Today, we celebrate the 97th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. This day in history, women gained the right to vote. August 18th is a day that encapsulates all that women have accomplished over the last 100 years. We look forward to what we will accomplish in the next 100. In honor of this historic moment, let’s take a look at the fight for women’s suffrage.

The movement that kicked it all off began in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, cornerstones of the movement, organized the event in which over 300 attendees agreed that women are “autonomous individuals who deserved their own political identities.” Along with Stanton, a group of women came together and developed the “Declaration of Sentiments” to lay out their belief that women are fundamentally equal to men. The women modeled this document after the Declaration of Independence, saying “[w]e hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal,” letting the world know they believed they should have the right to vote.

In 1861, the Civil War took some of the wind out of the sails of the suffrage movement. The dedicated women of the movement did not give up hope that one day women would achieve full equality in voting rights. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869 with hopes of bringing the discussion to a national level. At the same time, Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell founded the American Women’s Suffrage Association. This was an effort to gain voting rights for women through a series of amendments to state constitutions. 

Between the founding of the NAWSA and the turn of the 20th century, there was not significant progress in the movement. Carrie Chapman Catt took over leadership of the NAWSA in 1900. The deaths of both Stanton and Anthony in 1902 and 1906, respectively, provided their own set of unique setbacks. By 1918, 18 states and territories had extended the right to vote to women, but there was still no constitutional guarantee of this right to women under federal law. This was the ultimate goal of both Anthony and Stanton.

A massive win for women’s suffrage came when Woodrow Wilson, then president, became a supporter of the movement. It is said it was through the influence of Alice Paul, a Congresswoman and founder of the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage. Wilson is quoted as having said ‘“I regard the extension of suffrage to women as vitally essential to the successful prosecution of the great war of humanity in which we are engaged.” His expression of support allowed Republicans in Congress to bring legislation to the floor. It was understood that the President had their backs.

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Finally on May 21, 1919, Representative James R. Mann, a Republican from Illinois and Suffrage Committee Chairman, proposed a bill to provide women with the right to vote. Two weeks after proposal, on June 6, 1919, the bill was passed 56-25. It was ratified on August 18, 1920 in a 49-48 vote in Tennessee. The final vote was cast in the state legislature by 23-year-old Representative Harry T. Burn.

In November 1920, over 8 million women had the opportunity to vote in their first election.

The amendment took 64 years to be ratified by the remaining states with Mississippi coming in last, ratifying on March 22, 1984.

The fight for suffrage was extensive, hard fought, and even a battlefield at times. It took hundreds of women, vocal supporters, and men who supported the mission of strong women to get the vote passed. This movement ultimately ensure voting privileges for all. Next time you go to the polling place, say a little “thank you” to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and all of the strong women who have come before you and let your voice be heard in their honor.

Corrie L
FFL Cabinet Member
Corrie is a Cabinet Member at FFL. She is passionate about coffee, Jesus, and lipstick, and never wears white after Labor Day. If she isn't busy talking about law school or FFL, you can find her studying constitutional law or reviewing a contract. Her plan A is Super Mom turned Supreme Court Justice, and she hopes to one day be just like Sandra Day O"Connor.

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