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?

1 Comment

  1. I can’t believe that there was a time that women really could not do anything except stay at home and care for kids, I’ve noticed in my generation that women especially, are very open about how they believe they should be treated and what is fair and unfair. I think it’s great that we are able to speak our minds and be listened to instead of being shooed away because we’re women. Of course there are still things that men can do that women cannot, but I think we’ve come a very long way in equality for women. I do believe however, that we can keep going, I am a strong believer that women should be equal to men. I never understood why men got paid more, or were expected to work more, and achieve more but growing up I’ve seen how misogynistic people can be and it makes me realize even further that things still need to change for women for the better.

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