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The 19th Amendment is Ratified



The demand for the right to vote of American women was first seriously devised at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. In 1848, Lucretia Coffin Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, on July 19 and 20, organized the Seneca Falls convention (Flexner 74). In this convention, Stanton drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence. The document listed various forms of discrimination against women including the denial of suffrage. Also, they claimed equal rights in universities, professions, and the right to share in all political offices, and demanded equality in marriage, freedom, and various rights that men had (Porter 139). Two weeks later, the convention moved to Rochester, New York; one and a half year later, another in Salem, Ohio; another in Worcester, Massachusetts; and another in Philadelphia, once every year from 1850-1860-all passing for the same thing, which was woman's rights (Flexner 80-81).

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In the years after the convention, and during the Civil War, the movement was small and continued that way until the 1880's. This happened because members were not formally acknowledged, and they could not come to an agreement on what issues of reform to support, which caused conflict among the suffragists. Two organizations developed after disagreement of whether or not to support black suffrage: American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association.

Leaders of the American Woman Suffrage Association, which was organized on a delegate basis (152), were Lucy Stone and Julie Ward Howe. The leader of the National Woman Suffrage Association was Susan B. Anthony, who was helped by Stanton as well. Anthony was not among the original women of Seneca Falls, but became the leader of a major group (Gurko 120). Many conflicts and criticisms occurred between the two groups, and remained that way throughout their lives. One of the differences that clouded the disagreements was that the NWSA opposed the Fifteenth Amendment, because it did not include women and that the "Negroes should get the vote first" (231-32). The NWSA worked for suffrage on the federal level and pushed for more extensive institutional changes, such as the granting of property rights to married women, and "opened membership in the new association to any woman who believed in suffrage, but in point of fact only those joined who were willing to follow the uncompromising policies of its leaders" (Flexner 152).

In 1872, Anthony was arrested along with other women who voted on November 5th, in Rochester, New York for claiming that the provisions of the 14th and 15th Amendments applied to all citizens, male and female, and "she [indirectly] wanted Congress to pass legislation making it possible to exercise that right" (Gurko 244). Within two weeks after the voting incident, the women were arrested on the federal criminal charge of "having voted without the lawful right to vote."

Before a trial was done against Anthony, she had been briefly imprisoned for illegally voting, also along with other women. Bail was at $500, and all accepted but Anthony. She refused, applying instead for a writ of habeas corpus, which was denied and bail was raised to $1,000. Anthony preferred to go to jail first than pay. But the judge couldn't see Susan B. Anthony in jail, so he paid it himself. Leaving the courtroom, she learned that she lost the chance to put the case before the Supreme Court by writ of habeas corpus. She hurried back into the courtroom, but it was too late (252-53).

The trial of the United States of America vs. Susan B. Anthony opened on June 17, 1873. Anthony's defense was that the 14th Amendment's Privileges and Immunities Clause gave all citizens, including women, naturalized in the United States (Dorr 257). The judge would not allow Anthony to testify for herself. After much contemplation by the judge and the contending arguments by the attorneys, the judge ruled, opinionated, that the 14th Amendment was inapplicable and directed the all-male jury to bring in a guilty verdict (259). When Anthony's counsel, protesting this clearly unconstitutional procedure, requested that the jury be polled; the judge instead summarily discharged the jurors. All in all, Anthony was charged $100, but never paid it.

Despite division between the suffragists, the movement did unite into the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1890 (Gurko 237). Although shaky at first, the organization succeeded in merging because all primary leaders in each organization felt this was necessary in order to promote women's enfranchisement. The first president of the NAWSA was Stanton, but after Stanton moved to England, Anthony took over the position as president.

In 1915, nine years after Anthony's death, one of the most politically astute women, Carrie Chapman Catt, one of Anthony's allies in the growth of the movement, was named president of the NAWSA. She shifted the movement's emphasis from propaganda to political action and displayed outstanding organizational ability. Catt said one of the most important things during the movement towards suffrage and rights: "This world taught woman nothing skillful and then said her work was valueless…It robbed her of every vestige of responsibility, and then called her weak…It taught her that every pleasure must come as a favor from men…" (304).

A year before, in 1914, Alice Paul arrived in Washington and went to work for the NAWSA's Congressional Committee. She had also been jailed for her suffrage activities (Flexner 263). Her style was a brash kind was asked to leave the organization because of her radical tactics. Split from the organization, she formed the National Woman's Party and operated her radical tactics such as mass marches, hunger strikes, and organizing picketers. Perseverance on part of both organizations, though, eventually led to victory.

On January 10, 1918, the house approved the 19th Amendment, which said that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any other state on account of sex. Many states granted suffrage to women before the actual ratification of the amendment, but finally after a year and a half, the senate passed the amendment on June 19, 1919.  The 19th Amendment became part of the US Constitution on August 26, 1920 when it was approved by Tenessee.


Dorr, Rheta C. Susan B. Anthony: The Woman who Changed the Mind of a Nation. New York: AMS Press, 1970.

Flexner, Eleanor. Century of Struggle. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959.

Gurko, Miriam. The Ladies of Seneca Falls: The Birth of the Woman's Rights Movement. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1974.

Kraditor, Aileen S. The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement: 1890-1920. Garden City: Anchor Books, 1965.

Porter, Kirk H. A History of Suffrage in the United States. New York: AMS Press, 1971.

Edited by: Nazario Odeste
Researched by: Zijada Ljaskic
Written by: Danielle Nemeth
March 26, 2000

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