What Is the 19th Amendment?

How Women Throughout the Country Got the Right to Vote

Ratification Of The Nineteenth Amendment
The ratification of the 19th amendment. Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed women the right to vote. It was officially enacted on August 26, 1920. Within a week, women all over the country were casting ballots and had their votes officially counted.

What Does the 19th Amendment Say?

Often referred as the Susan B. Anthony amendment, the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, by a vote of 56 to 25 in the Senate.

Over the summer it was ratified by the necessary 36 states. Tennessee was the last state to vote for passage on August 18, 1920.

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was proclaimed as part of the Constitution of the United States. At 8 a.m. on that day, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation which stated:

Section 1: 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.

Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Not the First Attempt at Women's Voting Rights

Attempts to allow women the right to vote began long before the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment. The women's suffrage movement had proposed women's voting rights as early as 1848 at the Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention.

An early form of the amendment was later introduced to Congress in 1878 by Senator A.A.

Sargent of California. Although the bill died in committee, it would be brought before Congress nearly every year for the next 40 years.

Finally, in 1919 during the 66th Congress, Representative James R. Mann of Illinois introduced the amendment in the House of Representatives on May 19th. Two days later, on May 21st the House passed it by a vote of 304 to 89.

This cleared the way for the Senate vote the following month and then ratification by the states.

Women Voted Before 1920

It's interesting to note that some women in the U.S. were voting prior to the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which gave all women full voting rights. A total of 15 states allowed at least some women to vote in some circumstances before 1920. Some states granted full suffrage and the majority of these were west of the Mississippi River.

In New Jersey, for instance, single women who owned more than $250 of property could vote from 1776 until it was rescinded in 1807. Kentucky allowed women to vote in school elections in 1837. This too was abolished in 1902 before being reinstated in 1912.

Wyoming was the leader in full women's suffrage. Then a territory, it granted women the right to vote and hold public office in 1869. It's believed that this was due in part to the fact that men outnumbered women almost six to one in the frontier territory. By giving women a few rights, they hoped to lure young, single women to the area.

There was also some political play involved between Wyoming's two political parties. Yet, it did give the territory some progressive political prowess prior to its official statehood in 1890.

Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, California, Kansas, Oregon, and Arizona also passed suffrage prior to the 19th Amendment. Illinois was the first state east of the Mississippi to follow suit in 1912.

Sources

The Passage of the 19th Amendment, 1919-1920 Articles from The New York Times. Modern History Sourcebook. http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1920womensvote.html

Olsen, K. 1994. "Chronology of Women's History." Greenwood Publishing Group.

"The Chicago Daily News Almanac and Year-Book for 1920." 1921. Chicago Daily News Company.