Thursday, August 18, 2011

Woman's Suffrage Movement

“Got ready for thrashing this forenoon.  Machine came about half past ten and got set up before dinner.  We thrashed out the wheat 270 bushels and 55 bushels from the mow.”


Women's suffragists parade down Fifth Avenue, New York, October 1917, carrying the signatures of a million women

Woman suffrage in the United States was achieved gradually, at state and local levels, during the 19th Century and early 20th Century, culminating in 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provided: "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."

The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 formulated the demand for women's suffrage in the United States of America and after the American Civil War (1861–1865) agitation for the cause became more prominent. In 1869 the proposed Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave the vote to black men, caused controversy as women's suffrage campaigners such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton refused to endorse the amendment, as it did not give the vote to women. Others, such as Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe however argued that if black men were enfranchised, women would achieve their goal. The conflict caused two organisations to emerge, the National Woman Suffrage Association, which campaigned for women's suffrage at a federal level as well as for married women to be given property rights, and the American Woman Suffrage Association, which aimed to secure women's suffrage through state legislation.

U.S. women suffragists demonstrating for the right to vote, February 1913

On January 12, 1915, a suffrage bill was brought before the House of Representatives but was defeated by a vote of 204 to 174. Another bill was brought before the House on January 10, 1918. On the evening before, President Wilson made a strong and widely published appeal to the House to pass the bill. It was passed by two-thirds of the House, with only one vote to spare. The vote was then carried into the Senate. Again President Wilson made an appeal, but on September 30, 1918, the amendment fell two votes short of passage. On February 10, 1919, it was again voted upon, and then it was lost by only one vote.

Political suffrage cartoon that appeared in Judge, March 9, 1917

There was considerable anxiety among politicians of both parties to have the amendment passed and made effective before the general elections of 1920, so the President called a special session of Congress, and a bill, introducing the amendment, was brought before the House again. On May 21, 1919, it was passed, 42 votes more than necessary being obtained. On June 4, 1919, it was brought before the Senate, and after a long discussion it was passed, with 56 ayes and 25 nays. Within a few days, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan ratified the amendment, their legislatures being then in session. Other states followed suit at a regular pace, until the amendment had been ratified by 35 of the necessary 36 state legislatures. After Washington on March 22, 1920, ratification languished for months. Finally, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee narrowly ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, making it the law throughout the United States.
The final states to ratify the 19th Amendment were Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana, in 1970 and 1971. South Carolina finally ratified it in 1973, but Mississippi not until 1984.

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