The Nineteenth Amendment forbids the federal government and state governments from prohibiting anyone from voting based on his or her sex. The first woman suffrage amendment was offered and rejected in the United States Senate in 1868. Ten years later the amendment that later became the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was introduced in Congress. It was rejected and reintroduced every year for the next 41 years. Known as the Susan B. Anthony amendment, it passed in 1919 and was ratified in August 1920, with the approval of thirty-six states. The legislatures of the midwestern states of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan were the first to ratify the amendment. Tennessee, embroiled in a firestorm of opposition, was the thirty-sixth state to ratify it, making up the three-fourths of the states needed for ratification. Of the ten states to withhold their ratification nine were in the South. Virginia did not ratify the Nineteenth Amendment until 1952, although Virginia women gained the right to vote in 1920 when it was passed.
The right to vote did not promise women equal footing with men in all arenas. Many women's groups that supported woman suffrage changed their focus once the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. They educated women voters on issues affecting them, including equal pay and other work-related rights, married woman's rights, and equal education rights.
1. When did Virginia ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution?
2. Why did Virginia ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at all?
1. In their rejection of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919, the Virginia legislature argued that the amendment infringed on states' rights. Is this a valid argument? Why or why not?
2. Compare the wording of the Fifteenth and the Nineteenth Amendments to the United States Constitutions. Why did lawmakers choose to exclude women when the Fifteenth Amendment was drafted?
Wheeler, Marjorie Spruill, ed. One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement. Troutdale, Ore.: NewSage Press, 1995.
Flexner, Eleanor. Century of Struggle: The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996.