History of the Fight for Women's Right to Vote in the United States and the 19th Amendment

Updated on January 16, 2019
ThelmaC profile image

Thelma is an award winning non-fiction writer who enjoys writing about people and events in American history.

The Fight for Female Suffrage

Many people do not realize there was a time in the United States when only men were allowed to vote. If it were not for the suffrage (means the right to vote) movement, women may never have been given the right to vote.

What started as a small scale attempt to achieve public awareness of this injustice to women turned into conventions, parades, and marches, which led to arrests and injuries to hundreds of women involved in the protests.

The change in voting rights did not come easily or quickly. Suffragists fought the battle for over 70 years, which seems unimaginable to United States citizens today.

Seneca Falls Convention: Starting Point for the Struggle for Women's Rights

One of the earliest events held to publicize the need for women's equality was organized by Suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in 1848. The Seneca Falls Convention in Seneca Falls, New York was attended by more than 300 people, including a few men. One of the males was well known activist Frederick Douglass, a former African American slave. Stanton and Mott, along with Susan B. Anthony, began the effort to raise public awareness for women's right to vote. This is considered to be the start of the American women's rights movement.

Issues discussed at the convention included:

  • Women working outside the home
  • Better education for women
  • Women deserving the right to vote

Convention Organizers

Suffragists Mott, Stanton and Anthony
Suffragists Mott, Stanton and Anthony | Source

Two Organizations Founded to Further the Cause

After the Civil War, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was founded in 1869 by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Their platform was an amendment to the United States Constitution which would give women the right to vote. They opposed the passage of the 15th Amendment which would give black men voting rights but did not include suffrage for women, white or black.

The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) was established by abolitionists Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell. They were in favor of the 15th Amendment and believed it would not be ratified if it included women's suffrage. Their strategy was to fight on a state level as opposed to a national level which the NWSA endorsed.

Territory of Wyoming First to Give Females the Right to Vote

In 1869, the Wyoming territory gave female residents age 21 and older their voting rights. Wyoming not only showed their forward thinking in the advancement of voting rights, the state also elected the first female governor in the nation in 1924. Their well deserved state nickname is the "Equality State".

Wyoming Women Casting Votes


Groups Join Forces for the Common Goal

In 1890, the NWSA and AWSA combined their efforts and became the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Their agenda was to lobby the individual states to adopt amendments to their state constitutions concerning women voting. It would take longer than getting the national constitution amended but it would be easier to concentrate their work at the state level.

In 1913, the day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, a massive suffrage parade was held in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of women were injured and many were arrested. More demonstrations, including picketing the White House, were held. These events were reported in newspapers across the nation.

President Wilson had originally been opposed to women voting and had campaigned on that platform. Many men of the time period thought the ladies' interest would diminish. When it became clear they would be in the fight as long as necessary to change the minds of "backward thinking" men, Wilson realized he should alter his stand on the issue and support the suffrage movement.

Finally, an amendment was introduced in Congress. However, even with the president's backing, it failed to pass in the Senate by just two votes. Although the effort had been unsuccessful, passage was definitely getting closer.

1920 was the Year of Success for the Cause

On May 21, 1919, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, passed in the House of Representatives. Two weeks later, it passed in the Senate.

Then, the legislation was sent to the individual states for ratification. To become law, the approval of at least 36 of the 48 states were needed. By 1920, only one more state's vote was needed for it to become law. It had already been rejected in seven of the southern states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. Tennessee was the next state to vote.

The fate of the amendment rested in the hands of Republican Representative Harry T. Burn of McMinn county Tennessee. Representative Burn, who was only 21 years old, had previously made it clear he did not support the bill. The prospect of a victory was looking dim.

Then, Harry's mother got involved causing him to do an about face on his position. The story goes that Mrs. Burn told her son, "Don't forget to be a good boy and help in the ratification". After Harry cast his ballot, the 19th Amendment was ratified and became law.

Tennessee State Representative Harry T. Burn

Tennessee state representative who cast deciding vote for female suffrage.
Tennessee state representative who cast deciding vote for female suffrage. | Source

The Rest of the Story

In November 1920, after over 70 years of struggle by several generations of women, over 8 million women voted for their first time. This proves the truth in the adage: "The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil"!

The Difference Between Suffragist and Suffragette

In the United States, the term suffragette was the title used for those wanting to deny women the right to vote.

Suffragists were those advocating for female suffrage.

US Postage Stamps and Posters Recognizing Woman Suffrage

Click thumbnail to view full-size

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2019 Thelma Raker Coffone


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      20 months ago from USA

      What a great article. I love the action by Harry Burn's mother. Women in men's lives yield great influence, then and now. It's also good that you pointed out differences in definitions of suffragette nd suffragist.

    • prettynutjob30 profile image


      20 months ago from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet.

      I love this, we as women have come very far!!! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Carson Lloyd profile image

      Carson Lloyd 

      20 months ago from Idaho

      Really insightful, detailed work here. And an incredibly worthy topic, one we all need to be educated on. Well done.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, soapboxie.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)