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Congress passes the 19th Amendment; it moves on to the states

From “Remember the Ladies” in 1776 to Congress supporting the Susan B. Anthony Amendment on 04 June 1919, the struggle for women’s suffrage was long.

Although in 1776 Abigail Adams urged her husband, John, to “Remember the Ladies” when establishing laws for the new union, it didn’t happen. Single women, married women and slaves were disenfranchised from many of life’s pursuits in the government that grew from the declaration “that all men are created equal.”

At the time, Thomas Jefferson and those at the Continental Congress were not thinking of individual righs. Instead, they were asserting “that American colonists, as a people, had the same rights to self-government as other nations.” That collective versus individual right mindset is not unlike a modern and controversial interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Suffrage is the right to vote in elections. It would take almost 150 more years before the 19th Amendment passed Congress and was ratified by the states. That was almost 75 years after the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY.

The struggle was long.

Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony and friends attempted to vote, using the newly passed 14th Amendment (it defined citizens as anyone born in the United States or naturalized) as their justification. She was arrested.

In between her arrest and her trial, Susan B. Anthony spoke in all 28 towns and villages in Monroe County, New York, asking “Is it a crime for a U.S. citizen to vote?” At Susan B. Anthony’s trial, the judge ordered she be found guilty without deliberation, and fined her $100. She refused to pay. To avoid an appeal, the judge did not throw Susan B. Anthony in jail.

Early in 1918, the House had passed a women’s suffrage constitutional amendment; it failed to pass the Senate. In September 1918, President Woodrow Wilson changed his position from opposition to support.

On 21 May 1919, the House passed what was known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment for the second time. On 04 June 1919, the Senate narrowly met the two-thirds vote required for passage. The the constitutional amendment which would grant women the right to vote then began its journey to the states; 36 needed to vote to ratify.

Before the amendment passed the House, 15 states, mostly in the west, had already granted women the right to vote.

In 1890, Wyoming entered the Union as the first state to treat women equally, at least in civic matters. Fourteen other states, primarily in the west, followed:

  • 1893, Colorado
  • 1896, Idaho and Utah
  • 1910, Washington
  • 1911, California
  • 1912, Arizona, Kansas and Oregon
  • 1914, Montana and Nevada
  • 1917, New York
  • 1918, Michigan
  • 1918, Oklahoma and South Dakota

Although 11 states had already ratified the amendment, on 24 July 1919, Georgia became the first state to refuse ratification. (Georgia would not ratify the amendment until 1970.) Alabama was the second to vote in opposition.

By year’s end, the suffragists needed 14 more states.

In January 1920, South Carolina became the third state to vote in opposition. By the end of March, Virginia, Maryland and Mississippi had joined them. (Have you noticed the commonality yet?)

On 18 August 1920, one day after the North Carolina legislature joined the opposition, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify.

The Tennessee Senate votes to ratify, but the vote is tied in the House—until one legislator, Harry Burns, changes his vote after receiving a letter from his mother urging him to vote for women’s suffrage.

Let it be noted that Tennessee was the eleventh and final state to join the Confederacy in June 1861.

Thus the 19th Amendment became an official part of the Constitution on 18 August 1920.

19th amendment headline
National Park Service photo

Susan B. Anthony was the first woman to have her likeness appear on a circulating United States coin. In 1978, Congress passed, and President Jimmy Carter signed, legislation authorizing the US Mint to strike the dollar coin.

Perhaps establishment men had reason to be concerned about women countering their votes. The US has a well-documented partisan gender gap, which is the tendency for more women to identify with the Democratic Party than men.

Partisan gender gap
Pew Research (2020)

Although women have the vote, we do not have the power.

Women are 50.8% of the US population.

#political history, #society  (135/365)
📷 Kathy E. Gill, CC
Daily posts, 2022-2023

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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