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*History: Women’s Suffrage and Voting in the U.S.


August 26, 2020 is the day of the one hundredth year anniversary of women in the United States winning the right to vote with the official adoption of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Tennessee state legislature had voted for ratification on Aug. 18, 2020 becoming the 36th and final state needed to approve this amendment. Due to the cancellations of many nationwide events because of the COVID-19 pandemic and to bring more focus to this great event the celebration will officially continue through 2021.

Gail Cathey, Print Resources / Access Services Librarian
Logue Library, Chestnut Hill College

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The Two Major Women's Suffrage Organizations in the United States at the Time of Ratification

The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSW)
The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSW) was an organization formed on February 18, 1890. It was created by the merger of two existing organizations, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA)

The National Woman’s Party
The National Woman’s Party is the political organization started by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns in 1916 after continuing conflicts with the NAWSA leadership over tactics. In their early days they preferred more radical methods. It still exists today.

Harry T. Burn and the Perfect 36

Harry T. Burn cast the deciding vote in the Tennessee legislature on Aug. 18, 1920 to approve the ratification of the 19th Amendment. This gave the suffragists the “Perfect 36” states needed to ratify the amendment.
After voting to table the vote hoping to postpone the decision until after a difficult upcoming election Harry finally voted “Aye”. Harry had received a letter from his mother Febb (a nickname for Phoebe) urging him to vote for suffrage.
“I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.” - Harry T. Burn

Woman's Suffrage in the United States

Sisters Across the Sea

Some Prominent American Suffragists

Susan B. AnthonySusan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
Woman’s suffrage pioneer
A Founder and President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association
Arrested for voting in 1872

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
Leading figure of the early women's rights movement
Abolitionist A Founder and President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898)
Leader in the Women’s Rights Movement
Native American Rights Activist
Anthony and Stanton were displeased when she established her own less conservative group by the name of Woman’s National Liberal Union (WNLU)
Encouraged her son-in-law L. Frank Baum to write The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

Sojourner Truth (approx.1797-1883)
Born enslaved, obtained her freedom in 1826
Public speaker for reform
Women’s Rights Activist
Delivered her famous speech “Ain’t I A Woman” at the Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio in 1851

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931)
Anti-lynching activist
Women’s rights advocate
Founded the Alpha Suffrage Club
In 2020 was posthumously honored with a Pulitzer Prize special citation

Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)
Civil Rights Activist
Women’s Rights Activist

Alice Paul (1885-1977)
Women’s Rights Activist
Founded the National Woman’s Party with Lucy Burns
Wrote the wording of the proposed Equal Right’s Amendment

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947)
1900-1904 President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association
1915-1920 Founded The League of Women Voters

The Equal Rights Amendment (Era)

The Equal Rights Amendment is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all citizens of the United States regardless of sex. It seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women. Alice Paul introduced the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment at the 1923 Woman’s Rights Convention.
The amendment reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”



“Elections belong to the people.” Abraham Lincoln

“Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” – Susan B. Anthony

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Marian Wright Edelman

“If you don’t vote, you lose the right to complain.” George Carlin

Women Running for the Top Jobs: U.S. President and Vice President

Where They Took a Stand

The Seneca Falls Convention
The Seneca Falls Convention, first known as the Woman’s Rights Convention, was the first such convention in the United States. It was held in Seneca Falls, New York July 19 to 20, 1848 at the Wesleyan Chapel. The Declaration of Sentiments written at the Seneca Falls Convention detailed women’s grievances and demands. It called on women to fight for their Constitutionally guaranteed right to equality.

The Great Suffrage Parade of 1913
The Woman Suffrage Procession was the first suffragist parade in Washington, D.C. was held March 3, 1913. This was held the day before Woodrow Wilson’s first inaugural parade. It was also the first large, organized political march on Washington. The parade was the brainchild of Alice Paul while she was still with the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The parade was led by suffragist Inez Milholland riding a white horse. Police did not try to maintain crowd control and the marchers were blocked and attacked by onlookers.

The Silent Sentinels
The Silent Sentinels were organized by Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party. This group of women protested in front of the White House during Woodrow Wilson's presidency starting on January 10, 1917. They were arrested regularly during these protests. Suffragists suffered horrific treatment in prison at the Occoquan Workhouse.

The Occoquan Workhouse
The Occoquan Workhouse (later named Lorton Reformatory and also Lorton Correctional Complex) in Lorton, Virginia was a jail facility used by the District of Columbia. (Washington D.C.)
Suffragists from the National Woman’s Party including Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Florence Bayard Hilles and Dora Lewis (from Philadelphia) were arrested while protesting outside the White House and experienced brutal treatment including forced feedings through tubes during their prison hunger strikes at the Occoquan Workhouse in 1917. Located there today is the Lucy Burns Museum and also the Workhouse Arts Center.

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