The Woman Suffrage Movement

The U.S. ratification of the 19th Amendment

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the legal right to vote, was signed into law.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, women and men of all backgrounds and ethnicities aided in the fight for universal suffrage. Despite this, the 19th Amendment in 1920 did not guarantee full voting rights for all women. The work needed to grant this right to women of color endured many obstacles in the coming years. Still, the law became the first in many steps along the United States’ journey to full voting rights for all people.

While the fight started by the early suffragists continued past 1920, Texas Woman’s University proudly celebrates the trajectory of this historic moment and the events that made it possible, while also acknowledging the work that must continue in regards to voting rights for all.

Thank you, suffrage pioneers!

History of the woman suffrage movement in the U.S.

The first women’s rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. After two days of discussion and debate, 68 women and 32 men sign a Declaration of Sentiments, which outlines grievances and sets the agenda for the women’s rights movement. A set of 12 resolutions is adopted calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.

The first National Women’s Rights Convention takes place in Worcester, Mass., attracting more than 1,000 participants. National conventions are held yearly (except for 1857) through 1860.

Ratification of the 14th amendment declaring “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” and that right may not be “denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States.”

Congress ratifies the 15th 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 race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Split among the suffragist movement. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association. The primary goal of the organization is to achieve voting rights for women by means of a Congressional amendment to the Constitution.

Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association, which focuses exclusively on gaining voting rights for women through the individual state constitutions.

Susan B. Anthony arrested for voting for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election.

The Women’s Suffrage Amendment is first introduced to Congress.

The National Women Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). As the movement’s mainstream organization, NAWSA wages state-by-state campaigns to obtain voting rights for women.

Colorado is the first state to adopt an amendment granting women the right to vote.

The National Association of Colored Women is formed, bringing together more than 100 black women’s clubs. Leaders in the black women’s club movement include Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell and Anna Julia Cooper.

Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage. Their focus is lobbying for a constitutional amendment to secure the right to vote for women. The group is later renamed the National Women’s Party. Members picket the White House and practice other forms of civil disobedience.

Alice Paul and her colleagues form the National Woman’s Party (NWP) and began introducing some of the methods used by the suffrage movement in Britain. Tactics included demonstrations, parades, mass meetings and picketing the White House over the refusal of President Woodrow Wilson and other incumbent Democrats to actively support the Suffrage Amendment.

In July, picketers were arrested on charges of “obstructing traffic,” including Alice Paul. She and others were convicted and incarcerated at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. While imprisoned, Paul began a hunger strike.

In January, after much bad press about the treatment of Alice Paul and the imprisoned women, President Wilson announced that women’s suffrage was urgently needed as a “war measure.”

The federal woman suffrage amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is then sent to the states for ratification.

August 18, 1920
Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, clearing its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states.

August 26, 1920
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is signed into law.

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Other suffrage resources

Texas Women’s Foundation 19th Amendment Centennial Project

Black Women and the Fight for Voting Rights

More to the Movement

Page last updated 3:28 PM, January 22, 2024