What's in a Vote? Looking Back on Women's Right to Vote

This June will mark 100 years since Congress passed a Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. Many of us take the act of voting for granted or see it as an useless practice that politicians make a big deal about during presidential elections; however, countless men and women fought to give women a say in the election of our nation’s leaders.

 

The 19th amendment was passed by Congress on June 4th, 1919 and ratified on August 18th, 1920. The amendment states that all American women have the right to vote. Since the United States was established in 1776, women, although making up a majority of the population, were unable to vote until 143 years later.

 

Women began their quest for the right to vote in the early 1800s by organizing, petitioning, and picketing, but it would take decades for their request to be taken seriously. The amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1878, but was left undecided until 1920 when it was ratified by the states. During this time gap, women worked tirelessly to achieve this milestone.

 

In 1869, women-suffrage advocates formed a group called the National Woman Suffrage Association and fought to change the Constitution. Among these women were Susan B. Anthony. In 1890, the group merged with another suffrage group, American Woman Suffrage Association, to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Their first president was Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

 

The NAWSA lectured, wrote, marched, and lobbied around the country to raise awareness and change the minds of politicians. Some women were arrested for civil disobedience as a result of the protests and continued to protest in prison through written letters, silent vigils, and hunger strikes.

 

In 1917 New York became the first state to adopt women’s suffrage, prompting President Wilson to change his stance and support the amendment in 1918. The rest, as they say, is history, but the 19th amendment changed the face of the American electorate and women’s rights forever.

 

With the increasing amount of politicians announcing their candidacy for the 2020 Presidential Election, it can be easy to become frustrated and not vote, but knowing the truth of the 19th amendment can help us all realize the importance of voting and honoring the men and women who fought to give women this right.