Last Wednesday it was Women’s Equality Day, August 18th of 1920 is the day the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they deserved, among others, the right to vote.
It has been 100 years since that day, so let’s look back a little at how it all started. The Women’s rights movement began way before the Civil War, in 1948, that a group of abolitionist activists gathered in Seneca Falls (NY), to discuss women’s rights, which ended in the proclamation of the Declaration of Sentiments, that contained the affirmation “that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
After the Civil War, the 14th and the 15th Amendment to the Constitution were ratified, extending the Constitution’s protection to all citizens and defining citizens as male, and later on guaranteeing Black men the right to vote. This raised again the topic of suffrage and citizenship. It wasn’t until 70 years after the Declaration of Sentiment that women acquired the right to vote.
But for Black women, the 19th Amendment didn’t end their fight for their right to vote; it was not guaranteed that any woman could vote. What it really meant was that the laws reserving the ballot for men became unconstitutional, bu women would still have to navigate a maze of state laws—based upon age, citizenship, residency, mental competence, and more—that might keep them from the polls.
It still took another 4 years for Native American women and men to earn the right to vote and more than 30 years for voting restrictions to be lifted regarding Asian Americans’ right to vote.
If you want to know more about the suffragist movement in the US, here is a very interesting article for NPR “Yes, Women Could Vote After The 19th Amendment - But Not All Women. Or Men”.