The 19th Amendment: Voting Equality for Women
“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 the account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
The 19th Amendment is a simply written article to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees all American women the right to vote. In 1919 the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the amendment, the article was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, and was certified on Aug. 26, 1920.
Article continues after this newspaper image from the Sept. 1, 1920, issue of the Kansas City Star (Missouri)
Women had lobbied for voting rights, or suffrage, for many years before the amendment was made a law. Beginning in the mid-1800s, women suffrage supporters started lecturing, marching, lobbying, picketing, and writing to advocate for voting rights. Many women practiced civil disobedience as a way to make their cause heard loud and clear. It took women decades to accomplish their purpose, and many of the earliest pioneers did not live to see the victorious outcome in 1920.
Many Americans had a negative response to the suffrage movement; they felt that an amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote would cause a radical turn for the worse in our culture. Opponents to women’s suffrage believed a woman’s role was to support the family and take care of matters at home. They thought the suffragist activists were behaving oddly in public, and that their psychological state was warped. In general, they believed women lacked the mental capability to participate in important political events such as elections. This perception persisted in many states even after the 19th Amendment became a law. It took 60 years for the final 12 states to add their ratifications to the amendment. Mississippi was the last state to ratify the amendment, finally doing so in March 1984.
Some of the more notable suffragists were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott. Stanton and Mott organized the first convention regarding women’s rights in July of 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. Many historians believe the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement started at this convention. Stanton and Mott spoke at the Seneca Falls Convention, and later at many public rallies (as did Anthony), advocating that the right to vote was a basic legal premise that all women should be entitled to in American society. With the passage of the 19th Amendment, the face of the American electorate changed forever, and in the words of Sojourner Truth, the “independent movement for sexual equality was inaugurated.”
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