Precedents

August 18, 1920

Women Gain the Right to Vote

Posted Aug 1, 2009 6:40 PM CDT
By George Hodak

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Photo from the Records of the National Woman's Party,
Library of Congress

In the decades that followed the first women’s rights convention in the U.S., held in July 1848 at Seneca Falls, N.Y., two divergent strategies were pursued to secure women’s suffrage.

One group, led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, brought test cases arguing that the 14th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, conferred upon women the right to vote. When that failed, they proposed their own constitutional amendment. A rival group, led by Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, focused on amending state constitutions.

In 1890, the two joined forces and formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Spurred in part by the National Woman’s Party, a more militant group headed by Alice Paul (shown above), the campaign gained momentum and, eventually, President Woodrow Wilson’s support.

In January 1918, Rep. Jeannette Rankin, R-Mont., the first woman elected to Congress, reintroduced the amendment—four decades after it had first been proposed—that would specifically enfranchise women. The 19th Amendment was ratified when Tennessee became the 36th state to approve it.

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