WHO | Women!
WHAT | The 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote, was formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution.
WHEN | August 26, 1920. Then in 1971, at the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), the United States Congress designated August 26 as Women's Equality Day.
WHERE | USA
WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT IT IS | At the time that the U.S. was founded, its female citizens did not share all of the same rights as men, including the right to vote. The movement for women's rights launched on a national level in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. Following that convention, the right to vote became the centerpiece of the women's rights movement. It took over 70 years for women to win that battle. Here are some highlights from that time:
- In 1797, New Jersey temporarily granted voting rights to unwed women. The state's original constitution, adopted in 1776, stated that all inhabitants worth "fifty pounds" could vote. This was rather vague, therefore, a clearer legislation was drafted that granted certain females suffrage. For the next ten years, single women were permitted to cast ballots. Married women however, were not, because their husbands legally controlled every piece of property they owned. In 1807, the State Assembly passed a new law, one that forbade anyone but free, white male citizens who were at least 21 and paid taxes, from voting.
- Not all anti-suffragists were men. Alice Hay Wadsworth was among the most prominent women to denounce what would become the 19th Amendment. She was once the president of the National Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage. A now infamous pamphlet published by the group claimed that "90 percent of women either do not want it, or not care," and that new voting rights would mean "competition with men instead of cooperation."
- Suffrage advocates threw the very first White House picket protest. Activist Alice Paul established the Silent Sentinels. Beginning on January 10, 1917, they protested outside the White House six days a week for the next two and a half years.
- Eight days after the 19th Amendment was ratified, ten million women joined the electorate. The sheer volume of brand new voters created by this legal action made it "the single biggest democratizing event in American history."
- FDR became the first president whose mother was eligible to vote for him.
- Mississippi didn't ratify the 19th Amendment until March 22, 1984. Louisiana and North Carolina waited until June 11, 1970 and May 6, 1971 respectively.