The 19th Amendment of the US Constitution passed on August 18, 1920. This Amendment guaranteed the right to vote for all American Women. This achievement required a lengthy and complicated struggle; victory took decades of agitation and protest, beginning around 1800. However, the US Civil War stopped much of these efforts for the movement.
The women’s contribution to the war effort challenged the notion of women’s physical and mental inferiority. It made it more challenging to maintain that women were, both by constitution and temperament, unfit to vote. If women could work in munitions factories, it seemed both ungrateful and illogical to deny them a place in the voting booth. But the vote was much more than merely a reward for war work; the point was that women’s participation in the war helped dispel the fears that surrounded women’s entry into the public arena.
Between 1878, when the Amendment was first introduced in Congress, and August 18, 1920, when it was ratified, champions of voting rights for women worked tirelessly, but strategies for achieving their goal varied. Often supporters met fierce resistance. Opponents heckled, jailed, and sometimes physically abused them.
By 1916, almost all of the major suffrage organizations were united behind a constitutional amendment goal. When New York adopted woman suffrage in 1917 and President Wilson changed his position to support an amendment in 1918, the political balance began to shift.
On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the Amendment, and two weeks later, the Senate followed. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the Amendment on August 18, 1920, the Amendment passed its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states.
A century after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women are still advocating for their rights. But the passage of the 19th Amendment was an important milestone in women’s history-changing the American electorate’s face forever.