By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
“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.”
This year (2019) marks the 100th Anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1919. The bill officially became law throughout the United States when Tennessee adopted the legislation in 1920. We have written about women’s rights and suffrage in previous articles and will continue writing on this subject matter in this article. This post will be the first of a series of articles dedicated to women’s rights in commemoration of the passage of the nineteenth amendment. This article will offer a brief history of women’s suffrage in the U.S. and will offer some of the challenges women still face today. Below we also reintroduce resources and lessons teachers can use in their classroom to teach women’s rights.
Brief History of Women’s Suffrage in the US
The fight for women’s voting rights is known as women’s suffrage. Women’s suffrage was first achieved in various states, cities and towns (In some cases on a limited basis) and then ultimately it was established on a national level in 1920. However, the fight for national women’s suffrage was a movement that was a decades-long fight. Although there were disagreements among various groups as to the best approach and strategy to use, women would ultimately overcome all obstacles and acquire the vote, even though it was a long, hard road.
One of the key events for women’s rights and suffrage took place at the Seneca Falls Convention In 1848. At the Convention, a group of mostly women abolitionist activists came together at Seneca Falls, New York to discuss the problem of women’s rights. The leaders of the convention were well known women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott who invited women from various parts of the US to participate in the convention. Most of the delegates to the Seneca Falls Convention agreed that women should have the right to vote.
In 1869 Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton established a national suffrage organization. Anthony and Stanton’s group was rivaled by a similar organization headed by Lucy Stone. Both were considered extremely radical at the time in the nineteenth century, because women were expected to remain in their place as second class citizens. Over twenty years later the two groups merged in 1890 and formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). They chose Susan B. Anthony as the groups new leader. Another group that fought for women’s suffrage was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), established in 1873. The WCTU helped add some momentum to the suffrage movement. During the early 1870’s the suffragists made several attempts to vote, with Susan B. Anthony finally successfully voting in 1872. However, in a highly publicized trial Anthony was arrested and found guilty for voting. Her arrest was good for the movement, giving the movement a major boost. In 1875 in Minor V. Happersett the Supreme Court ruled against the suffragists. Not to be deterred, the organization spent the next forty years fighting for a US amendment that would grant voting rights to women on a national scale, however, their strategy was to try to achieve enfranchisement approaching it state by state. Encouraged by the momentum gained from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Alice Paul formed the more radical National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1916. The supporters were known as the silent sentinels. A year after the group was established, 200 of the silent sentinels were arrested while picketing the White House and participating in a hunger strike in 1917. Three years later on August 18, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment was established that gave women the right to vote in the United States of America.
Conclusion- Impact of Intersectionality on Women’s Rights
Although today in the twenty-first century women have overcome many obstacles in order to gain the right to vote, there are still many barriers as it relates to women’s rights and equality. Women are still fighting for equal pay in our society. Women are still fighting against the amount of sexual assaults on college campuses; and women also continue to fight for more representation in top level administrative positions. Furthermore, often a woman’s socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity can have an impact on the resources and opportunities she has access to. That is, a woman’s race or socioeconomic background can cause her to have less opportunities than others. This idea idea is known as intersectionality. Cambridge dictionary defines Intersectionality as “the way in which different types of discrimination (unfair treatment because of a person’s sex, race, etc.) are linked to and affect each other. The theory of intersectionality highlights the multiple avenues through which racial and gender oppression are experienced.” In this same way, how are the lived experiences of a low income African American woman different from her middle class white counterpart? How are their opportunities different? In the next article in the series we will explore these questions.
Below we have included resources and lesson plans that can assist classroom teachers with lessons about women’s rights and voting.
Lesson Plan: 19th Amendment
19th Amendment- NEA Lesson
Women’s Suffrage | Teaching Tolerance
Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment- Teaching History.org
The Road to Suffrage
The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote in 1920
Teaching the 19th Amendment- Lesson Plans
Women’s Suffrage: Their Rights and Nothing Less
When Life Gives You Beyoncé, Teach with Lemonade
Women of Color and Feminism: A History Lesson and Way Forward
The History of Women’s Suffrage
Primary Documents in American History- 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The Woman Suffrage Movement- National Women’s History Museum
Woman Suffrage Timeline (1840-1920)
Facts About the Suffragettes- National Geographic for Kids
Annenberg Classroom – Nineteenth Amendment
Make Women’s History Month Come to Life with Comics!
Sound Smart: Women’s Suffrage | History Channel
Women’s Suffrage: Crash Course US History #31
Courage in Corsets- PBS
Women’s Suffrage- History Channel
Fighting for the Vote- Women’s Suffrage in America Part 1
Secrets Of A Suffragette (Women’s Rights Documentary) | Timeline
Youth Politics: A Result of a National Survey
Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
History of Women’s Suffrage in US
Woman Suffrage Timeline (1840-1920)
Common Interpretation- The Nineteenth Amendment
The Nineteenth Amendment In 1920 women secured the right to vote
10 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Suffragettes
Sojourner Truth 1797-1883
Why Black Feminism & Womanism?
Womanist – Alice Walker’s Term for Black Feminist – ThoughtCo
1. What are contemporary ways that certain groups may be disenfranchised in today’s society?
2. Have you incorporated lessons on women’s rights and/or voting into your curriculum?
3. What ways do you feel women’s right are connected to civics and citizenship education?
4. In what ways can teaching youth about the history of voting rights in the US motivate them to participate more in the democratic process?
5. How might one teach the difference between mainstream feminism and black feminism? Why was it necessary to have two distinct movements?
As a woman, the women’s right movement has always been a great interest of mine. Although we have successfully fought for the right to vote, I don’t see the same amount of effort Susan B. Anthony and her colleagues had. I don’t see a movement being put together to fight for equal pay, to fight against sexual assault and the unreported cases, and to fight for more representation in top administration. If we put forth the same amount of effort as Susan B. Anthony and her colleagues did, we can successfully end our fight. And most importantly win the same equal rights as men have.
My mom has taught me for as long as I can remember that women deserve everything men have. Things as important as equal pay or things like women should be holding the same respect that men have worldwide. While reading this I began to realize that the only time I have learned much about women’s suffrage is from my mom. I remember learning a little bit about Susan B. Anthony in school but this article went more into detail than my teacher did. Women’s suffrage should be discussed more in school so that kids grow up knowing how hard women in the past have fought for their freedom.
I think this article put into perspective how long it took for women to gain the right to vote. I look many years then after achieving the goal of the suffrage movement there were still other obstacles women faced in society. I think after the women suffrage movement, the next large women’s movement would be the feminism movement.
Ya know, you’d think because I am a woman I would know more about the women suffrage movement, when in reality all I know is what they taught me in elementary school, which was next to nothing. Over time women acknowledged that they needed to have rights, including the right to vote. The 19th amendment was finally ratified after a longggg time. This is going to sound very condescending, but honestly what is the point? Women can vote, but does their say really matter? So many men with high power still point and laugh at women that work their way up the political ladder. Women still have to fight for every belief they have, and I think that is so ridiculous compared to what men do.
Overall this was a good post that I found interesting and informative.
(You’ll have to forgive me if I go off in a tangent about topics that have to do with women, I just think the inequality is still so high and unacknowledged by our current government.)
I have always been very interested in learning more about women’s suffrage but it was never a topic we went into much detail about in my history courses. I remember learning that Susan B. Anthony was a very important and well remembered advocate for women’s suffrage but I never heard much about the groups or other women fighting for the cause too. I found this article very interesting and educational and I enjoyed reading it.
