'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 . . .Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands." when he attends a meeting of the Continental Congress.

1789-09-17 19:01:43

Ratification of US Constitution

The "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

Mott & Stanton meet at Anti-Slavery Convention

Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton meet at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. 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." Both Douglass and Elizabeth Cadt Stanton successfully pushed to include the vote as one of the fundamental rghts in the Declaration of Sentiments.

1848-08-01 00:00:00

Account of the Seneca

Lucretia Mott writes in The Liberator about her visit to the Seneca Nation where she was impressed with the prominent leadership roles that the women played.

1849-01-01 00:00:00

First Women's Newspaper

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

1850-10-23 00:00:00

Women from across the Country Convene

Following Seneca Falls, Lucy Stone organized the First National Woman's Rights Convention which was 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, born enslaved in New York, abolitionist, woman’s rights activist, 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 suffrage advocate 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 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. The League collects 400,000 signatures on a petition supporting an amendment to abolish slavery—what will become the 13th Amendment.

1865-12-18 16:56:13

Civil War Ends

The Civil War ends in April 1865 and the 13th Amendment is soon 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.”

1866-05-10 00:00:00

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

For a brief period immediately after the Civil War, American reformers optimistically imagined a reconstructed republic that would incorporate woman suffrage and abolitionist interests. An 1865 pamphlet entitled "Equal Rights Convention for New York State" conveys this optimism nobly, imagining reforms in the state that would elevate national politics. It endorses "the right of suffrage to all citizens, without distinction of race or sex" and envisions the "reconstruction of this Union [as] a broader, deeper work than the restoration of the rebel States. It is the lifting of the entire nation into the practical realization of our Republican Idea" 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 Lucretia Mott, Frances E. W. Harper, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.

1866-05-10 00:00:00

You Speak of Rights

Frances E. W. 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: "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. 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." In defining eligible voters, the 14th Amendment adds word “male” to the constitution for the first time.

1869-05-15 10:07:28

Suffrage Movement Splits

The proposed 15th Amendment prohibits denial of voting on basis of race but not gender. At the 1869 AERA convention, a group of mainly white women, led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, refuse to support the 15th Amendment unless it includes sex. They form the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). They continue to pursue a separate federal amendment for woman suffrage. Black women want to protect black men's voting rights while also gaining their own.

1869-11-01 10:49:08

AWSA Supports 15th and Woman Suffrage

Following the dissolution of AERA, Lucy Stone, Josephine Ruffin, Charlotte Forten, and others from the New England Suffrage Association form the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). To secure Black men's voting rights, they support the 15th Amendment and focus on expanding suffrage for women on the state level.

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.

1869-12-10 00:00:00

Wyoming Women Are First

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

1870-01-01 00:05:43

Home Protection

Francis E. Willard, Woman's Christian Temperance Union president, brings more women to fight for the right to vote to protect their families---the "Home Protection Ballot."

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

Reconstruction continues as the 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870, prohibits state governments from denying citizens the right to vote due to "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Advocates of white supremacy respond with 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.

1871-01-11 12:59:34

Victoria Woodhull Testifies

Victoria Woodhull is the first woman to testify before a congressional committee. The 14th and 15th Amendment had already granted women citizenship, she argued to the House Judiciary Committee, and so the right to vote.

1872-11-05 15:34:25

Women Try to Vote for President

Black and white women across the country attempt to vote for President using the logic that the 14th Amendment gives the right to vote to all citizens. Susan B. Anthony tries to vote and is arrested. She is caricatured in a drawing published a few days before her trial.

1875-09-01 00:00:00

Native American Women and Power

White suffragist Matilda Gage writes about female authority and tge Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy in her book Woman, Church, and State—“Never was justice more perfect, nor civilization higher.”

1877-11-01 04:54:58

Parody of Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving

G.F. Keller publishes a parody of Nast's earlier depiction of universal suffrage. Women and blacks are entirely excluded from this Thanksgiving table and immigrants are disparaged.

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.” The next day, suffragists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, testify for the first time in front of the US Congress, It takes 41 years for the Senate to adopt the language in this resolution.

1878-06-14 19:01:43

30,000 Signatures Delivered to the Senate

30,000 signatures in support of the woman suffrage amendment from across the country are delivered to the Senate. Nonetheless, the Senate report credits the petitions to zealous and well organized suffragists, not the general will of the mass of women who would not want the burden of voting. It cautions that "An experiment so novel, a change so great, should only be made slowly and in response to a general public demand, the existence of which there is no evidence before your committee."

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: "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

Reconciliation

The predominately white women's suffrage organizations reconcile 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, who becomes a prominent suffragist, documents the horrors of lynching in Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases. She was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 "For her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching."

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." 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

Journalist Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin calls for a “new era” of national organization by African American women.

1896-01-04 00:00:00

Utah Gains Statehood

Utah gains statehood, and Utah women regain the right to vote with the support of national and state suffragists.

1896-07-21 03:06:50

National Association of Colored Women Founded

Black clubwomen unite to form the first truly national organization of black women—the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). NACW is focused on the welfare of Black women and children and their communities, as well as social reform issues such as education, anti-lynching, and suffrage.

1896-07-21 14:43:29

Mary Chuch Terrell Elected NACW President

NACW elects suffragist and educator Mary Church Terrell as their first 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 appropriates the image of Sacagawea, celebrating her bravery on the Lewis and Clark Expedition 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.

1906-02-01 00:00:00

Failure Is Impossible

In a speech a month before she dies, Susan B. Anthony declares “Failure is impossible.”

'Now we can begin': Woman and the Vote

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