The History of Women's Suffrage

The Women's suffrage movement was a struggle to allow women the right to cast their votes in political elections on the same plane with men.

Women's suffrage, in many ways, found its footing and was spurred on by the growing anti-slavery movement. A number of forward thinking women, including Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, had been in attendance at the World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London in 1840. All of the women who attended were forced to sit in the galleries as observers simply because they were women. This unequal treatment did not rest well with these women, and it was decided that they would hold their own convention to "discuss the social, civil and religious rights of women."

Using the Declaration of Independence as a guideline, Stanton presented her "Declaration of Principles" in her hometown chapel, bringing to light women's subordinate status. Her Declaration was a recommendation for change, and resolution 9 – the demand for the right to vote – quickly became the centerpiece to the movement.

During the Civil War, female activists such as Elizabeth Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and slave-born Sojourner Truth petitioned the government for the emancipation of slaves. While the suffrage movement had taken a back seat to the war and the anti-slavery movement, these women believed that, once the war was over, women and slaves alike would be granted the same rights as white men. At the end of the war, however, the government saw the suffrage of women and that of African Americans as two separate issues, and it decided that there would be no political gain in allowing women to vote.

In 1866, as a response to the blind eye the government had chosen to turn toward women's rights, Stanton and her colleagues established the American Equal Rights Association. By 1890 the organization had changed and grown into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under the leadership of Elizabeth Stanton. With the formation of numerous groups, such as the Women's Christian Temperence Union (WCTU), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and, the Women's Trade Union League, the women's movement gained a full head of steam during the 1890's and early 1900's.

The U.S. involvement in World War I in 1918 slowed down the suffrage campaign as women pitched in for the war effort. However, in 1919, after years of petitioning, picketing, and protest parades, both houses of Congress finally passed the Nineteenth Amendment. In 1920 it became ratified under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.

Amendment XIX

1. 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.

2. Congress shall have power to enforce this Article by appropriate legislation.

Ratified August 26, 1920