On Tuesday August 18, 2020 American women celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With ratification of the 19th, American women could vote!
To celebrate this momentous occasion, I’ve put together some links that show the big and small pictures of the struggle for women’s suffrage in America.
FIRST OF ALL, LET’S FINISH HELPING MRS. THOMAS CATT WITH HER RATS
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 19th Amendment on May 21, 1919, and the Senate passed it on June 4, 1919. Final passage—ratification—of the amendment was the responsibility of the individual states.
Carrie Chapman Catt (aka, Mrs. Thomas Catt)—as the leader of the National American Woman Suffrage Association—was a major force behind the passage and ratification of the 19th. Her “Rats”, of course, were the individual state ratifications of the amendment.
By July 1920, 35 states had ratified the amendment; eight had voted against it.
The 19th Amendment came up for a ratification vote in the Tennessee House of Representatives on August 18, 1920, and the deciding vote was made by 24-year old Republican Harry Burn a formerly anti-Amendment Rep.
What made young Harry switch from Nay to Yay? It all came down to a letter from his pro-Amendment mother, the redoubtable Phoebe Ensminger Burn (called Miss Febb by all), who wrote Harry a seven page letter that included the advice ”Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. ‘Thomas Catt’ with her “Rats.”
Harry heeded his mother’s advice and voted for ratification on August 18, 1920. The amendment was officially added to the U.S. Constitution by U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby on August 26, 1920.
OVERVIEWS ON AMERICAN WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE
Here are some big picture views of the suffrage fight.
Timeline: Woman Suffrage from the National Women’s History Museum goes from the 1840’s through 1920.
The U.S. National Archives features Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote.
Crusade for the Vote goes into the fine details of suffrage (and even, anti-suffrage), including links to many primary sources.
Here’s an interesting timeline of how women fought for suffrage on a local level: Evanston (Illinois) Women and the 19th Amendment.
The Washington Post shares what I call Fun Facts in Things you didn’t know (or maybe forgot) about how women got the vote. This article also features a NOT-TO-BE-MISSED film of women voting in 1920.
ONLINE EXHIBITS CELEBRATING THE ANNIVERSARY
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ratification of the 19th Amendment is being celebrated virtually across the land. Here are just a few of these virtual celebrations.
@ The Historic New Orleans Collection: “Yet She Is Advancing”: New Orleans Women and the Right to Vote, 1878-1970 covers “the struggle to ensure suffrage for all women over.”
Votes for Women: Celebrating New York’s Suffrage Centennial features twelve short biographies and multiple artifacts. Bloomers, anyone?
On the Road to Ratification; California and the Struggle for Women’s Suffrage details how the Golden State campaigned for women’s suffrage.
NOTE: I’m not including links to works of fiction, but I would like to mention PLW Linda Ulleseit’s novel UNDER THE ALMOND TREES, which features her great great grandmother Ellen VanValkenburgh, an early advocate for votes for women in California.
Not quite an online exhibit, but an image gallery of the Portrait Monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
DIGITAL PRIMARY SOURCES
Want to do you own research online, aka “sup with the primary sources”? Here you go:
The Grandmother of Historical Digital Information, as always is our Library of Congress. The National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection contains 1,935 digitized items—photos, pamphlets, ribbons, books, and lots more. “Users should note that the collection mirrors the biases of NAWSA’s membership. For the most part, it represents the concerns of well-educated, middle- and upper-class white women living in the North, and especially in New England. There is little in the collection to document the role of Southern women or women of color. Working-class women receive a slightly larger share of attention, but, for the most part, the collection details the experiences of the affluent white women who formed the suffrage campaign’s leadership cadre.
The Keith-McHenry-Pond Family Papers at the University of California include the papers of “Mary McHenry Keith, reflecting her participation in the woman suffrage movement and humanitarian activities.“
The Alice Paul Institute offers For Democracy: Celebrating 100 Years of the 19th Amendment, which features Alice Paul’s (yep! I always think of her as “Alice Paul”; never as “Alice”) pamphlets, copies of The Suffragist magazine (the Official Weekly Organ of the National Women’s Party), and her very own pencil case.
The Black Woman Suffragists Collection is part of the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States. I came across this collection while researching this essay and was BLOWN AWAY.
ABOUT WOMEN OF COLOR
It’s been really exciting this year to see the articles and books detailing Women of Color suffragists. Like these:
FINISH THE FIGHT! by Veronica Chambers and the staff of The New York Times is “a middle grade nonfiction book…that presents biographies of the diverse women who fought for women’s suffrage, but whose roles in this historic movement have been less recognized and celebrated.“
The National Women’s History Museum offers Standing up for Change: African American Women and the Civil Rights Movement.
At The Washington Post Sydney Trent introduces us to The Black sorority that faced racism in the suffrage movement but refused to walk away
On Ancestry.com historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. shares the fight for Black women’s suffrage in Through the Cracks of the 15th and 19th Amendments.
ABOUT NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN
Despite the passage of the 19th Amendment, many Native American women could still not vote. “In 1920, Native Women Sought the Vote. Here’s What’s Next.” in The New York Times reports that “many [Native American women] were not U.S. citizens, but legally wards of the government, without a political voice to address the many problems facing their communities.“ (NOTE: I couldn’t include a photograph of political activist Zitkala-Sa (also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), a citizen of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, because of restrictions.)
That’s about it for the 19th Amendment for today. Got some great American Women’s Suffrage links of your own? Add them in the comments!
And this Election Day, Tuesday November 3rd, please join the Paper Lantern Writers in honoring all of the women and men who helped Mrs. Thomas Catt with her Rats by getting out and voting!
Ana Brazil writes historical crime fiction celebrating bodacious American heroines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers.
Ana’s award-winning historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is set in Gilded Age New Orleans. Her upcoming October 17 2023 release is THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE, a Viola Vermillion Vaudeville mystery set in 1919 San Francisco.