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19th Amendment: Change Comes from Persistent and Sustained Advocacy

Posted By Sidney Switzer, WIPP Digital Strategy Specialist, Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Sidney Switzer
Today our nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. In celebrating this anniversary, WIPP looks back to the advocacy that was instrumental to women’s suffrage. The 19th amendment was preceded by not by years, but by decades of advocacy efforts. 

In the 1870s, suffragists began showing up to polls only to file lawsuits when they were turned away. One now famous suffragist, Susan B. Anthony, was arrested and convicted in 1873 for attempting to vote in the 1872 election.Though these instances brought attention to the cause, the United States Supreme Court still ruled that suffrage was not a universal right amongst citizens in 1875. Congress also didn’t pass the bill for women’s suffrage. 

In total, the bill was proposed and rejected every year in Congress for 41 years from 1878 to 1920.

Adopting a different strategy, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) targeted suffrage from a state level. This strategy proved to be efficacious. By the time the 19th Amendment was federally recognized, over half of the United States already had granted some form of women’s voting rights. 

In 1913, suffragists organized one of the first major demonstrations and protest parades down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. This was the first public women’s suffrage demonstration to happen in the Nation’s Capitol. It was also a visible moment when women suffragists adopted and allowed segregation to subvert the achievements of women of color, including activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett

But the movement continued. In 1915, Mabel Vernon and Sara Bard Field gathered 500,000 signatures on their petition to Congress for women’s suffrage.

Finally, in 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified and officially certified that American women have the national right to vote. Only eight days after the 19th amendment was ratified, 10 million women joined the electorate. 

The lesson learned from the 150-year struggle for women’s suffrage is the absolute necessity for advocacy in creating social and political change. No one suffragist, organization, bill, or demonstration caused the 19th amendment to be ratified. It was the persistent dedication and continued advocacy that slowly but surely granted women this constitutional right.    

In commemorating this anniversary, WIPP is reminded of our almost 20 years of advocacy for women business owners. We have seen change, but we are far from parity. With sustained advocacy, one can only wonder where we might be in 2120.

Tags:  Advocacy  election  history 

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