The Nineteenth Amendment and Women’s Struggle for Equality

American World War II wartime poster- by J. Howard Miller (1943)

By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

Nineteenth Amendment

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.


Introduction
Today many young people take the fact that they have the right to vote for granted. In a recent poll by the Education Week Research Center from September 2018, only 28% of youth ages 18-24 said they would definitely vote in the upcoming election. This seems to point to the fact that many young people (particularly women and minorities) are not fully aware of the many hardships their forebears underwent to win the right to vote. This article offers a brief discussion of the history of the nineteenth amendment that granted women voting rights. The article also offers some educational resources that may assist teachers with lessons surrounding the nineteenth amendment and women’s suffrage.

A Brief History of Women’s Suffrage
The United States Constitution (Adopted in 1789) left the question of women’s suffrage undefined. As a result, all states at that time denied women the right to vote with the exception of New Jersey, who eventually revoked the right in 1807. Afterwards, there were small pockets of organizations and movements dedicated to women’s rights, but the movement became officially organized at the Seneca Falls Convention in New York in 1848. From that time on, the women within the suffrage movement fought a long hard battle at the state and national level to receive the right to vote.

The Minor V. Happersett Supreme Court case of 1875 unanimously ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not grant women the right to vote. Up until that time there were an increasing number of states that granted women the right to vote, however there were still some that disenfranchised women. The Nineteenth Amendment essentially overruled Minor V. Happersett. Senator Aaron A. Sargent originally introduced the amendment to congress in 1878, however it was not submitted to the states for ratification until 1919, 41 years later. Not all states supported the amendment, only three fourths of the states ratified it. In short, in comparison to the history of the United States, women were only recently granted the right to vote. Please explore the lessons and resources below and also respond to the discussions at the conclusion of the article.       

Lesson Plans
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

Teacher Resources
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!

Video Resources
Women’s Suffrage-PBS
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

References
Youth Politics: A Result of a National Survey
Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Common Interpretation- The Nineteenth Amendment
The Nineteenth Amendment In 1920 women secured the right to vote
Suffragette Movement
10 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Suffragettes
Sojourner Truth 1797-1883
Why Black Feminism & Womanism?
Womanism
Womanist – Alice Walker’s Term for Black Feminist – ThoughtCo

Discussion Questions
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?

12 Comments

  1. this is a very important article to read because I agree that this generation is less interested in the demographic process such as voting. even I tend to avoid voting because i am not that knowledgeable on everything that happens and don’t see the point in voting when i am not well enough informed. this makes it even more important to teach this to students but in an interesting way because when students are not interested then they don’t try to bother listening and learning. this article give lots of interesting ideas of how to teach the students and have them interested in it.

  2. I completely agree that young teens take voting for granted we take a lot of things for granted. I have always wondered if it was because we have not known another way of life. When being taught about this in high school it definitely made me appreciate the world we live in today a bit more because I do have the right to vote and because women are getting closer to being seen as equal. I never really thought of this as being a major point in history because it was not talked about in detail as much as it should have been.

  3. I agree this generation lacks the interest in voting. The idea was not pressed heavily onto their minds by their superiors. Whether that action was intentional or not, minorities and women should know how their rights have evolved over time. The fact that women were only given equal voting rights to men a mere 100 years ago is astounding. Looking at recent legislature in the last five years even shows a edging of imposition into women’s rights today. The lawmakers throughout America’s history have preoccupied themselves with keeping their seat in office and keeping the threats of women and minorities from voting against their opinionated proposals.

  4. From personal experience, I knew that many younger individuals do not have interest in exercising their right to vote. The statistical analysis of this actual number, however, is shocking. I think the younger generation has very strong opinions and are open to entering very politically charged arguments to defend these opinions, so it is suspiring they are not willing to defend their opinions in a voting booth.
    Having both mainstream feminism and Black feminism is important because Black women are the greater disenfranchised group and they need their own platform. Mainstream feminism has a poor reputation and is commonly called “white feminism” by women of color. This is due to the very limited views and lack of intersectionality in mainstream feminism. The issue with white feminism is the they use their privilege and platform to propagate their own issues, while usually not being inclusive of WOC or trans women. This is why there is a need for Black feminism.

