1920) - Sixty-sixth Congress of the United States of America; At the First Session, Begun and held at the City of Washington on Monday, the nineteenth day of May, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen.

    JOINT RESOLUTION

    Proposing an amendment to the Constitution extending the right of suffrage to women.

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislature of three-fourths of the several States.

    "ARTICLE -----"

    "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.

    Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

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    Lucy Stone and the American Women's Suffrage Association

    In 1870, Lucy Stone began publishing a newspaper known as the Woman's Journal, one year after her organization was founded in November 1869. It became an important voice in the suffrage movement as her organization went state by state lobbying for the woman's right to vote. Stone was an advocate not only for women's suffrage, but had been in the forefront of the abolitionist movement as well. Lucy Stone was the first woman from Massachusetts to graduate college in 1847 and was a skilled orator. The AWSA was considered less radical than the National Woman Suffrage Association headed by Anthony and Stanton. They focused on suffrage at a state level, supported traditional institutions such as marriage and religion, which the NWSA criticized, at times, as anti-female. During its first two decades, Stone's organization was larger than its rival, however, its power and size began to be usurped by the NWSA. In 1890, the two organizations merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) with Anthony and Stanton in its leadership, but not Lucy Stone, who was seventy-two years old at the time.


    Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and their National Woman Suffrage Association

    Founded on May 15, 1869 in New York City, the National Woman Suffrage Association had opposed passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted universal suffrage to all men, regardless of color, but did not extend that right to women. The leadership, with Anthony and Stanton (first President of the NWSA) at its head, was all-female, and their mission was to pass an amendment that addressed that failing. The NWSA focused on a broad array of indignities of women, not only voting rights, straying into social issues of marriage, religion, and worker's rights. At the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876 during a short speech by Susan B. Anthony, the members of the organization presented the presiding officer with their "Women's Declaration of Rights."

    After the merger with Stone's organization, the NAWSA continued pressing for women's suffrage at every turn. With seven thousand members in 1890, it would grow to more than two million advocates. With the growing membership rolls and voting pressure in states that had individually given the right to vote to women, the NAWSA became a political action organization focusing even more on Washington and not an education organization attempting to convince the public of its merits. By 1918, the House of Representaves had passed the 19th Amendment, but the Senate rejected it by two votes. After that failure, at a special session of Congress called by President Wilson, the measure would eventually pass on June 4, 1919.

    Today, the National American Women's Suffage Association is known as the League of Women's Voters. It changed its name to that designation on February 14, 1920.

    Photo above: Women Voting in Cheyenne in the Wyoming Territory, 1888, Frank Leslie Illustrated. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Painting of the NAWSA Parade of 1917 in the U.S. Capitol, 1973-4, Allyn Cox. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Info source: Ourdocuments.gov; Constitution.findlaw.com; Wikipedia Commons.

    Women's Suffrage






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