'Now we can begin': Woman and the Vote

This timeline brings to life the history of the long struggle for women's suffrage* in the United States. It is commonly said that the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution "gave" women the right to vote. While it is true that this amendment prohibited states from denying the right to vote on account of sex, the right to vote was hardly a "gift" nor was it "given" to "all" women. Hundreds of thousands of women as well as many men supporters labored hard and long to extend the basic right to vote in the United States to women. Further, this history is intertwined with struggles for the right to vote for African-Americans, the poor, immigrants, Hispanics, American Indians, and others. It has been a history marked by successes and setbacks, cooperation as well as conflict, sexism as well as racism. The history of the struggle for suffrage is still unfolding. As suffragist Crystal Eastman reminded her sisters following the passage of the 19th Amendment, "Now we can begin." * From the Latin word suffragium.meaning the right to vote.

1773-09-01 00:00:00

Wheatley Publishes Poetry

Phillis Wheatley publishes her first book of poetry and becomes the most famous African American woman poet: One of her first works recalls being brought from Africa to America: "Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Some view our sable race with scornful eye, 'Their colour is a diabolic dye.' Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train."

1776-03-31 12:06:51

"Remember the Ladies"

Abigail Adams exhorts husband John to "Remember the Ladies" when he attends a meeting of the Continental Congress.

1789-09-17 19:01:43

Ratification of US Constitution

Our first Constitution left it to the states to determine who could vote.

1833-12-01 04:53:42

Am I not a woman and a sister?

18 women founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society including Lucretia Mott, a number of other Quakers, and members of the free black Forten family. It is a sister organization of the all-male American Anti-slavery Society.

1840-06-12 00:00:00

Quakers Mott & Stanton meet at Anti-Slavery Convention

Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton meet when they are part of the American delegation at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Women attending are allowed to listen but not speak. Leaving the convention, Mott and Stanton commit to holding a convention on women's rights; the Seneca Falls meeting is held 8 years later.

1848-07-20 00:00:00

"All men and women are created equal"

In Seneca Falls, NY, at the first Woman's Rights Convention, attendees sign the Declaration of Sentiments patterned on the Declaration of Independence, but promoting women's rights, including suffrage.

1848-07-28 01:50:35

The Rights of Women

Frederick Douglass—ardent abolitionist and suffragist—speaks on behalf of women's suffrage at Seneca Falls: "In this denial of the right to participate in government, not merely the degradation of woman and the perpetuation of a great injustice happens, but the maiming and repudiation of one-half of the moral and intellectual power of the government of the world."

1848-08-01 00:00:00

Account of the Seneca

Lucretia Mott writes about her visit to the Seneca Nation and the role of women in The Liberator.

1849-01-01 00:00:00

First Women's Newspaper

Amelia Bloomer founds The Lily—the first newspaper for women, dedicated to temperance.

1850-10-23 00:00:00

Women from across the Country Convene

The First National Woman's Rights Convention is held in Worcester, MA.

1851-05-29 00:00:00

Sojourner Truth Speaks

"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them." Sojourner Truth, former slave and noted orator

1856-11-25 04:47:37

Women Endorse State Suffrage Strategy

Delegates to the 8th National Women's Rights Convention in New York approve "the propriety of appointing a committee, which shall be instructed to prepare a memorial adapted to the circumstances of each legislative body; and demanding of each, in the name of this Convention, the elective franchise for woman."

1861-04-12 00:00:00

The American Civil War Begins

When the Civil War begins, suffrage activity is mostly suspended.

1861-11-01 00:00:00

"Battle Hymn"

After witnessing a battle during the Civil War, poet, author, and activist Julia Ward Howe writes “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

1863-05-14 00:00:00

Women's Loyal National League Petition for Emancipation

Women's Loyal National League is formed by Stanton—the first president—and Anthony. The League collects 400,000 signatures on a petition supporting an amendment to abolish slavery—what will become the 13th Amendment.

