The Constitution of the United States – Part 18

The Constitution of the United States – Part 18

The 19th Amendment

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States by any State on account of sex.  (Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, ratified August 18, 1920)

 

Though the Constitution originally made no mention of women’s right to vote, it was implied by society – women simply did not have the right to vote (because at that time, they could not own property, and voting rights went to property owners).   The 14th Amendment actually made things worse, by codifying the suffrage right to men only, when its Second Clause punished  the denial of suffrage to men (though this still did not officially deny women the right).  As early as 1848, groups met to discuss how to further women’s rights and the franchise, it was decided, was the best place to start.  But America was not ready, and the suffragists, as they were called, were branded as immoral.   www.usconstitution.net
If you recall from the Wyoming story, Wyoming (“the Equality State”) was the first state to grant women the right to vote.  In 1890, when Wyoming was considering statehood, they were told they would be granted statehood but had to repeal the women’s right to vote.  The Wyoming legislature stated “We will remain out of the union 100 years rather than come in without the women.”  Congress relented and Wyoming became the 44th state – with their women voters.  http://mentalfloss.com/article/67422/19-facts-about-19th-amendment
It wasn’t until the WWI era, and the support of women to the war effort, that convinced many, including President Woodrow Wilson who was staunchly opposed to a federal suffrage amendment, that the time had come to extend the right to vote to women.  Eight days after the 19th Amendment was ratified, 10 million women joined the voter rolls.  Interestingly, Mississippi didn’t ratify this Amendment until March 22, 1984! http://mentalfloss.com/article/67422/19-facts-about-19th-amendment.
Successful ratification of the 19th Amendment followed a very long, very brutal battle by brave American wives and mothers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton (died 1902) and Susan B. Anthony (died 1906) who worked tirelessly to “get ‘er done” even after three Supreme Court defeats and numerous losses in Congress.  During this decades-long battle, the suffragists risked their lives to advance this cause, were imprisoned, beaten, denied water and force-fed during a hunger strike while incarcerated.  Right here in America, folks.  They launched a massive suffrage parade at Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, and hundreds of women were injured. They sacrificed their health, marriages and what limited amount of freedom they had to get this Amendment passed for future generations of American women.
The Golden Globe winning movie, Iron Jawed Angels (2004, starring Hilary Swank),  portrays their battle vividly for those of you who would like to view a snapshot of history with your children and grandchildren.