It’s 2020 in America, and as a woman, you have the right to vote. If your great-grandma lived in America, she did not.
Creating and passing the 19th amendment was far from easy. This amendment allowed white women to vote, but it was still many years before women of color were also granted this right. During the 1920s, there were still literacy tests and other forms of disenfranchisement aimed at preventing people of color from voting.
This is so important to note because most people celebrate the 19th amendment as a win for women. People must realize, however, that this was a win for white women only. There was still a long fight to be had before all women had this right.
On a similar wavelength, many people attribute the beginning of women’s suffrage with the Seneca Falls convention in 1848. This was when a group of women wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, calling for women’s equality and the right to vote. However, African American women were not present at this meeting.
That prior spring in Philadelphia, African American women were attending a meeting at the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where they were fighting for the right for women to be preachers. This was a much smaller gathering than the Seneca Falls Convention, yet it demonstrates the same key point: African American women were pivotal in the women’s suffrage movement, and they continued to fight for women’s rights, even when white suffragettes refused to allow them into conventions. This discrimination in certain areas (mainly in Southern states) occurred despite efforts such as the formation of the American Equal Rights Association: founded by Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as an organization for everyone to fight for universal suffrage.
It was in 1867 when Senator S.C. Pomeroy (Kansas) introduced a federal women’s suffrage amendment in Congress. Given what we already know, it is not surprising that this initial amendment was rejected.
Flash forward to 1872, Susan B. Anthony registered and voted for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election. She was not only denied but was also tried and convicted. When you think about it, 1872 really was not that long ago. We take voting as an automatic right that we have. As women, we aren’t questioned or looked at for entering polling booths. We are able to do this because of women like Susan B. Anthony, who put her career and reputation on the line for the sake of universal suffrage.
In 1877, the Woman Suffrage Amendment was introduced in Congress. This served as the foundation for what would turn into the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. A.K.A, a major victory.
There are many key dates throughout this time period, and I encourage all readers to look into the history of women’s suffrage on their own. The dates mentioned in this article are just highlights.
That being said, it was in 1920 when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, then it became law. This allowed white women the right to vote. It would not be until 1965, with the passing of the Voting Rights Act, when black women could vote.
This article serves as a brief overview of how women got the right to vote. It covered the main events in the suffrage movement but doesn’t talk about other key women of color in the movement. Again, I encourage readers to look into Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Red Bird, and Mary Church Terrell. These women were just as passionate about women’s rights as more well-known activists such as Susan B. Anthony. To develop an accurate and full understanding, however, you must delve deeper into our history, and learn about the women of color who were key to pushing forward the suffrage movement.