August 18: The 19th Amendment
In 1920, the 19th Amendment declared, “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.” With these words, women were granted the right to vote nationwide. Many states had already provided for women’s suffrage—only seven prohibited women from voting in all elections in 1920. Yet the landmark Amendment gave women the vote nationwide, a huge triumph for women’s rights activists. Though movements to promote women’s political and legal equality had long been in existence, suffrage was only one of many goals for leaders. The Civil War Amendments, which provided for equal protection and voting rights for former slaves, also helped provide a path for women to gain the vote. When Susan B. Anthony tried to vote in the first presidential election after the 14th Amendment, arguing that Americans should interpret that Amendment as providing women with voting rights, she was arrested. Suffragists redoubled their efforts, particularly as the struggle of World War I brought American men and women into a battle for the future of democracy. After initially hesitating to support women’s suffrage, President Woodrow Wilson finally backed the cause, asking, “we have made partners of the women in this war…Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right?” His belated support reflected the mood of the nation as the American people collectively embraced the cause.