10 Forgotten Facts about the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Suffragettes protesting for the right to vote
Suffragettes protesting for the right to vote in 1910

August 18th, 2020 marked 100 years since women in the U.S. were finally given the right to vote.  Though the Declaration of Independence in 1776 declared that all ‘men’ are created equal, the U.S. Constitution did not grant such equality to women.  For the next 144 years, U.S. women were denied the right to vote, up until the start of the Roaring Twenties in 1920.   So America had the automobile, the telephone, even the airplane, all before women had the equal right to vote, same as men.

Here are 10 forgotten facts about the Women’s Suffrage movement that have gotten lost over time, but are certainly worth remembering:

1)  Women’s Suffrage was around for many decades, long before the U.S. 19th Amendment.  In 1848, a group of 300, mostly female, abolitionists gathered at a convention in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss women’s rights, including the right to vote. They were invited by famous reformers Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott.
2) In 1869, after the U.S. Civil War, a new group called the National Woman Suffrage Association was founded by Elizabeth Stanton and slavery abolitionist Susan B. Anthony.  They began to fight for decades, unsuccessfully, for a universal-suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Sadly, it would take another 51 years, after they had both died.
3) The famous Susan B. Anthony, the woman on the dollar coin, was first active in the temperance and abolitionist movements. This was before she met Elizabeth Stanton and devoted herself to women’s suffrage for the rest of her long career, never marrying.  She died in 1906 at the age of 86, sadly never getting to see women get the vote over a decade later.
4) After the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1869, giving black men – former slaves, the right to vote, black abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglas was a strong supporter of the women’s suffrage movement.  He attended the Seneca Falls Conference in New York and became a long time friend and supporter of Susan B. Anthony.
5) In 1872, Susan B. Anthony publicly and illegally cast her ballot (for Ulysses S. Grant) in that year’s presidential election. She was promptly arrested at the poll and brought to trial in Rochester, New York.  She was found guilty by an all-male jury, but refused to pay her $100 fine, giving a fiery speech in the courthouse.  The frustrated judge decided she would serve no jail time.
6) In 1878, a Woman Suffrage Amendment was proposed in the U.S. Congress by a senator ally of Susan B. Anthony. It goes nowhere, due to a lack of male support in Congress and none from President Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House. BUT, when the 19th Amendment finally passes forty-one years later, it is worded nearly exactly the same.
7) Just as women today don’t represent a single, united voting block— some women in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s actually opposed women’s suffrage. A substantial group of women believed voting would distract women from their ‘far more important roles’ as wives and mothers, and interfere with their husband’s role as the Head of the Household.  
8) Women’s suffrage was not just an American phenomenon.  The first country to grant national voting rights to women was the self-governing British colony of New Zealand in 1893.  Finland was the first European nation a decade later in 1903.  The British Empire took until 1918.  The last European country to do so was Switzerland, believe it or not, as late as 1971.
 9) In 1912, Woman Suffrage is supported for the first time by a major political party — Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Bull Moose Party, which lost in the general election to Republican William Taft.  In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson states that the Democratic Party platform will support woman’s suffrage in his second term.  But then World War I began in Europe …
10) Prior to the 19th Amendment,  eighteen U.S. states allowed women to vote in elections. The first was Wyoming when it was admitted to the Union in 1890.  Colorado, Utah and Idaho would soon follow in that same decade.  Other western frontier states would follow suit as well.  Mississippi was the last state to formally ratify the 19th Amendment decades later, in 1984!
Suffragettes protesting against President Wilson
Suffragettes protesting against U.S. President Wilson in 1918

In June of 1919,  following World War I, the U.S. Senate finally passes the 19th Amendment 56 to 39, and the state ratification process began, requiring ¾ of the American states.  On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee legislature, the 36th state, narrowly approved the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and it was finally ratified.  Women could freely vote in all 50 states that November.  Today, it is known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.  On November 2nd of 1920, more than 8 million women across the United States voted in elections for the very first time.

In 1923, the National Woman’s Party proposed an amendment to the Constitution that prohibited ALL discrimination on the basis of sex. The so-called Equal Rights Amendment has been around for decades ever since, but never been ratified.  Even with the passage of the 15th and 19th Amendments, all was still not right with the world.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 would finally eliminate the Jim Crow obstacles that both black men and women faced in exercising their Constitutional right to vote.  Today, voting rights are once again at the forefront of our political debate.  ‘Progress’ is certainly in the eye of the beholder … and the hands of the politicians.

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Similar related posts:  Susan B. Anthony, the Woman on the Dollar Coin

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LOST IN HISTORY Blog/Podcast about key forgotten history still relevant in today's world. Paul Andrews also has 5 historical adventure novels, all available on Amazon.

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