Women's Suffrage and the 19th Amendment
"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."
- 19th Amendment, Constitution of United States of America -
Closely tied to the abolitionist movement and inspired by the suffragettes in England, women’s suffrage leaders in America began building toward a large scale, organized effort to demand the right to vote for women. While the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 is widely recognized as the official beginning of the movement, in reality women fought for equal rights as long as they were denied them. Over many decades, women’s suffrage organizations broke apart and reformed as debates over tactics and practices of inclusion and exclusion divided groups and individuals.
Around the turn of the 20th century, vigor in the women’s suffrage movement was reborn on a national scale, particularly with the rise of young women in the movement. Many of these new leaders believed in the importance of employing dramatic and militant practices to capture the attention of politicians and the American population. Picketing, parades, and other confrontational methods employed by organizations like the National Women's Party spurred the agitation of police and politicians. As a result, women were arrested, fined, jailed in harsh conditions, and violently force fed during hunger strikes.
After more than 80 years of fighting, these suffragists succeeded in convincing politicians to back the 19th Amendment. Passed by Congress in 1919 and fully ratified into law in 1920, it formally secured the right of women to vote in America.
With suffrage ensured, many of these same women who had become active in the movement turned towards educating and mobilizing women around their newfound political power. New women’s groups and organizations, including the League of Women Voters and the National Organization of Colored Women, focused on fighting for more expansive equal rights, ending lynching and disenfranchisement in the south, and increasing political awareness and participation among the newly enfranchised population.
Explore items related to the political and moral arguments supporting and opposing women's suffrage and items related to suffrage organizations.
The Suffragist, first published in November of 1913, was a weekly newspaper published by Alice Paul and the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (later the National Woman’s Party).
Suffragist and muckraker journalist Rheta Childe Dorr was the newspaper’s first editor. Baltimore suffragist Edith Houghton Hooker, who was the founder and editor of Maryland Suffrage News, took over the role in 1917. Artist Nina Allender illustrated its popular cover-art and political cartoons. Allender’s portrayal of suffragists was new and influential, which depicted suffragists as “New Women:” young, conventionally attractive, intelligent, and courageous.
When Alice Paul and other members of the National Woman’s Party began picketing the White House in 1917, the newspaper used its non-mainstream status to expose the harsh treatment of protesters as political prisoners to the public, gaining suffragists nationwide sympathy.
The Suffragist ceased publication shortly after the passage of the 19th Amendment. In 1923, it was reintroduced as Equal Rights, the official publication for the National Women’s Party.