1920 August 18

Women Get the Vote: 19th Amendment Ratified

 

The Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified on this day, when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment.The issue in Tennessee remained unsettled for six days, however, as anti-women’s suffrage forces attempted to reverse the state’s ratification. The governor finally signed the certificate of ratification and mailed it to Washington, DC, on August 24th. U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the Nineteenth Amendment into law on August 26th. Connecticut ratified the amendment in September 1920, as did Vermont in February 1921, giving it an extra margin of victory.

Women voted in all state and federal elections, including the election for president, for the first time on November 2, 1920.

The suffrage movement began in the 19th century, but the final campaign was led by Alice Paul, who organized a series of demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and in front of the White House. See January 10, 1917; March 4, 1917; August 11, 1917; October 20, 1917; and November 15, 1917. Oddly, even though it was a part of the Constitution, some opponents believed the Nineteenth Amendment was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Amendment in Leser v. Garnett, on February 27, 1922. (It seems odd that a part of the Constitution might be unconstitutional, but the challenge involved the process of ratification.)

Find the amendment and related documents at the National Archives:
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/amendment_19/

Read about Alice Paul: Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (2010)

Read about the failed ratification struggle in North Carolina:
http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newcentury/5012

Read: Ellen DuBois, Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights (1998)

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