Today in Civil Rights History: 19th Amendment Gives Women the Right to Vote

Categories: News, Women's Rights

Today marks the 89th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ratified in 1920, the amendment gave women the right to vote. Women had been gaining suffrage, or the right to vote, on a state-by-state basis throughout the early 20th century, but the amendment granted all U.S. women full voting rights.

The amendment’s ratification was the culmination of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Women’s suffrage was first proposed in 1848 by participants of the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, which included Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.

The movement picked up steam when Alice Paul, president of the National Women’s Party, lead eight thousand women in picketing the White House the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in 1913. Women’s active participation in the war effort during World War I also helped the movement gain support.

By 1918, President Wilson was a supporter of women’s suffrage and most of members of Congress were pro-suffrage after the 1918 midterm elections due to the National Women’s Party’s campaign against anti-suffrage senators.  The amendment, called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment in Congress, passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 304-89 in May 1919 and passed in the Senate by a vote of 56-25 two weeks later.

Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan were the first states to ratify the amendment on June 10, 1919. After a year of intense lobbying by both pro- and anti-suffrage groups, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, when 24-year-old Henry Burns cast the deciding vote in honor of his mother.

The Amendment officially became a part of the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920.