I have always adored learning about the women’s suffrage movement, maybe because I am a woman, or maybe the way women did a lot of little things to build up to each right they got, including the right to vote. It is odd to think that women in this country have only been allowed to vote for only 100 of the 243 years we have been a country, but then again the whole attitude toward who can vote and why has changed so much in recent history. When the words “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.” were written they were intended only for wealthy white men, we have always very much been a republic, not a democracy. There are still issues for voting, for those that don’t, those that can’t, those that do so without knowledge of what they are voting for, these issues can only change if our culture around voting changes, but the strides we have made for the things we can change, should always be celebrated, no matter how late it seems we have gotten there. Susan B Anthony fought her entire life to vote and never saw the passage of the 19th amendment, women are still fighting for rights in pay, in education, these issues seem so small now because we were once denied basic rights, so now we are asking to much, this is true across race, gender and sexuality lines, where those in the dominant position have decided now that we have basic rights there is nothing to fight for, but this is not true. I really enjoyed the article, I feel like U.S schools do a good job of teaching women’ sufrage, but I do wish they would go more in depth, I feel like I didn’t know what Susan B. Anthony did for the movement, or Mirion Dunlap or even just some of the important women involved until I took AP U.S history in highschool, and I feel like there are a lot of things I’ll never forget because we always went over them in history class every year, but in more depth, I wish this were the case with some of the big names and events in the women’s suffrage movement.
Women suffrage is definitely one of the more overlooked parts of American history. This is extremely disappointing because it is a major and unique part of history and as are most history lessons there is something to learn from this part of history. The amount of progress that women were able to make in this time even as second class citizens is incredible. Although women suffrage was eventually resolved through the 19th amendment many of the repercussions of women being treated as second class citizens has not been resolved to this day. Dr. Childs goes into this well in his conclusion so I will not go through every example. Nevertheless I think that people could unify as they did for women suffrage to resolve some of these similar problems. For example if parties were as prominent as they were in the early 1900s and were able to unify as they did in the 1900s then these issues could definitely be addressed by the government.
As I read this article, I was surprised to find that I was familiar with most of its content. I am not yet a teacher so I have not taught about women’s suffrage myself, but I am happily surprised to find that I was taught well in my own education. I remembered almost all of the names of the suffragists and organizations fighting for suffrage. Knowing about the hard fight that gave me my right to vote is a part of what motivates me, as a woman, to vote. I’m very glad my social studies teachers took time to cover this topic well. Teaching this topic can help young women and men understand how important having the right to vote really is.
I liked the discussion of intersectionality in the last paragraph of this article. The rights and struggles of women are completely different between races and social classes. This point is often left out when history teachers teach about suffrage. For instance, when I was taught about suffrage, my teacher did not point out that most of the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement were upper class, white women. My teacher also didn’t point out how much harder women of color had to fight and how much harder they still have to fight today. I’m glad I was taught well about the basic facts of suffrage, but I hope more teachers cover the part that intersectionality plays in the movement.
Women’s rights hit very close to home for me, mostly because I am a woman. I want to live in a world where I can do the same thing as a man and be paid the same amount. I want to be able to do hard, grueling work and told not to get my hands dirty. I want to cuss out of anger and not be told to act like a lady.Another reason it hits so close to home is because I am currently dating a Trans Man. When he was younger, he was perceived as a female, and therefore treated like a female. There are people in this world who don’t believe the sexes are treated differently, but my boyfriend is proof. His life is completely different now that he presents himself as male and people see him as one. It’s nice to have him on my side as someone who fights for equality. Other men see this and are encouraged to do the same. This isn’t about asking the power roles to be switched. No one wants women higher than men. Lord knows the men could never handle being treated the way women are. We simply want equality. Who is the Susan B. Anthony of my generation? What needs to happen to spark the revolution that creates equal and fail treatment between the sexes?
Moments like these make up the better part of our history, as we see the power behind dedication and sacrifice turn into something that changed the world forever. I have spent most of my high school papers diving deep into the history of woman’s rights, as inch by inch they grew, rising to the top despite however many condemned them for it. Not only do powerful stories like these give me strength, but that remind me in times like these, where we continue to fight for our rights and recognition in positions of power, there is a way, we need only fight. I of course have massive respect for the women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton who fought, but with powerful words and silent protest, rather than aggression and hate. I believe movements like that are truly what garb the most attention, especially in a world filled with so much hate and constant fighting.