We, The People 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote

19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote


"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.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Passed by Congress May 21, 1919. Ratified August 26, 1920.

The 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change. Few early supporters lived to see final victory.

From the first days of the movement, strategies for achieving the goal varied. Some sought to pass legislation in each state and succeeded in having nine western states adopt woman suffrage by 1912. Others challenged male-only voting laws in the courts. Militant suffragists used tactics such as parades, silent vigils, picketing, and hunger strikes. Often supporters met fierce resistance. Opponents heckled, jailed, and sometimes physically abused them.

The amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878. By 1916 almost all the major suffrage organizations were united behind it. The political balance began to shift after New York adopted woman suffrage in 1917 and President Wilson openly embraced the cause.

On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives approved the amendment, followed by the Senate two weeks later. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify on August 18, 1920, the amendment cleared its final hurdle. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification on August 26, 1920, changing the face of the American electorate forever.

U.S. National Archives & Records Administration

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