A Guide to Women's Suffrage

What You Need to Know About Women's Suffrage

Suffrage March 1912
Suffrage March New York 1912. Hulton Archive / Archive Photos / Getty Images

The women's suffrage movement was one of the defining social movements in the modern world. A forerunner to contemporary feminist movements, the suffrage movement focused on obtaining the right to vote for women. Ultimately, the movement succeeded in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, but this accomplishment, while groundbreaking on paper, still faced many barriers and inequalities in practice.

Who's Who in Women's Suffrage

Who were the people involved in working to win the vote for women? Here are some handy resources to learn more about these suffrage workers:

When: Timelines of Women's Suffrage

Key events in the struggle for women's suffrage in America:

When did women get the vote?

Prior to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the constitutional right to vote, some states had already passed laws granting women the vote. Wyoming was the first, passing a law in 1869. The amendment itself was passed in Congress in 1919 and reached ratification in 1920. However, this wasn't the end of the road: even after ratification, there were legal challenges, and many women across the country were still kept from the ballot box by other measures and legal loopholes.

How: How Women's Suffrage Was Fought for and Won

Overviews:

Seneca Falls, 1848: First Woman's Rights Convention

In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention brought together women to discuss "the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women." Many historians consider this the formal beginning of the women's rights movement. The convention most famously discussed the suffrage movement, but also included discussions of other issues of interest to women.

Later 19th Century

20th Century

Women's Suffrage - Basic Terminology

"Women's suffrage" refers to the right of women to vote and to hold public office. The "women's suffrage movement" (or "woman suffrage movement") includes all the organized activities of reformers to change laws that kept women from voting or to add laws and constitutional amendments to guarantee women the right to vote. Their efforts culminated in 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which states, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

Women's suffrage movements occurred in other countries around the same time, albeit often with property qualifications, age restrictions, or other loopholes.

You'll often read about "woman suffrage" and "suffragettes" -- here are some clarifications on those terms:

  • Suffrage: where does this word come from?
  • Suffragette - is this the correct term to use for those who worked to win the vote for women?
  • Woman or Women? - which term, "women's suffrage" or "woman suffrage" is the correct one for the movement and its goal?

What: Suffrage Events, Organizations, Laws, Court Cases, Concepts, Publications

Major women's suffrage organizations:

Original Sources: Documents of Women's Suffrage

Test Your Knowledge

Check out how much you know about the women's suffrage movement with this online quiz:

And learn some fun facts: 13 Surprising Facts About Susan B. Anthony