This year we celebrate the Centennial of the 19th amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote in the United States.
Before the 19th Amendment Women Were Arrested for Voting
Before the 19th amendment women voting not only was unusual, it was also an illegal act. In 1872 pioneer suffragist Susan B. Anthony was arrested and tried for leading a group of 16 women who demanded to be registered and allowed to vote in Rochester, New York. She was found guilty and sentenced to pay a $100 fine, but her determination earned her widespread respect.
It Was a Movement With Diverse Voices
The suffragist movement was far from static. It was a dynamic reality that comprised many voices representing different groups of women. Some of the organizations that participated actively in the struggle to give women the right to vote included the National Association of Colored Women, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, farmer’s organizations, and the Women’s Trade Union League.
The 19th Amendment Passed By Just One Vote (Thanks to a Mother)
By March of 1920 just one more state of the 36 states required was needed to ratify the 19th Amendment in order for it to become law. The Tennessee Senate ratified the amendment, but the House of Representatives failed to do it after two votes of 48 to 48. State Representative Harry T. Burn, one of the “nay” votes, changed his mind after reading a letter from his mother, Phoebe Ensminger Burn, and the amendment was ratified on the third try, ending a 70-year struggle.
The letter that persuaded Burn and changed American history read: “Hurrah and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt … I’ve been watching to see how you stood but have not seen anything yet … Don’t forget to be a good boy.” You can take a look at the original letter clicking on this link.
Some 10 million women voted in 1920, but the Fight Is Far From Over
Thanks to the 19th amendment some 10 million women voted in the 1920 election, a turnout rate of 36% compared to 68% for men (this trend has shifted over time and since 1980 women exceed male turnout rates).
While this was a historic achievement, it’s worth noting that it benefited mostly white women and the few African American women who lived in northern and western states. Asians, Native Americans, Latinos, Latinas and African Americans living in the South were still disenfranchised, although they also made significant contributions to the Suffragist movement.
Jim Crow laws, violence, literacy tests, poll taxes and denial of citizenship were some of the policies used to deny minorities the right to vote after 1920. It wasn’t until 1965 (with the passage of the Voting Rights Act) that African Americans in the South were able to vote more freely. And it was only in 1975 that voting rights amendments prohibited discrimination against language minority citizens.
Even today there is still work to be done in order to ensure equality for all. Celebrating the 19th Amendment doesn’t mean that the fight is over. It means that we are ready to keep tearing down barriers.
The hats of our Celebration 2020 collection are available in cotton, corduroy, and sweater fabric; they celebrate and inspire with a triumphant embroidered front design with the words “Momentum!” “She Persisted!” or “I Vote!” on the back. The “19th Amendment” is embroidered on the side. The selection of colors includes purple, gold, yellow, white, ivory and black. Get yours online today!
Do you know other interesting facts about the 19th amendment? Then share them with us! Send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or reach out by phone (626-353-7347) or through our social media accounts—Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.