19th Amendment, Ratified August 18, 1920
In 1917, the year the United States entered World War I, women in New York State won a tremendous victory when the state granted the electoral franchise to women. The two national women's suffrage organizations, the conservative National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and the radical National Women's Party (NWP), argued that it was hypocritical to fight for democracy in Europe while denying democracy to half the American population. In fact, significantly more than half of American citizens were denied the right to vote at that time. African Americans of both sexes were systematically denied the franchise. In theory, however, black men, unlike women of any race, were promised the vote by the 15th Amendment. The NWP used confrontational tactics, chaining supporters to the White House gates, and demanding that President Woodrow Wilson support a constitutional amendment; NAWSA, on the other hand, presented itself as the patriotic, conservative alternative, knitting socks for soldiers while reminding President Wilson of his promises to "make the world safe for democracy."
In 1918, the House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment that gave the franchise to women, and Wilson endorsed it. However, anti-suffrage Republicans and Southern Democrats in the Senate balked. In response, the NWP and NAWSA mobilized thousands for massive marches and meetings. The Senate finally passed what is known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, and local networks of suffragists ensured that it was ratified by the states. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify, and it became the 19th Amendment in time for women's votes to affect the 1920 presidential election.
Browse Publications Digitized for Women Working
- National Archives, Teaching With Documents: Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment.
- U.S. News & World Report, The People's Vote: 100 Documents that Shaped America, 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote (1920).