News / USA

Women's Right to Vote in US Hits 90th Anniversary

The 19th Amendment went to Congress in 1918 and was ratified by the states on August 18, 1920, earning American women the right to vote
The 19th Amendment went to Congress in 1918 and was ratified by the states on August 18, 1920, earning American women the right to vote

Multimedia

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women in United States the right to vote.  After seven decades of activism, American women cast their first ballots in the presidential elections of 1920.

Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who almost won the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, and Sarah Palin, who was that year's Republican nominee for vice president: three women who have had an undeniable impact on American politics.  Their visibility is a testament to the advancement of women's rights in America.  But their achievements build on the efforts of women more than a century ago, who began pushing for a basic democratic right, the right to vote.

The movement started with a group of activists led by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who in 1848 publicly claimed that American women deserved equal rights under the law with men.

"The suffragists were middle-aged, middle class to upper class wives and mothers. They had gone to college or high school.  They were somewhat in privileged positions and they understood that without access to the ballot box their lives were not in their hands," said Susan Scanlan, president of the Women's Research and Education Institute in Washington.

The suffragists' activism died down with the beginning of the Civil War.  But the voting rights struggle re-emerged 50 years later with Alice Paul, a lawyer and a major figure in the suffrage movement.  One day before President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration in 1913, Alice Paul organized an elaborate parade on Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue to get America's attention.

"No one had ever seen so many women mobilized on the street, in various colors representing different groups: socialites, workers, educated women, women of color, some men's groups. It was absolutely spectacular and the women presented their cause for a federal amendment, as well as for a state amendment making sure that suffrage was everywhere," said Elisabeth Crum, Outreach Manager at the Sewell-Belmont Museum.

The suffragists got plenty of media attention, but little public support.  So in 1917, they started picketing the White House, an unprecedented act at the time.  Many women were arrested and sent to jail, but public opinion shifted.  The 19th Amendment went to Congress in 1918 and was ratified by the states on August 18, 1920.  American women had finally earned the right to vote.

"It was probably the most important thing to happen to women in the last 100 years because it gave them full rights as citizens. Women's responsibilities and roles behind the scenes were probably the same before suffrage as they were after but they were seen as actual voting people with real rights and a potential constituency that could be appealed to by the candidates," noted Jennifer Lawless of the American University's Women in Politics Institute.

The suffragists also pushed for marriage and divorce rights, property rights and equal pay with men, a struggle that took decades and on some issues is still going on.  While a proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution failed to gain ratification in 1982, American women do vigorously exercise their right to vote.  Recent elections show they vote in higher numbers than men - and vote differently.

"In the 2008 elections eight million more women voted than men in the presidential elections," added Susan Scanlan.  "Women always tend to favor family issues, education issues, welfare and men are more aggressive in supporting international affairs, budgetary issues and defense issues."

Nine decades after American women gained the right to vote there is still a lot of work to be done.  Women represent only 17 percent of the memberships of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.  But women like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin are making their mark on American politics and sending a clear message, American women are a force to be reckoned with.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid