Their Sacred Right

The 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920. Women suffragists struggled for more than 70 years to obtain their goal. The Amendment read,

“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” and  “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

The suffrage movement was founded in the mid 19th century through the efforts of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. They had been politically active through their work in the abolitionist and temperance movements. In July 1848, they and 200 woman suffragists met in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss women’s rights. They passed a resolution declaring,

“It is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.”

This was just the beginning of the woman suffrage movement in America.

During Reconstruction, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, granting African American men the right to vote, but Congress declined to grant voting rights to include women.  

By 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had founded the National Woman Suffrage Association to push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Lucy Stone founded the American Woman Suffrage Association, to work through state legislatures. In 1890, the two groups were combined. That year, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote.

By early 20th century, women’s roles in society were changing drastically. They worked more, were better educated, and had fewer children. Three more states, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho, granted female enfranchisement.

In 1916, the National Woman’s Party decided to take more aggressive action. Instead of using questionnaires and lobbying,  members picketed the White House, marched, and staged acts of civil disobedience.

When America entered World War I in 1917, women helped the war effort in ways that helped break down opposition to their cause. Fifteen states had now endorsed their right to vote along with both political parties.

In January 1918, the woman suffrage amendment passed the House of Representatives, followed by the Senate, and then went to the states for ratification. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote became the law of the land.

Susan B. Anthony

Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton