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Women's Suffrage: Timeline of Important Events

Women's suffrage timeline

Here are just some of the many important events that happened as women gained the right to vote.

1848

First Women's Rights Convention

The first women's rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. There, 68 women and 32 men sign a Declaration of Sentiments, which modeled on the Declaration of Independence, outlines grievances and sets the agenda for the women's rights movement. A set of 12 resolutions is adopted calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.

1849

The First National Women's Rights Convention

The first National Women's Rights Convention takes place in Worcester, Massachusetts, attracting more than 1,000 participants. Frederick Douglass, Paulina Wright Davis, Abby Kelley Foster, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucy Stone and Sojourner Truth are in attendance.

1851

“Ain't I a woman?”

At a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth, a former slave, delivers her now memorable speech, “Ain't I a woman?”

1861-1865

The Civil War

The Civil War begins in the United States and women’s rights advocacy grinds to a halt until the war ends in 1865.

1866

Formation of the American Equal Rights Association

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the American Equal Rights Association, an organization for white and black women and men dedicated to the goal of universal suffrage. They petition Congress for “universal suffrage.”

1867

Introduction of a Federal Women's Suffrage Amendment

Senator S.C. Pomeroy of Kansas introduces a federal women’s suffrage amendment in Congress. It is rejected.

1868

Ratification of the 14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified: “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” and that right may not be “denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States.”

 

The suffragists split into two organizations

The suffragists split into two organizations. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association. The primary goal of the organization is to achieve voting rights for women by means of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association, which focuses exclusively on gaining voting rights for women through the individual states.

1870

Ratification of the 15th Amendment

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified: “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 race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

1871

Victoria Woodhull addresses the U.S. House of Representatives

Victoria Woodhull addresses the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, arguing that women have the right to vote under the 14th Amendment. The committee rejects her argument.

 

The Anti-Suffrage Party is founded

The Anti-Suffrage Party is founded. Many people, including prominent women, such as Ellen Sherman, wife of General William Tecumseh Sherman, challenged the notion of suffrage as a “natural right,” and opposed its extension to women. In their view, women’s political participation threatened their important roles as wives, mothers, educators, and philanthropists.

1872

Susan B. Anthony registers and votes for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election

Susan B. Anthony registers and votes for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election in New York. She is arrested, tried, and convicted in 1873. Her defense, that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment entitled her to vote, was not successful.

1874

Minor v. Happersett

The Supreme Court rules in Minor v. Happersett that the 14th Amendment does not guarantee women the right to vote. Citizenship does not give women voting rights, and women’s political rights are under individual states’ jurisdictions, the Court determines.

1876

“Declaration of Rights for Women.”

Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage disrupt the official U.S. Centennial program at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, presenting a “Declaration of Rights for Women.”

1877

Introduction the Woman Suffrage Amendment into Congress

California Senator A.A. Sargeant introduces the Woman Suffrage Amendment into Congress. It includes the language that would eventually become the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

1890

Formation of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA)

The National Women Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. As the movement's mainstream organization, NAWSA wages state-by-state campaigns to obtain voting rights for women.

1896

The National Association of Colored Women is formed

The National Association of Colored Women is formed with the goal of achieving equality for women of color. The association brings together more than 100 black women's clubs. Leaders include Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell, and Anna Julia Cooper.

1911

The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) is organized.

The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) is organized.

1912

Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party supports women’s suffrage

Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party becomes the first national major political party to support women’s suffrage.

1913

Suffragists organize a parade in Washington, DC

Suffragists organize a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. Known as the Woman Suffrage Procession, it was the first public demonstration in the nation’s capital for women’s suffrage and called participants to “march in a spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded.”

 

Formation of the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage

Alice Paul and Lucy Burns form the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage. Their focus is lobbying for a federal constitutional amendment to secure the national right to vote for women.

1915

The Transcontinental tour

Mabel Vernon and Sara Bard Field lead a transcontinental tour which gathers over 500,000 signatures on petitions to Congress in favor of women’s suffrage.

1916

The renaming of the Congressional Union to the National Woman's Party (NWP)

Alice Paul and her colleagues rename the Congressional Union the National Woman's Party (NWP) and began introducing some of the methods used by the suffrage movement in Britain. Tactics include demonstrations, parades, mass meetings, and picketing the White House over the refusal of President Woodrow Wilson and other incumbent Democrats to actively support the Suffrage Amendment.

 

First woman elected to the House of Representatives

Jeannette Rankin of Montana is the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Woodrow Wilson states that the Democratic Party platform will support suffrage.

1917

World War 1

United States enters World War I

 

Alice Paul begins a hunger strike

Picketers are arrested on charges of “obstructing traffic,” during a demonstration. Alice Paul and others are convicted and incarcerated at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. While imprisoned, Alice Paul begins a hunger strike and is forcibly fed a mixture of eggs and milk for nutrition

1918

World War I ends in November

In January, after much bad press about the treatment of Alice Paul and the other imprisoned women, and the country still at war in World War I, President Wilson announces that women's suffrage is urgently needed as a "war measure." World War I ends in November.

1919

The Woman Suffrage Amendment is introduced in Congress in 1878

The Woman Suffrage Amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is then sent to the states for ratification. Wisconsin and Illinois are the first states to ratify.

1920

Formation of the League of Women Voters forms

The League of Women Voters forms

 

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution is certified as law

After Tennessee becomes the 36th state to ratify, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is certified as law, guaranteeing that “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.”

 

The NAWSA disbands

Its work completed, the National American Woman Suffrage Association disbands.