Women's Suffrage

Updated: April 1, 2024
The history of women's struggle for the right to vote.

Well into the 20th century, women in many countries did not have the right to vote. It wasn't until 1920 that women had the right to vote in the United States. This is a visual history of women's struggle to obtain voting rights.

The Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified by the states on August 18, 1920 (3/4 of states are required to ratify), simply says "Section 1. The right of the 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." It took more than 40 years for several states to finally ratify it: Maryland (1941), Virginia (1952), Alabama (1953), Florida (1969, although not certified until 1973), Georgia (1970), Louisiana (1970), North Carolina (1971), and Mississippi (1984). Such a simple principle but decades of struggle went into the creation and passing of the Amendment: It was first proposed and rejected in 1878 and reintroduced every year for the next 41 years.

In the United States, the women's rights movement and the abolitionist movement were at first united. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an abolutionist and women's rights advocate, wrote a "Declaration of Sentiments" in 1848, based on the Constitution. In part, this read:

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”

Married women are legally dead in the eyes of the law
Women are not allowed to vote
Women have to submit to laws when they had no voice in their formation
Married women have no property rights
Husbands have legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they can imprison or beat them with impunity
Divorce and child custody laws favor men, giving no rights to women
Women have to pay property taxes although they have no representation in the levying of these taxes
Most occupations are closed to women and when women do work they are paid only a fraction of what men earn
Women are not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law
Women have no means to gain an education since no college or university will accept women students
With only a few exceptions, women are not allowed to participate in the affairs of the church
Women are robbed of their self-confidence and self-respect, and are made totally dependent on men

This Declaration and the efforts of abolitionists and suffragists lead to regular meetings and large protests, up until the beginning of the Civil War. After the War, many abolitionists felt that their goals had been achieved and it was left to the suffragists (both men and women) to continue the cause. The focus became the right for women to vote as it was felt that voting would change the other issues (such as a woman, especially a married women, having no legal rights). Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony. Matilda Joslyn Gage, Lucy Stone, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, Harriot Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Stone Blackwell, Lucy Stone’s daughter . . . the list of heroic women who fought for the rights of all goes on and on - and for generations.

Today, three women sit on the Supreme Court. One of those women, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has said “I think about how much we owe to the women who went before us – legions of women, some known but many more unknown. I applaud the bravery and resilience of those who helped all of us – you and me – to be here today.”

These are some of their photos and photos their activities.
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