Celebrating a Century of Women’s Right to Vote

John Derewitz

This month holds the centennial celebration of the passage in the senate of the 19th amendment, allowing women to vote.  While this was not the final battle fought by women to gain the vote, it was the last federal governmental obstruction before the amendment was sent to the states for the final effort to ratify the 19th amendment into the constitution.  This effort was successfully completed on August 18, 1920. 

The road of this struggle while not smooth had been dotted with local successes decades earlier.  Between 1776 and 1807 single women owning property worth at least fifty pounds were permitted to vote. 

In 1838 widow’s with school age children could vote, but only in school board elections in Kentucky.  Similarly, in 1861, the same rights were granted in Kansas. 

In 1869 the president of the upper house of the Wyoming territory proposed and the house granted, women the right to vote along side the right to serve on juries and property rights equal to their husbands.  These rights were enshrined in law when the Wyoming territory was granted statehood in 1890.

In 1895 the Utah territory joined these states and added women’s rights to its constitution the year before it was granted statehood in 1896.

Between 1893 and 1920 the states of California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Arizona, New York, New Jersey (again) and Illinois had voted locally for women’s suffrage.   

Between 1870 and 1910 alone, women suffragists fought 480 campaigns in 33 states just to have the issue put on the ballot. 

These efforts were finally codified into the 19th amendment, “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.  Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation” which was finally passed on August 18, 1920 when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify it.

This month we recognize that not only do women have the right to celebrate the right to vote but all women have the right to choose how they are treated in every aspect of their lives. As their struggle continues, we should recognize all women as valued and equal partners in our democracy and recognize their sometimes-bloody struggles to finally get what they were denied after the adoption of our constitution in 1776.

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