By Trishna Buch
This Saturday marks the 97th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment. According to an article by History.com, the amendment was adopted on August 26, 1920, after 70 years of struggle from suffragettes. And it came about due to the reading of a proclamation by Bainbridge Colby, the Secretary of State at the time.
The amendment was ratified eight days earlier—on August 18, 1920. The amendments in the constitution said that “the rights 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.”
But the fight for the amendment was far from easy. It began during the Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848. During this convention—which was led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott-a large group of women held a discussion on women’s right to vote, stating “it is the duty of the women in the country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.” However, the actions taken by the women during the convention in Seneca Falls, New York caused them to experience public ridicule.
Two years later, in 1850, the national woman’s rights convention was held for the first time and it really helped to push the growth of the woman’s suffrage movement. The 15th amendment—which guaranteed African American men the right to vote—was adopted during the Reconstruction Era, but this was not expanded to allow the women’s vote. The fight for a woman suffrage amendment to the constitution increased tenfold in 1869, when Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. Along with this, the American Woman Suffrage Association was formed by Lucy Stone—in the same year. By 1890, the two organizations came together to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. That year also happened to be the year that Wyoming granted women the right to vote—making it the first state to do so. A fight that began 42 years earlier was finally coming to fruition.
But this was only the beginning of the journey. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, the role of women in society began to grow. This carried over into the 20th century, when women’s education began to improve, they began to improve in their career and started to have fewer children. By 1916, the National Woman’s Party—which was formed in 1913—decided to take a more direct and drastic approach to bringing about woman suffrage and female enfranchisement. They moved away from lobbying and questionnaires, and took to marching, holding staged acts of civil disobedience and picketing the White House.
Women were also instrumental in aiding during World War One—which began in 1917. This helped them in solving the opposition towards the suffrage movement that remained and, in 1918, their suffrage was at an equal level to men in 15 states. The suffrage amendment—in January of 1918—passed with two-thirds vote in the House Of Representatives. A year and a half later—in June 1919—following its approval by the Senate, it was sent for ratification. Following several campaigns held by women around the country—to ensure that ratification was successful—it was officially ratified in August 1920, after Tennessee became the 36 state to do so.
Eight days later, Colby signed the amendment with no forms of media recording the event, and with no members of the woman suffrage movement being present. However, later that day, the head of the National American Suffrage Association, Carrie Chapman Catt-was welcomed to the White House by then president, Woodrow Wilson and the first lady.
To read more about the 19th Amendment, there are several articles and pieces of work you can review. A few of these articles include, “19 Things You Never Knew About the 19thAmendement and woman’s suffrage” by The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “19th Amendment” on Scholastic—which can be found at http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/suffrage/history2.htm– and the previously mentioned article on History.com, which can be found at http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/19th-amendment-adopted. ?