Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Nineteenth Amendment

The Fight for Women's Suffrage

The 19th amendment to the US Constitution which granted women the right to vote was passed by Congress 100 years ago today - June 4, 1919. It had first been introduced to Congress in 1878. Yes, 1878. It took 41 hard fought years for it to be approved and sent to the states for ratification. Many who initially fought for women's suffrage didn't live to see it. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are among the most famous. Others carried on over the decades. They lobbied, demonstrated, and held hunger strikes. Some were jailed where they were beaten and force fed. Nevertheless, they persisted. Our precious right to vote didn't come without a cost. 

Even after the amendment was passed by Congress, its ratification wasn't assured. The approval of 36 states was needed. Thirty-five states had ratified by the summer of 1920. At that point for a variety of reasons, Tennessee was seen as the last state with a reasonable chance for passage. The battle there was a real nail-biter. For an excellent account of it, read The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win The Vote by Elaine Weiss. This book also gives an account of the women's suffrage movement leading up to that last battle in Tennessee. 

Tragically, passage of the 19th amendment did not automatically mean that all women who were US citizens realistically had the right to vote. Even though there were many African-American women in the suffrage movement, Jim Crow laws kept them, as well as African-American men, from voting for decades to come. Sadly these women were marginalized even within the women's suffrage movement. 

For more information on the women's suffrage movement see The 2020 Women's Vote Centennial Initiative. Click the Learn tab for interesting articles and other resources and the Programs and Events tab to find events in your area. More information can be found at the National Women's History Alliance. Thanks to my sister Gina for sending me a copy of their publication on suffrage - The Gazette.


Yes, I'm getting to some crochet relevant to this topic. Katherine Durak has a website called Suffrage In Stitches telling about her 5 year project celebrating women's suffrage and leading up to its 100th anniversary in 2020. On it you'll find links to several patterns she's designed to commemorate the movement.  Here's my version of her Justice Shawl which was inspired by an historical novel based on the lives of sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke who were both abolitionists and suffragists. It was an interesting pattern to make and uses a variation of Tunisian entrelac. 

So the next time you vote (you do vote, don't you?), remember the women and men who fought hard for us to have that right. Perhaps make one of Katherine's patterns and wear it to the polls.