The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution

Amendment 19
The 19th Amendment came about after long campaign for women's suffrage.

Click here or scroll down for a summary of the 19th Amendment.


Women’s Suffrage Attained

The 19th Amendment granted the right to vote to American women. The struggle for women’s suffrage had been long and hard, dating back to before the Civil War.

Civil War reenactment
The campaign for women’s suffrage pre-dated the Civil War.

Amendment XIX was finally ratified on August 18, 1920. Thirty-six states were required to ratify the amendment for it to become law, and Tennessee was the last of the 36 to do so.

The Early Campaign for Votes for Women

In the early years of the new United States, it was accepted by most men that women should be homemakers and mothers.

Women did not need to concern themselves with politics, as American men were perfectly able to run the country.

Seneca Falls Convention

In 1848, at the Seneca Falls Convention, the issue of women’s rights took its place on the national stage.

Suffragists
Rose Livingston (R) was a prominent suffragist.

Central to the demands outlined at this Convention was the call for votes for women. Three hundred people attended the Convention, including a few men sympathetic to the cause.

Women’s Rights groups were formed across the country after this Convention. Many saw it as a call for action.

Further conferences were held, speeches made, and the demand for women’s suffrage became a matter that could not be ignored.

The Aftermath of the Civil War

The Civil War divided America, leaving misery and strife in its wake. Women campaigners turned their attention to war efforts in support of their respective sides.

Civil War soldiers
The 15th Amendment divided opinion in the suffragist movement as it focused on the enfranchisement of African American men in the United States.

Following the Civil War, the proposed Reconstruction Era 15th Amendment divided opinion among women’s rights activists.

The 15th Amendment set out to enfranchise African American men. Some women’s rights campaigners wanted to press for women’s voting rights to be included. Others thought the amendment might fall if that was proposed.

Once the 15th Amendment was passed – without reference to voting rights for women – and the Civil War ended, women campaigners, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony, picked up their banners again.

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony.

Two organizations were formed to push for voting rights. These were the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).

Early Successes for Women’s Rights

One early success came in 1869, when Wyoming Territory gave female residents 21 and over the right to vote. 

Welcome to Wyoming sign
Wyoming granted women the right to vote in 1869.

Despite attempting to pass an amendment to the United States Constitution failing in 1886, Wyoming retained votes for women as part of its Constitution when it became a state in 1890. As a result, Wyoming is still known as the Equality State.

Before the turn of the century, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado amended their Constitutions to grant women voting rights.

This led the new National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to adopt tactics meant to persuade individual states to introduce women’s suffrage. Sixteen more states did so before 1918.

The Final Push for the Vote

The aim, though, was to get the amendment passed that would guarantee votes for women on a national level.

President Woodrow Wilson
President Woodrow Wilson at first opposed women’s suffrage.

Marches were held, more speeches were made, and a massive parade took place in Washington DC the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.

President Wilson initially opposed votes for women, but after World War I, he changed his mind due to the role women had played in securing victory over Germany.

After an unsuccessful attempt in 1918, the 19th Amendment finally passed through Congress in 1919. It depended on ratification by 36 states for the amendment to become a part of the Constitution.

The Southern States and Women’s Right To Vote

Most Southern States were opposed to women having the vote, and by the summer of 1920, with 35 states having ratified, it was up to Tennessee whether the amendment would pass.

Confederate flag
There was reluctance amongst the Southern States to grant women the right to vote.

The southern states that objected looked to Tennessee to stop the amendment. The legislature tied at 48 for and 48 against.

A young Representative named Harry T Burn was the last to vote. It is rumored that he obeyed his mother and voted in favor of the amendment!

The amendment was certified by the US Secretary of State on August 26, 1920, and women across the whole United States were able to vote.

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