|Elizabeth Cady Stanton (seated) |
and Susan B. Anthony c. 1900
Thursday, August 18, 2016
The Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution prohibits any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. It was ratified on August 18, 1920. Until the 1910s, most states disenfranchised women. The amendment was the culmination of the women's suffrage movement in the United States, which fought at both state and national levels to achieve the vote. It effectively overruled Minor v. Happersett, in which a unanimousSupreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not give women the right to vote.
The Nineteenth Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878 by Senator Aaron A. Sargent. Forty-one years later, in 1919, Congress approved the amendment and submitted it to the states for ratification. It was ratified by the requisite number of states a year later, with Tennessee's ratification being the final vote needed to add the amendment to the Constitution. In Leser v. Garnett (1922), the Supreme Court rejected claims that the amendment was unconstitutionally adopted.
The Nineteenth Amendment is identical to the Fifteenth Amendment, except that the Nineteenth prohibits the denial of suffrage because of sex and the Fifteenth because of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". Colloquially known as the "Anthony Amendment", it was first introduced in the Senate by Republican Senator Aaron A. Sargent of California. Sargent, who had met and befriended Anthony on a train ride in 1872, was a dedicated women's suffrage advocate. He had frequently attempted to insert women's suffrage provisions into unrelated bills, but did not formally introduce a constitutional amendment until January 1878. Stanton and other women testified before the Senate in support of the amendment. The proposal sat in a committee until it was considered by the full Senate and rejected in a 16 to 34 vote in 1887.
A three-decade period known as "the doldrums" followed, during which the amendment was not considered by Congress and the women's suffrage movement achieved few victories. During this period, the suffragists pressed for the right to vote in the laws of individual states and territories while retaining the goal of federal recognition. A flurry of activity began in 1910 and 1911 with surprise successes in Washington and California. Over the next few years, most western states passed legislation or voter referenda enacting full or partial suffrage for women. These successes were linked to the 1912 election, which saw the rise of the Progressive and Socialist parties, as well as the election of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. Not until 1914 was the constitutional amendment again considered by the Senate, where it was again rejected.
Carrie Chapman Catt was instrumental in the final push to gain ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. In 1900, she succeeded Susan B. Anthony as the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Starting in 1915, Catt revitalized NAWSA and led a successful campaign in New York to achieve state-level suffrage in 1917. When the U.S. entered World War I, Catt made the controversial decision to support the war effort, despite the widespread pacifist sentiment of many of her colleagues and supporters. NAWSA women’s work to aid the war effort turned them into highly visible symbols of nationalism.
The republican work of NAWSA stood in contrast to the more radical and aggressive tactics of the National Woman's Party (NWP) led by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. In 1917, the NWP staged controversial demonstrations in Washington, D.C. to draw attention away from the war and back to women’s suffrage. Catt was successful in turning NAWSA into a patriotic organization, entirely separate from the NWP, and was rewarded when President Wilson spoke out in favor of women’s suffrage in his 1918 State of the Union address before Congress.
Another proposal was brought before the House on January 10, 1918. During the previous evening, President Wilson made a strong and widely published appeal to the House to pass the amendment. It was passed by the required two-thirds of the House, with only one vote to spare. The vote was then carried into the Senate. Wilson again made an appeal, but on September 30, 1918, the proposal fell two votes short of passage. On February 10, 1919, it was again voted upon and failed by only one vote.
There was considerable desire among politicians of both parties to have the proposal made part of the Constitution before the 1920 general elections, so the President called a special session of the Congress so the proposal would be brought before the House again. On May 21, 1919, it passed the House, 42 votes more than necessary being obtained. On June 4, 1919, it was brought before the Senate and, after a long discussion, it was passed with 56 ayes and 25 nays. Within a few days, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan ratified the amendment, their legislatures being in session. Other states followed suit at a regular pace, until the amendment had been ratified by 35 of the necessary 36 state legislatures. Much of the opposition to the amendment came from Southern Democrats, a trend which remained consistent with Tennessee as the last state to pass the amendment, during a special session right before the ratification period was to expire. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee narrowly approved the Nineteenth Amendment, with 50 of 99 members of the Tennessee House of Representatives voting yes. This provided the final ratification necessary to add the amendment to the Constitution.
Posted by Barbara at 1:25 PM