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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid