19 things you never knew about the 19th Amendment and women’s suffrage

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19 things you never knew about the 19th Amendment and women’s suffrage

Ninety-seven years ago today, the 19th Amendment to the constitution was ratified, mandating full suffrage for women in all states.

The amendment states that the right of citizens to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Here are 19 things to know about the 19th Amendment, ratified on Aug. 18, 1920:

1. Not all women could actually vote after the 19th amendment was ratified.

The struggle for women’s suffrage did not end with the 19th Amendment’s ratification, especially for black women, who still faced barriers in some Southern states.

In 1922, the Supreme Court ruled that Japanese people were ineligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens and, therefore, unable to vote.

In 1923, the same was applied to “Asian Indians.”

In 1924, Native Americans were granted citizenship, but many state policies still prohibited Native Americans from voting.

In 1947, Native Americans earned the right to vote in New Mexico and Arizona.

In 1952, Asian Americans were able to become citizens and, therefore, able to vote.

Until 1957, some states still barred Native Americans from voting.

In 1961, residents in Washington, D.C. were granted the right to vote. This did not include African-Americans, who made up nearly half of the district’s population.

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act prohibited racial discrimination in voting and secured voting rights for minorities including African-Americans, who still struggled to vote in some southern states.

2. The 19th Amendment was drafted in 1878 by suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

It was introduced to Congress that same year by California Sen. Aaron A. Sargent.

3. The proposal sat in committee for nearly a decade only to be rejected in 1887 with a 16-to-34 vote.

After three more decades of no progress, another proposal was brought to the House in 1918. It finally passed the House on May 21, 1919 and the Senate on June 4, 1919.

4. The vote came down to a tiebreaker. 

Two-thirds of House and Senate members were required to vote “yes” for its ratification. On Aug. 18, 1920, Tennessee became the tie-breaker state in a 48-48 tie. 

According to History.com, the decision fell to 23-year-old Republican Rep. Harry T. Burn, who opposed the amendment himself, but was convinced by his mother to approve it.

His mother reportedly wrote to her son: “Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”

5. More than 8 million American women voted for the first time in the November 1920 elections.

6. In July 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, and the movement gained national spotlight.

The convention is widely regarded as the start of the women’s rights movement in America.

7. Stanton and Mott, along with a group of delegates, produced a “Declaration of Sentiments” document at the convention, modeled after the Declaration of Independence. 

From the “Declaration of Sentiments:”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

8. Stanton and Anthony led several unsuccessful court challenges in the mid-1870s.

The women argued that the 14th Amendment, which granted universal citizenship, and the 15th Amendment together, which granted voting rights irrespective of race, guaranteed women’s voting rights.

But because Supreme Court decisions rejected their argument, suffrage leaders combined efforts to advocate for a new consititutional amendment.

9. It wasn’t until 1869, when the Wyoming Territory gave women ages 21 and up the same voting rights as men, including state voting rights, that there was a major victory for women’s voting rights.

10. Wyoming was also the first state to elect a female governor and its state nickname is “the Equality State.”

According to History.com, Nellie Tayloe Ross was elected governor in 1924.

11. A woman named Carrie Chapman Catt was instrumental in the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Catt, who in 1900 succeeded Anthony as the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), made the controversial decision to support the war effort in World War I, something her colleagues and supporters weren’t thrilled about. 

Eventually, women’s help during the war gave them a more nationalistic reputation and in his 1918 State of the Union address, President Woodrow Wilson spoke in favor of women’s right to vote.

12. Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi all rejected the amendment before finally ratifying it after Aug. 18, 1920.

13. It took more than 60 years for the other 12 states to ratify the 19th Amendment.

14. Georgia ratified the amendment on Feb. 20, 1970, after rejecting it on July 24, 1919.

15. The last state to ratify the 19th amendment was Mississippi, which did so on March 22, 1984.

16. The amendment overruled the 1875 Minor vs. Happersett case, granting women the right to vote. 

In the case, a Missouri state court refused to register a woman as a lawful voter because state laws said only men were allowed to vote. 

17.  Residents of U.S. colonies (such as Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands) still cannot vote in presidential elections and don’t have Congressional representatives.

18. The 19th Amendment was formally adopted on Aug. 26, 1920.

This day is now nationally recognized as Women’s Equality Day.

19. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, in every presidential election since 1980, the proportion of eligible women voters has exceeded the proportion of eligible males who voted.

Data used for this story came from the U.S. Census, History.com, the National Archives, WhiteHouse.gov and more.

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