The Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, was certified by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby on August 26, 1920. Better known as the Susan B Anthony Amendment, congressional approval and ratification by the requisite 75% of states was the result of over seventy years of active struggle. An amendment allowing women the vote had been introduced in Congress as early as 1878! Although some women had sought equal treatment under the law since Colonial times, the modern organization for women’s suffrage grew out of the Abolition and Temperance movements of the mid-1800s. Many detractors were concerned that women’s suffrage would mean a ban on alcohol and child labor.
Women whose names we know today – Anthony, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton – were joined by men such as Henry Ward Beecher and Ralph Waldo Emerson in support of equal rights. The Seneca Falls Convention, in July 1848, marked a shift away from the earlier social movements into a focus on women’s right to vote. A further division occurred after the Civil War, when concern about the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment (granting the vote to African American men, including the formerly enslaved) divided supporters into a federal faction led by Anthony and Stanton and Lucy Stone’s state-by-state approach. In 1890, Anthony and Stanton’s group joined forces with Stone’s to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with notable members like Clara Barton and Julia Ward Howe.
Although western territories and states were early adopters of woman suffrage, beginning with Wyoming in 1869, the struggle for women’s right to vote gained traction after 1900, as more women were going to college and joining the workforce in white-collar jobs. While Carrie Chapman Catt focused on winning the support of senators and lobbyists, militant strategists like Alice Paul organized marches, rallies, and even hunger strikes to gain national support. After World War I, the 19th Amendment was finally approved by Congress in 1919 and ratified a year later when, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to sign.
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.
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. https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=63.
Mintz, Steven. “The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.” OAH Magazine of History, vol 21, no. 3, 2007, pp. 47-50. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25162130.
“Woman Suffrage.” Encyclopedia. Issues & Controversies in American History, Infobase, https://icah-infobaselearning-com.ezjsrcc.vccs.edu:2443/icahencyarticle.aspx?ID=23336.