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- “Unwarranted, Unnecessary, Undemocratic:” The Virginia General Assembly Responds to the Proposed Nineteenth Amendment in 1919


Pickets at the White House, 1917. Harris & Ewing, photographer. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In June 1919 Congress proposed an amendment to the Constitution of the United States guaranteeing women’s right to vote (with only one vote in favor from Virginia’s congressional delegation, Republican C. Bascom Slemp). Virginia suffrage advocates expressed their hopes that ratification would happen quickly. Equal Suffrage League of Virginia president Lila Meade Valentine rejoiced that Congress had at last taken action to “enable this nation to stand before the democracies of the world unashamed,” although she regretted that Virginia “did not long ago take the initiative” by passing an amendment to the state constitution. “I trust,” she concluded, that the General Assembly “may atone for the past neglect by being among the first to ratify the national amendment.”

Nine states ratified the amendment (often referred to as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment) before the end of June. Although the General Assembly of Virginia was not scheduled to hold its regular session until January 1920, the governor called a special session for August 1919 to prepare a plan to take advantage of a federal grant for road construction. Suffragists in Virginia disagreed about whether to push the issue of ratification during the special session or to wait until the regular session five months later. Equal Suffrage League officers favored laying the groundwork for ratification in the regular session, but members of the Virginia branch of the … read more »

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