1865-04-09 00:00:00

End of Civil War

Civil War ends.

1865-12-18 16:56:13

13th Amendment Ratfied

The 13th Amendment is ratified: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

1866-02-14 00:00:00

Women Petition Congress

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and others petition Congress for Universal Suffrage: “The undersigned, Women of the United States, respectfully ask an amendment of the Constitution that shall prohibit the several States from disfranchising any of their citizens on the ground of sex.”

1866-05-01 00:00:00

Bound-up Together

Frances Harper addresses the National Women's Rights Convention: “We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul.”

1866-05-10 00:00:00

AERA: Suffrage "irrespective of race, color, or sex"

At the 11th National Women's Rights Convention, attendees founded the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) to: “secure Equal Rights to all American citizens, especially the right of suffrage, irrespective of race, color, or sex.” Key founders include Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Harper, and Lucretia Mott.

1866-05-10 00:00:00

You Speak of Rights

Frances Harper addresses the 11th National Women's Rights Convention: "You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs. I, as a colored woman, have had in this country an education which has made me feel as if I were in the situation of Ishmael, my hand against every man, and every man's hand against me."

1868-07-09 19:01:43

14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment is ratified on July 9, 1868: "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."

1869-05-15 10:07:28

Suffrage Movement Splits

Following the 1869 AERA convention, a group of women refuse to support of the 15th Amendment unless it includes women. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). They continue to pursue a separate federal amendment for woman suffrage.

1869-11-01 10:49:08

AWSA Supports 15th and Woman Suffrage

Following the dissolution of AERA, Lucy Stone, Josephine Ruffin, and others from the New England Suffrage Association form the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). They support the 15th Amendment despite its exclusion of women and focus on expanding suffrage for women on the state level.

1869-11-25 12:06:51

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

The 1869 Thanksgiving Proclamation holds out a picture of hopefulness and optimism following the Civil War. "The year which is drawing to a close has been free from pestilence; health has prevailed throughout the land; abundant crops reward the labors of the husbandman; commerce and manufactures have successfully prosecuted their peaceful paths; the mines and forests have yielded liberally; the nation has increased in wealth and in strength; peace has prevailed, and its blessings have advanced every interest of the people in every part of the Union; harmony and fraternal intercourse restored are obliterating the marks of past conflict and estrangement; burdens have been lightened; means have been increased; civil and religious liberty are secured to every inhabitant of the land, whose soil is trod by none but free men."

1869-11-25 12:06:51

Everyone at Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner

Thomas Nast's 1869 depiction of universal suffrage, published in Harper's Weekly, reflects the inclusive vision of many 19th century abolitionists and suffragists who are working to abolish slavery and to promote universal suffrage. The AERA, for example, is founded in 1866 "to secure Equal Rights to all American citizens, especially the right of suffrage, irrespective of race, color, or sex."

1869-12-10 00:00:00

Wyoming Women Are First

Women gain the right to vote in the territory of Wyoming.

1870-01-08 00:00:00

Woman's Journal Is Founded

Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Browne Blackwell found the Woman's Journal as a weekly newspaper.

1870-02-03 19:01:43

15th Amendment Is Enacted

The 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870, prohibits federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote due to "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Its passage is followed by Reconstruction and a period of voter suppression that uses poll taxes, literacy tests, violence, and other means. It takes nearly 100 years for poll taxes to be prohibited by the 24th Amendment and the sweeping reforms of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that break down many state and local legal barriers to voting by African American men and women.

1870-02-14 00:00:00

Women Vote in Utah

The first woman votes in Utah Territory.

1872-11-05 15:34:25

Anthony Votes for President and Is Arrested

Susan B. Anthony casts a vote for President using the logic that the 14th Amendment gives the right to vote to all citizens. She is arrested and caricatured in a drawing a few days before her trial.

1875-09-01 00:00:00

Women and Power

Matilda Gage writes about the Iroquois in her book Woman, Church, and State—“Never was justice more perfect, nor civilization higher.”

