Women's suffrage in states of the United States

Women's suffrage in states of the United States refers to women's right to vote in individual states of that country. Suffrage was established on a full or partial basis by various towns, counties, states and territories during the latter decades of 19th century and early part of the 20th century. As women received the right to vote in some places, they began running for public office and gaining positions as school board members, county clerks, state legislators, judges, and, in the case of Jeannette Rankin, as a Member of Congress.

The campaign to establish women's right to vote in the states was conducted simultaneously with the campaign for an amendment to the United States Constitution that would establish that right fully in all states. That campaign succeeded with the ratification of Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.


The demand for women's suffrage began to gather strength in the 1840s, emerging from the broader movement for women's rights. The first national suffrage organizations were established in 1869 when two competing organizations were formed, each campaigning for suffrage at both the state and national levels. The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was especially interested in national suffrage amendment. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), led by Lucy Stone, tended to work more for suffrage at the state level.[1] They merged in 1890 as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).[2]

Prospects for a national amendment looked dim at the turn of the century, and progress at the state level had slowed.[3] In the 1910s, however, the drive for a national amendment was revitalized, and the movement achieved a series of successes at the state level. The newly formed National Woman's Party (NWP), a militant organization led by Alice Paul, focused almost exclusively on the national amendment. The larger NAWSA, under the leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt, also made the suffrage amendment its top priority.[4] In September 1918, President Wilson spoke before the Senate, asking for the suffrage amendment to be approved. The amendment was approved by Congress in 1919 and by the required number of states a year later.[5]

States and regions


On the whole, western states and territories were more favorable to women's suffrage than eastern ones (see map). It has been suggested that western areas, faced with a shortage of women on the frontier, "sweetened the deal" in order to make themselves more attractive to women so as to encourage female immigration or that they gave the vote as a reward to those women already there. Susan Anthony said that western men were more chivalrous than their eastern brethren.[6] In 1871 Anthony and Stanton toured several western states, with special attention to the territories of Wyoming and Utah where women already had equal suffrage. Their suffragist speeches were often ridiculed or denounced by the opinion makers - the politicians, ministers, and editors. Anthony returned to the West in 1877, 1895, and 1896. By the last trip, at age 76, Anthony's views had gained popularity and respect. Activists concentrated on the single issue of suffrage and went directly to the opinion makers to educate them and to persuade them to support the goal of suffrage.[7]

By 1920 when women got the vote nationwide, Wyoming women had already been voting for half a century.


In March 1867, the Kansas legislature decided to include two suffrage referenda in that year's November election. If approved by the voters, one would enfranchise African Americans and the other would enfranchise women. The proposal for the referendum on women's suffrage, the first in the U.S., originated with state senator Sam Wood, leader of a rebel faction of the state Republican Party. Wood had moved to Kansas to oppose the extension of slavery into that state, but was also lured by the prospect of land and fortune.[8][9]

The American Equal Rights Association (AERA) actively supported both referenda. The AERA, which advocated suffrage for both women and blacks, had been formed in 1866 by abolitionists and women's rights activists. Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Blackwell launched the AERA campaign in Kansas. In April they assisted with the formation of a state organization called the Impartial Suffrage Association, which was led by Charles L. Robinson, a former governor who was Stone's brother's brother-in-law, and Sam Wood.[10] Olympia Brown arrived in Kansas on July 1 to relieve Stone and Blackwell as leader of the AERA campaign, handling that task almost single-handedly until Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton arrived in September. The AERA could not afford to send more activists because money that had expected to support their campaign had been blocked by Wendell Phillips, a leading abolitionist. Although he supported women's rights, Phillips believed that suffrage for African American men was the key issue of the day, and he objected to mixing the issues of suffrage for blacks and women.[11]

The AERA had hoped for assistance from the Kansas Republican Party. The Republicans instead decided to support suffrage for black men only and formed an "Anti Female Suffrage Committee" to oppose those who were campaigning for women's suffrage.[12][13] By the end of summer the AERA campaign had almost collapsed under the weight of Republican hostility, and its finances were exhausted.[14]

Anthony and Stanton created a storm of controversy by accepting help during the last two and a half weeks of the campaign from George Francis Train, a Democrat, a wealthy businessman and a flamboyant speaker who supported women's rights. Train, however, also openly disparaged the integrity and intelligence of African Americans, supporting women's suffrage partly in the belief that the votes of women would help contain the political power of blacks.[15] The usual procedure was for Anthony to speak first, declaring that the ability to vote rightfully belonged to both women and blacks. Train would speak next, declaring that it would be an outrage for blacks to vote but not women also.[16] The willingness of Anthony and Stanton to work with Train alienated many AERA members. This was due partly to Train's attitude toward blacks and partly to his harsh attacks on the Republican Party: he made no secret of his desire to blemish its progressive image and create splits within it. Many reformers were loyal to the national Republican Party, which had provided political leadership for the elimination of slavery and was still in the difficult process of consolidating that victory.[17]

Suffrage for women was defeated in the November election by 19,857 votes to 9,070; suffrage for blacks was defeated 19,421 to 10,483.[18] The tension created by the failed AERA campaign in Kansas contributed to the growing split in the women's suffrage movement.[19]

