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.

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
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

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?
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. So many people fought for and against actions being taken for womens equality. Voting is so important nowadays, yet that right that we fought for a long time, isn’t utilized as much as it should be. My generation for sure takes voting for granted. To be honest, not trying to say our life is hard, but with everything we need to worry about in todays society, we don’t have time to be informed on important details that need to be understood in order to vote. I 100% don’t know what I voted last time, and kinda feel bad about it. Why did I even vote if I didn’t know what I was doing? We were always taught how important it is to vote, but I am a 21 year old female and can say that I don’t feel very comfortable voting, due to my lack of knowledge.

  2. I always find it so interesting that it was fought SO HARD to vote, yet many people don’t. I definitely believe that voting today is taken advantage of. However, I will never be able to comprehend why women and minorities were not allowed to vote. I understand that discrimination played a large role in this, but why does discrimination even exist? Ultimately, it does exist and the fact that it was fought so hard and so long for these groups to be granted the opportunity to vote is ridiculous. I definitely think that many people need to extend their knowledge on this topic because we all need to vote. Every persons vote matters and these women and minorities fought so hard to allow the opportunity for everyone to vote and many people still don’t.

  3. After reading that only 28% of people aged 18-24 are definiting voting in the upcoming election is scary but yet believable. I also believe that the lack of education in schools about how voting works, the overall process and what your vote means to this country will change a lot of peoples view on politics and voting. I think to teach the youth that more about the women fight for our right to vote and showing/telling them the hard facts that women did for our country, for example, some women died, rather than how they just struggled and protested.

  4. It’s a strange to think about how voting went from something that people died for, to something that a large percentage of the population doesn’t care about. I think that it is important to educate people on why voting is important. A lot of people fought and died for us to have the right to vote and it is important to not let that go to waste by not voting. By educating people on movements like the woman’s suffrage movement, we can hopefully get more people to realize how important voting is and get them to go out and vote.

  5. I have been taught in years past how important it is to utilize our right to vote. In high school, my government teacher would stress how we should all vote if we had the ability to because we do make a difference. I think it’s interesting to see that only 28% of citizens 18-24 would vote on the upcoming election. Since we are so young, I feel as though a lot of people see voting as a waste of time. We are the future for society, and we can make a difference. I also think, like the article states, that many young people take voting for granted. Although I remember learning about the hardships women and minorities underwent to win the right to vote, I think sometimes we forget about this history lesson or don’t see the seriousness behind it.
    I enjoy how this article shifts to talking about women’s suffrage and then gives numerous resources to lesson plans dealing with the nineteenth amendment and women’s right to vote. As future educators, it’s important to know the significance of this history lesson and understand how to teach this topic. If we can educate our students of the importance of using our votes in the future, the percentage of youth likely to vote may increase. Women faced many obstacles when gaining the right to vote because the Constitution left women’s suffrage undefined. The suffrage movement had to fight for 41 years, battling at the state and national level to receive suffrage. This shows how long it took women to gain this right, and in comparison, to all of American history, women only recently won their right to vote. All of the resources, lesson plans, and references provide me with many tools to successfully teach and highlight this important history lesson. This will allow my students to appreciate their right to vote.

  6. It is easy to take any right for granted when it is readily available to you, but it’s important to understand why it is now commonplace instead of being taboo in society. Even today, one would think that many people are unaware of their right to vote. When you look at polling numbers, it suggests that people are becoming less active politically. The right to vote, regardless of sex or race, was fought for so that future generations could exercise their rights along those that once opposed it. So, students should be encouraged in every capacity to voice their opinions and vote on what they believe is important to them.

  7. It breaks my heart that only 28% of people age 18-24 intend on voting in the upcoming election. They really have no idea how important it is to vote and how lucky we are! 100 years ago we wouldn’t be able to vote! Once again I love all of the resources that are provided below for us teachers. I would love to spend a day teaching on women’s rights and the progression of the right to vote.

  8. Before reading this article, I knew that the percentage of young people that voted was low, but I had no idea how low. The following statistic given in the article, “September 2018, only 28% of youth ages 18-24 said they would definitely vote in the upcoming election”, astounded me. As soon as I turned 18 I registered myself to vote. I truly don’t think that young people today full understand how lucky they are to be given the right to vote. Generations before us battled for so long to receive this right and today, most us have taken it for granted. I believe that the importance and background regarding the right to vote needs to be discussed more in our classrooms at a younger age. I also think that more young people would exercise their right to vote if they were given the opportunity to register to vote at their schools.

  9. The 19th amendment is women’s right to vote, it gave women like a chance to have the freedom to speak my mind and to find a place for our voices to be heard. To me, I am a very independent woman and I like to speak my mind when it comes to things, I don’t believe are morally right or equal. When it comes to voting I love to give my say and that’s why I get so passionate at these things because this year I had my vote taken away from me by the state of Kentucky until 2020 because I changed my political party. I don’t believe that something like that is okay because I should still have to right to vote in national elections but because I changed my party I am not allowed to vote until January 1, 2020.

  10. Being able to vote is a very important right to American citizens. However, I agree a lot of young people, including myself, do not take advantage of this right. I am honestly slightly ashamed that when the first time I was allowed to vote I did not. Although in history class it is taught to us the struggles women and minorities went through to get be able to vote, I think young people are generally selfish and lazy to actually go out and vote, they do not see the true importance it has. We need to be educated on just how important our vote is, and that what we say really does matter. If young people understood the true importance of voting and that our voices actually may be heard we would participate in voting more. I know for me personally after this past few elections I will go out and make my voice heard by voting.

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