President Wilson Finally Supports Women’s Right to Vote
President Woodrow Wilson on this day reversed himself and publicly announced his support for a Constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. He stated that women’s suffrage was a war measure, a tribute to the many women who had volunteered to assist the World War I war effort. He also met with 10 members of Congress and urged them to support a constitutional suffrage amendment.
Wilson had not supported women’s suffrage from the time he entered politics, as governor of New Jersey. On a number of occasions, he simply refused to take a position on the issue. By early 1918, however, he needed the votes of suffrage supporters in the 1918 Congressional elections. He was also embarrassed by the steady picketing of the White House in 1917, and the resulting controversies over the arrests of suffragists and their treatment in jail (see, for example, the “Night of Terror” on November 15, 1917).
For the militant suffragist protests led by feminist Alice Paul, see January 10, 1917; March 4, 1917; April 2, 1917; August 11, 1917; October 20, 1917. The Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote in federal elections was finally ratified on August 18, 1920, and women voted in all state and federal elections for the first time, including the election for president, on November 2, 1920.
Read a biography of Alice Paul: Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (2010)
Learn more: Ellen Carol DuBois, Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights (1998)
And more about Wilson, women’s suffrage, and civil liberties: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)