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?
Women’s suffrage is a major part of our country’s history yet it is rarely taught in schools. When I was in high school I had a female American History teacher and even she failed to draw attention to the importance of the work and determination that led to the 19th amendment. While I am familiar with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, I was unfamiliar with the other women mentioned in this article even though they were also major activists at the time. This article highlights important past and current unfair treatment. I also find it very interesting that our country granted African American men, once used as slaves, the right to vote before women.
As a woman, I learned a lot in this article. I didn’t realize that this year was the 100th year anniversary of women’s right to vote. I agree that women have overcome a lot as a gender, but we still have a long way to go. I liked the lesson plans and resources you provided should we choose to teach this in our classroom.
When reading this article I was pleased to remember my education as a child, knowing about the women’s suffrage movement. I know we as women were given the right to vote and that was suppose to be enough for us because that equaled us out with men on the voting scale. Yet we still do not have equality as women today. We are still getting paid less, we are still being looked over for jobs that “are for men”. Of course our society is changing and the wave of equality is definitely rising on the surface level, which is very important and is a huge step, but we need equality throughout our systems and advances. I want to be able to be paid as much as a man for a job I can do just as well, I want to be able to do the job a man can do and be just as satisfactory. It is important to know the history of women’s suffrage and the steps that have been taken to try and end it, but it is also important to know it is still occurring in society today.
After reading this article I have realized that I do not know a lot of information about women’s rights. This is crazy to me as a college student I do not know more information about this topic. In the schools we as future teachers need to keep this in mind when we are teaching our students about how far our society has came over the past 100 years. Most students will not know about these moments in history and how we are still dealing with it today. Women are still fighting for equal pay and equal rights in the work place. I am sure we are going to be able to overcome these obstacles in years to come but we have to fight for what we want in our lives.
This article put in perspective the obstacles that women conquered to gain the right to vote. Although women gained this right 100 years ago, women still fight for equality in our society today. Women are still seen as less then men, especially in the work place. Women’s suffrage is such an important topic for students to learn about. I only remember learning about Susan B. Anthony very vaguely. Teaching about women’s suffrage will put in perspective for students how hard women have fought for their rights and continue to fight for equality today.
I found the list of resources for teachers quite useful. I myself don’t remember learning about women’s suffrage until high school history class. However, with the centennial of the 19th amendment coming up next year, I think as teachers it would be good to take time and discuss this anniversary that changed so much. While women and other minorities have a long way to go in achieving true equality, I look forward to celebrating the centennial and to exercising my right to vote, as it was fought for very hard by the suffragettes.
I think this was a good article and helped me learn some new history content. As the article said, I think it is good to look back and see how far women have come, but we still have a long way to go. It is interesting to think about this in terms of education too. I think when kids are young you can teach them basic equal rights. Such as that girls can run fast and play sports at recess just like the boys. Then, as kids get older they can learn more about the history behind equal rights. Also, the article mentioned women still be underrepresented in top-level administration and still fight for equal pay. This made me think about most school settings. I feel like many schools are made up of mostly female teachers, and mostly male administrators. I think this is an important article and definitly something to think about as educators.
The establishment of the nineteenth amendment was the first major step in the continuing battle for equality of women in this country. It is no secret that our country has and for the most part still is run by predominantly, white men and because of this any citizens that do not fall into the category are going to face challenges that this group won’t. Some groups have it worse than others like black women because they are dealing with issues of intersectionalty but above all the fact that everyone has a say in our politics is huge for creating change and eliminating the challenges that the non dominant groups face.
This was a really good article on some of the history that came with women’s suffrage. Being only 25 years old it is hard for me to fathom that women were not even aloud to vote. It was interesting to see that although the law was passed in 1920, that it had been many years of fighting for that right. This is something I have really not learned much about throughout my schooling. Our country has come a long way since the 1900’s but as stated in the article women are still effected negatively in our society because of their gender. The movement will probably always be ongoing but the last 100 years has shown that we are capable of moving in the right direction.
Although it has been 100 years since the historic 19th amendment granted women the right to vote, there is indeed still a fight for equality. People will often dismiss these questions of equality by pointing towards legislation in the past, but progress is not as simple as a document might make it seem, and there are still aspects of equality that have not been clearly addressed or outlined today. The conversation around women’s rights is one that should be a continuing one. The myriad of problems facing women today are much different than they were 100 years ago, and the pursuit for equality as merged towards other rights and issues besides the right to vote.