Women's Suffrage, Right to Vote

Women received the right to vote with the enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution which was ratified on August 18, 1920. The amendment said:

Section 1: 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.

Section 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The beginning of the fight for women’s suffrage is usually traced to the “Declaration of Sentiments” produced at the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. The fight continued through the years including the debates on the Fifteenth Amendment which extended the vote to ex-slaves, but not women. Court fights and discussion went on for the next 70 years before it was finally passed.

By July 1920, with a number of southern states opposed to the amendment, it all came down to Tennessee. It appeared that the amendment might fail by one vote in the Tennessee house, but 24 year old Representative Harry Burns surprised observers by casting the deciding vote for ratification.

There were charges that he had been bribed with an offer of $10,000.00, which was disproved. That fact of the matter was that Harry Burns had in his pocket a letter he had received from his mother urging him, “Don’t forget to be a good boy” and “vote for suffrage.” Women finally won the vote.

It didn’t take long for the women’s vote to take effect. Within a month, the women’s vote had a dramatic effect on races in Boston, Maine and across the country.