  5. I can say that I am one of those young adults that takes advantage of the right to vote. I have never understood politics and I have never voted because I feel that I am uneducated. Reading this article makes me feel encouraged to get more involved and appreciate the hardships that women went through. Using similar lesson plans in my classroom would help students similar to me, in that they don’t know what their voting for. Students should be interested at a young age in politics and it all starts with educators teaching the important stuff like this.

  6. I agree that voting is Important, but none of the young teens go out and vote. It is extremely important to get them out there to vote because people worked so hard just to get the privilege to vote. I think we don’t vote because we aren’t knowledgeable about the things going on. The reason I hadn’t voted this year is because I have no clue what our country is going through. I feel like my life isn’t changing very much no matter who is president, so I just don’t care. I think that if there is teaching about what is going on now rather than what happened a thousand years ago, people would want to vote more.

  7. I think that we can all agree on the importance of voting; it is our right as American citizens. The challenging aspect of voting is the fact that we are not always aware of what we are voting for; yes we know titles such as President, Vice-President, but who are these people and what are their beliefs and values? What can or can’t they do for our country. Because our society does not always have these details that would enable us to make an educated opinion/vote, I can truly understand why the voting population numbers are below where they should be. As noted in the article, women have earned their right to vote in this country, however I feel that we owe it not only to women but all Americans to provide them with the knowledge needed in order to make an educated vote. I really do think if more Americans knew what they were voting for, not just titles, the amount of people wanting and willing to do so would increase.

  8. I’m fortunate in the fact that I attended a school where this was taught and my family has always urged the right to vote on me so unfortunately the statistics, while still astonishing, don’t shock me. It has always puzzled me that our younger generation doesn’t seem to care all that much about voting, as they have some extreme opinions. I can see though they may not feel they should vote as they don’t think they are informed adequately to make such a decision, like many previous commenters have said, and I believe that is why this is occurring. Though perhaps with more knowledge on how this is a recent development that everyone has the right to vote and how important that is, may cause them to be more likely to exercise that right and take the time to research what is going on in the world.

  9. This is a very interesting article to read because I am on of those people in this generation that doesn’t have an interest in the demographic process such as voting. Even though I am registered to vote I tend to avoid voting because I am not that educated on the issues that happen and don’t really see the point in voting. I wish schools would teach students the importance of voting. I’m glad I read this article. It gave me lots of perspective on why it should be important to vote. Maybe it even changed my mind.

  10. The right to vote is so important and needs to be participated in by all people. The fact that only 28% of youths vote is bewildering to me. This is a luxury most countries don’t offer, let alone offer it to women. I don’t care if you even vote for one of the major runners in the elections just put a name down and turn it in. This is a right that all Americans should practice whenever they can. No body has an excuse not to vote.

  11. Susan B. Anthony once said “There will never be complete equality until women themselves help to make the laws and elect the lawmakers”. What these young females do not understand is that currently, there are males making laws that obtain to women and women’s bodies. Women not only need to run for more political roles but, also need to get out and vote to put those women in office. As of February of 2019 there were six females that had officially announced their run for presidential candidacy. The next presidential race might be the one where the women make their mark in history and have a huge amount of women voters.

  12. After reading the article, and the responses, I have to definitely say that I agree with everyone when they say that present-day youth take advantage of voting. I also think that in school, we are told that we should vote and we are told that it is important but we aren’t given the resources to do so. By this, I mean that, at least where I went to school, we weren’t encouraged to watch debates and we never talked “hot issues” and what different sides of the issue were. Since I graduated high school, I have been more involved with politics and more up to date with elections.

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