1877-11-01 04:54:58

Anti-immigrant Thanksgiving

G.F. Keller publishes a parody of Nast's Thanksgiving dinner as immigration grows in the US; a Chinese immigrant eats rat, a Frenchman devours a frog, and no blacks or women are at this Thanksgiving table.

1878-01-10 19:01:43

Suffrage Amendment Introduced

Senator Aaron Sargent introduces a resolution for a Constitutional amendment: “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.” It is 41 years before this same language is adopted by the Senate.

1878-06-14 19:01:43

30,000 Signatures Delivered

30,000 signatures in support of the woman suffrage amendment are delivered to the Senate; Senate postpones consideration "indefinitely."

1880-01-23 00:37:17

Anthony Addresses Senate Judiciary Committee

"We women have been standing before the American Republic for thirty years asking the men to take yet one step further and extend the practical application of theory of equality of rights to all the people to the other half of the people, we women. That is all that I stand here today to attempt to demand."

1882-01-09 19:01:43

Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage

The Senate forms the Select Committee on Woman Suffrage. On March 7, 1884, Susan B. Anthony presents the "Susan B. Anthony Statement" before the Select Committee on Woman Suffrage, US Senate.

1887-01-25 19:01:43

Woman Suffrage Amendment Loses

Woman suffrage amendment—introduced in 1882—loses in the Senate (16 to 34).

1888-04-01 00:00:00

Beyond Arguing

Frederick Douglass reflects on Seneca Falls and the progress on woman suffrage and calls for an end to argument: "The demand of the hour is not argument, but assertion, firm and inflexible assertion, assertion which has more than the force of an argument. If there is any argument to be made, it must be made by opponents, not by the friends of woman suffrage. Let those who want argument examine the ground upon which they base their claim to the right to vote. They will find that there is not one reason, not one consideration, which they can urge in support of man’s claim to vote, which does not equally support the right of woman to vote."

1890-02-18 00:00:00


The women's suffrage movement reconciles and two major groups (NWSA and AWSA) merge into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). NAWSA adopts a state-by-state suffrage to achieve women's suffrage.

1892-10-26 00:00:00

The Horrors of Lynching

Ida B. Wells documents the horrors of lynching in Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases.

1893-05-01 00:00:00

Reflections on Progress

Six months before her death, Lucy Stone reflects: "I think, with never-ending gratitude, that the young women of today do not and can never know at what price their right to free speech and to speak at all in public has been earned." Co-author of the Declaration of Sentiments in 1848, she reflects on the progress of women: “The commencement of the last fifty years is about the beginning of that great change and improvement in the condition of women which exceeds all the gains of hundreds of years before.”

1893-11-07 00:00:00

Colorado Passes Suffrage

Colorado is first state to pass women's suffrage by popular vote.

1895-05-01 00:00:00

The Call

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin calls for a “new era” for the colored women of America.

1896-01-04 00:00:00

Utah Gains Statehood

Utah gains statehood, and Utah women regain the right to vote.

1896-07-21 03:06:50

National Association of Colored Women Founded

Two major clubs merge to form the first truly national organization of black women—the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). NACW is focused on the welfare of its communities, education, and other social issues including suffrage.

1896-07-21 14:43:29

Mary Chuch Terrell Elected

NACW elects Mary Church Terrell as their president.

1896-11-03 00:00:00

Idaho Women Can Vote

Women gain the vote in Idaho.

1900-02-14 00:00:00

Why an Amendment?

Carrie Chapman Catt, newly elected president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, lays out the case for why an amendment is needed for woman's suffrage.

1905-06-28 17:42:18

Sacagawea: Symbol for Suffragists

NAWSA adopts Sacagawea as an emblem of freedom, using her image on the ribbon for their 1905 convention in Portland, OR. The convention coincides with the Lewis and Clark Expedition Centennial Exposition and dedication of a statue to Sacagawea with Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, and other suffragists in attendance.

'Now we can begin': Woman and the Vote

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