Ratification of Constitutional Amendments

About 10 women with tall banners stand of the steps of a momunment to General LaFayette.​​
Women participate in a suffrage demonstration in Lafayette Square to get the last vote in the U.S. Senate before June 4, 1919. (Courtesy of Library of Congress) Enlarge Image
​​​ ​​​​​​​​​In retrospect, ratification of the 19th Amendment looks inevitable. But at the time, the possibility of failure was real. Traditional forces mounted a determined​ fight ​in the U.S. Congress to block the long sought goal of woman suffrage. When that collapsed, the battle moved to the final arena: Would 36 states ratify the amendment to finally add it to the U.S. Constitution? The painfully slow process dragged on for more than a year before victory was sealed when Tenness​ee voted in favor.

The 14th Amendment, Section 1; Ratified July 1868

Quotation Marks "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."​

Passage of the 19th Amendment; June 4, 1920

The amendment guaranteeing woman suffrage was a monumental achievement for the activists who spent decades agitating for its ratification. This radical amendment was first proposed to the Senate in 1878 by Senator Aaron Sargent (R-Cal) and testified by Carrie Chapman Catt. It sat in committee for 11 years before being rejected 16-to-34 in 1887. Suffrage organizations regrouped after the loss, and focused on achieving voting rights at the state level instead.

Photo of Alice Paul standing before a banner with a glass of liquid raised in her right hand.
Alice Paul raises a glass to celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.​ (Courtesy of Library of Congress)
Women’s increasingly important role in World War I renewed interest in a national suffrage amendment. The National American Woman Suffrage Association and National Woman’s Party garnered public sympathy by pointing out women’s sacrifices to the war effort. The amendment again came before congress in 1918, passing the House by one vote, and received an unprecedented appeal by President Wilson in the Senate, but fell two votes short.

In all, the House and Se​nate voted on the “Anthony” amendment five times between 1918 and 1919, as Southern Democrats formed a bulwark of opposition. Then, in a special session of Congress called by the president ​in May, 1919, the amendment passed the House 304-to-89. It came before the Senate and after Southern Democrats abandoned a filibuster, the amendment passed 56-to-25 on June 4, 1919.

View The Oregonian newspaper clipping ​about celebration related to national woman suffrage passage (C​ourtesy of ​Kimberly Jensen).

Text of the 19th Amendment; Ratified August 18, 1920

Quotation Marks"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."

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