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Jan. 27, 1919

Feb. 26, 1919

Jan. 29, 1919

Eventually, 46 States ratified the Eighteenth Amendment, New Jersey being the last to do so in 1922. Of the other 2 States in the Union, Rhode Island rejected the measure and Connecticut never acted on it. 17

The Eighteenth Amendment appears officially as 40 Stat. 1941. It became operative under its own terms January 16, 1920.


1. Peter Odegard, Pressure Politics, (New York: Octagon Books, 1966), 75.

2. Charles Mertz, The Dry Decade, (New York, 1933), 22.

3. Congressional Record, 62nd Congress, 3rd Session, 1912, 49.5: 4291-4292, 4299, 4447.

4. Mertz, 16.

5. Congressional Record, 64th Congress, 3rd Session, 1916-1917, 495.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid, 616.

8. Ibid, 65th Congress, 1st Session, 1917, 55.

9. Ibid, 1st Session, 55, Pt. 1: 197-198.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid., 68th Congress, 2nd Session, 1917, 68, Pt. 5: 5636-5666.

13. Ibid., 65th Congress, 2nd Session, 1917, 54.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., 477-478.

16. Alan P. Grimes, Democracy and the Amendments to the Constitution, (Lexington, Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1978), 87-88.

17. Ibid., 89.


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.


The ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment brought to a close one of the most prolonged struggles for suffrage in American history. Ever since America had won its independence, various disenfranchised groups had sought to be included among the Nation's voters. First, religious qualifications were abolished, followed by property qualifications. Next came the enfranchisement of the Negro during the aftermath of the Civil War. Still, however, the Nation's largest group of non-voters-the women of America-remained disenfranchised.

The earliest attempts to gain voting privileges for women were conducted on the State level. Progress was made during the late 1800s when four States granted women the right to vote. Following these early gains, the women's suffrage movement stalled for over a decade. Then, during the early 1910s, the movement reawoke, and by 1914 the number of States in which women could vote had risen to eleven. These victories in the States, coupled with the growing number of States granting women local voting privileges, injected needed momentum into the nationwide effort to adopt a constitutional amendment that would give all of America's women the right to vote. In addition, congressional representatives from States where women had been enfranchised were, of course, rapidly becoming more sensitive to attempts to introduce a women's suffrage amendment.

During the 63rd Congress (1914-15), the women's movement succeeded, for the first time, in getting both Houses of Congress to vote on the Women's Suffrage Amendment. Although the amendment received a small majority in the Senate, 35, to 34, it fell well short of gaining the necessary two-thirds vote.1 In the House, the so-called "Susan B. Anthony Amendment" failed to even gain a majority-only 174 Representatives voted for it, while 204 opposed the measure.

In the Senate, the voting on the amendment followed a regional pattern. Senators from the South voted against the measure; those from the West generally voted for it; and the vote among Eastern senators was equally divided. Southern senators opposed the amendment primarily because they believed it robbed the States of the right to establish their own election procedures. Consequently, Federal election officials could more easily enforce Federal voting regulations that ran counter to measures the Southern States h

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devised to side-step the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Thus the South opposed the Women's Suffrage Amendment not because it would enfranchise women, but because it would frustrate its own effort to suppress the Negro vote.

In the South, racism had evolved into an accepted practice since the Civil War. During debates over the Nineteenth Amendment, Senator James K. Vardaman of Mississippi openly called for:

The repeal of the Fifteenth (and) the modification of the Fourteenth Amendment making this Government a government by white men, of white men, for all men, which will be but a realization of the dream of the founders of the Republic.2 Senator John Sharp Williams, also of Mississippi, declared that the Fifteenth Amendment was "a horrible mistake" which, he continued, "created race feelings in this country that never existed prior to it. I want this to be a white man's country governed by white men."3 Voting discrimination was also evident in some parts of the West, due to the large Chinese and Japanese populations on the West Coast. These avowed opponents of the Women's Suffrage Amendment in the South and, to a lesser degree, the West feared that it would reintroduce the issue of racial discrimination into national politics.4

By 1918, at least two factors had developed which aided the women's suffrage effort. First, the United States was at war, and thousands of women were performing a new role in society by leaving the home and filling jobs traditionally held by men.5 Second, the Prohibition Amendment had cleared Congress. Thus a past argument against women's suffrage, that it would lead to the passage of Prohibition, was nullified.



Within the context of these two developments, the Women's Suffrage Amendment came up for a vote in Congress a second time on January 10, 1918. This time, it passed the House of Representatives, 274 to 136, with 17 not voting. Although progress toward passage was seen in the Senate, the Amendment still failed to win a two-thirds majority, 53 to 31.7 On February 10, 1919, it was resubmitted for a Senate vote and failed again, 55 to 29.8 During a special session of Congress on May 19, 1919, the Amendment was once more introduced in the House as H.J. Res. 1. The next day it was reported favorably by the House Committee on Women's Suffrage. After one day of floor debate, the House passed the Resolution on May 21, 1919. Two amendments, both regarding the method of ratification, were rejected during the House floor debate.10

H.J. Res. 1 was next reported, unamended, by the Senate Committee on Women's Suffrage on May 28, 1919.11 It was debated by the Senate on June 3 and 4, and passed without amendment on June 4 by a narrow two-thirds majority, 56 to 25.12 During the floor debate in the Senate, amendments to limit the proposal to white women, 13 substitute conventions for legislatures in the ratification process, 14 and to give primary enforcement responsibility to the States were rejected.15


Once the Nineteenth Amendment gained the approval of Congress, it was little more than a year until Tennessee became the requisite 36th State to ratify the measure, which it did on August 28, 1920. At the time, 48 States comprised the United States. The ratification dates of each of the States appear below:

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After being ratified by the 36th state, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the Nineteenth Amendment as part of the Constitution on August 26, 1920. Thereafter, the Amendment was ratified by Connecticut on September 14, 1920; Vermont on February 8, 1921; Maryland on March 29, 1941 (after rejection on February 24, 1920); and Alabama on September 8, 1953 (after rejection on September 22, 1919).

The Amendment was rejected by Georgia on July 25, 1919; South Carolina on January 28, 1920; Virginia on February 12, 1920; Mississippi on March 29, 1920; Delaware on June 2, 1920; and Louisiana on July 1, 1920. No action was taken by Florida or North Carolina.

The Nineteenth Amendment appears officially as 41 Stat. 362.


1. Congressional Record, 63rd Congress, 2nd Session, 1914; 51: 5108.

2. Ibid., 5097.

3. Ibid., 5093-5094, 5104.

4. Alan P. Grimes, Democracy and the Amendments to the Constitution, (Lexington, Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1978), 91.

5. Eleanor Flexnor, Century of Struggle: The Women's Rights Movement in the United States, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1975), 298.

6. Congressional Record, 65th Congress, 2nd Session, 1918, 56: 810.

7. Ibid., 65th Congress, 2nd Session, 1918, 57: 3062.

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