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Centennial Anniversaries in Woman Suffrage in 2018

Here's a look at three key events in the women's suffrage movement that happened 100 years ago this year.

By Dana Teets, NewseumED Intern

The Nov. 18, 1916, edition of The Woman’s Journal and Suffrage News covers the historic election of suffragist Jeannette Rankin, R-Mont., to Congress. (Newseum Collection)

March 7, 2018

The 100-year anniversaries of the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment are getting closer and closer!

Next June will mark the centennial of Congress passing the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. It was ratified by the necessary number of states the following year, on Aug. 18, 1920. The amendment was the culmination of more than 70 years of struggle by suffragists and supporters.

One hundred years ago, women were marching for the right to vote; today, they march to mobilize women to exercise that right and to put more women in elected office. In January, the Women’s March commemorated the one-year anniversary of its massive 2017 march with gatherings around the country. Women used their First Amendment rights of speech, assembly and petition to focus on women’s issues and the power in the voting booth.

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Here’s a look at three key events in the women’s suffrage movement 100 years ago this year:

  • Progress in Three More States: On Nov. 5, 1918, Michigan, Oklahoma and South Dakota recognized women’s contributions to the war effort and granted women the right to vote. These additions brought the total to 21 states that granted women the right to vote in state elections. In addition, the state of Texas granted women the right to vote in only primary elections, and expanded it to state elections the following year.
  • U.S. Rep. Jeannette Rankin Rallies for Woman Suffrage: In January 1918, Rankin delivered a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on behalf of the Committee on Woman Suffrage, asking her male colleagues: “How shall we explain to them [women] the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted for war to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?” A proposed amendment for woman suffrage narrowly passed the House in that year, but it failed in the Senate. Rankin — the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress — had long advocated for woman suffrage. In 1914, she helped secure the vote for women in her home state of Montana. Rankin dedicated her life to fighting to equality, peace and social reform.
  • Woodrow Wilson Publicly Supports the Suffrage Movement: After hearing of the harsh treatment suffragists endured in prison after their arrests for picketing outside the White House, the president completely changed his position on a woman’s right to vote. In 1918, Wilson went to the Senate to speak on behalf of endorsing a constitutional amendment for women once World War I ended. While his voice in the matter proved to be substantial, there were not enough votes within the Senate in order to pass an amendment that year. However, the next year, the House and Senate passed the 19th Amendment, granting American women the right to vote.

For more information on the triumphs and struggles of the women’s suffrage movement, check out the timeline in our EDCollection, “Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less: The First Amendment and the Women’s Suffrage Movement.”

You can find additional resources for teaching women’s history here.


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