What Is the 19th Amendment?

How women throughout the country got the right to vote

a page showing the 19th amendment of the constitution

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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 56-25 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. 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, on May 19, 1919, during the 66th Congress, Rep. James R. Mann of Illinois introduced the amendment in the House of Representatives. Two days later, the House passed it by a vote of 304-89. 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In New Jersey, for instance, single women who owned more than $250 in property could vote from 1776 until that was rescinded in 1807. Kentucky allowed women to vote in school elections in 1837. This too was abolished in 1902 before it was 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.

Additional References

  • The Passage of the 19th Amendment, 1919-1920. Articles from The New York Times. Modern History Sourcebook.
  • 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.
View Article Sources
  1. Woman Suffrage Centennial.” U.S. Senate: Woman Suffrage Centennial, 16 July 2020, senate.gov.

  2. Women's Suffrage: Tennessee and the Passage of the 19th Amendment.” Tennessee Secretary of State.

  3. Noy, G. "Area couple fought for women's rights." 17 June 2004.

  4. History on May 21, 2019. “Why Not Have It Constitutionally?: Race, Gender, and the Nineteenth Amendment." US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives, history.house.gov, 21 May 2019.

  5. Miller, Jodi L. "Third Time is the Charm for New Jersey’s State Constitution." Constitutionally New Jersey, New Jersey State Bar Foundation.

  6. "January 1, 1919: Map: States Grant Women the Right to Vote." Centuries of Citizenship, A Constitution Timeline. National Constitution Center.

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Lowen, Linda. "What Is the 19th Amendment?" ThoughtCo, Oct. 14, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-the-19th-amendment-3533634. Lowen, Linda. (2020, October 14). What Is the 19th Amendment? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-19th-amendment-3533634 Lowen, Linda. "What Is the 19th Amendment?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-19th-amendment-3533634 (accessed March 31, 2023).