In 1887, suffrage for women was secured for municipal elections. A referendum for full suffrage was defeated in 1894, despite the rural syndication of the pro-suffragist The Farmer's Wife newspaper and a better-concerted, but fractured campaign. A third referendum campaign in 1911-1912 gained even greater support, with supporters delivering 100 petitions with 25,000 signatures to Topeka. The fact that Kansas had already banned saloons since 1880 had severely weakened the anti-suffrage opposition by eliminating their traditional voter base of saloon patrons. The 1911-1912 pro-suffrage proposers also conducted a less-perceivably-antagonistic campaign among male voters. The pro-suffrage side finally secured a women's suffrage amendment, and Kansas became the eighth state to allow for full suffrage for women.[20]


The first territorial legislature of the Wyoming Territory granted women suffrage in 1869.[21] On September 6, 1870, Louisa Ann Swain of Laramie, Wyoming became the first woman to cast a vote in a general election.[22][23] In 1890, Wyoming under Republican control was admitted to the Union as the first state that allowed women to vote, and in fact insisted it would not accept statehood without keeping suffrage.


An Act Conferring upon Women the Elective Franchise, enacted February 12, 1870

The Mormon issue made the fight for women's suffrage in Utah unique. In 1869 the Utah Territory, controlled by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave women the right to vote. Sarah Young, the niece of Brigham Young, was the first woman to legally vote in the United States, due to a municipal election held on February 14, 1869 (Wyoming had recognized women's right to vote earlier that year, but had not yet held an election).[24] However, in 1887, Congress disenfranchised Utah women with the Edmunds–Tucker Act, which was designed to weaken the Mormons politically and punish them for polygamy. At the same time, however, certain activists, particularly Presbyterians and other Protestants convinced that Mormonism was a non-Christian cult that grossly mistreated women, promoted women's suffrage in Utah as an experiment, and as a way to eliminate polygamy.[25] The LDS Church officially ended its endorsement of polygamy in 1890 and in 1895 Utah adopted a constitution restoring the right of woman suffrage. Congress admitted Utah as a state with that constitution in 1896.[26]


In 1854, Washington became one of the first territories to attempt granting voting rights to women; the legislative measure was defeated by only one vote. In 1871, the Washington Women's Suffrage Association was formed, largely attributable to a crusade through Washington and Oregon led by Susan B. Anthony and Abigail Scott Duniway. The late nineteenth century saw a seesaw of bills passed by the Territorial Legislature and subsequently overturned by the Territorial Supreme Court, as the competing interests of the suffrage movement and the liquor industry (which was being damaged by the women's vote) battled over the issue. The first successful bill passed in 1883 (overturned in 1887), the next in 1888 (overturned the same year). The women's suffrage movement next hoped to secure the right to vote via voter referendum, first in 1889 (the same year Washington achieved statehood), and again in 1898, but both referendum bids were unsuccessful. A constitutional amendment finally granted women the right to vote in 1910.[27][28][29]

Colorado and Idaho

After Wyoming gained statehood, Colorado and Idaho were the next two states to give women the vote. In 1893, a referendum in Colorado made that state the second state to give women suffrage and the first state where the men voted to give women the right to vote.[30] Later, Idaho approved a constitutional amendment in 1896 with a statewide vote giving women the right to vote.


California's voters granted women's suffrage in 1911, when they adopted Proposition 4. Clara Elizabeth Chan Lee (October 21, 1886 – October 5, 1993) was the first Chinese American woman voter in the United States. She registered to vote on November 8, 1911 in California.[31]

Oregon, Montana, Arizona

One after another, western states granted the right of voting to their women citizens, the only opposition being presented by the liquor interests and the machine politicians. In Oregon, Abigail Scott Duniway (1834–1915) was the long-time leader, supporting the cause through speeches and her weekly newspaper The New Northwest, (1871–1887).[32] Suffrage was won in 1912 by activists who used the new initiative processes. Montana's men voted to end the discrimination against women in 1914, and together they proceeded to elect the first woman to the United States Congress in 1916, Jeannette Rankin.

Arizona became a state in 1912, but it had many conservative Southerners and its new constitution did not include women's suffrage. Activists formed the Arizona Equal Suffrage Association (AESA) and launched a campaign to win the vote. Their tactics were to reach out to progressive organizations for endorsements, winning the support of influential political and civic leaders, and getting help from NAWSA for speakers and funds. AESA sent delegations to the Republican and Democratic state conventions to argue for their support. The tactics worked and the men voted for woman suffrage in the general election held on 5 November 1912.[33]

Upper Midwest

Norwegian American women, based in the rural upper Midwest, felt that the progressive politics of Norway, which included women's rights, provided a strong foundation for their demands for political equality and inclusion in the U.S. They told their kinswomen they had a cultural duty to promote women's rights, especially through the Scandinavian Woman's Suffrage Association.[34]


New York

Suffragists, knowing that women's suffrage could not succeed without support, put their hope in the Equal Rights Association and pushed for a campaign for universal suffrage. From April until November 1867, women furiously campaigned, distributing thousands of pamphlets and speaking in numerous locations for the cause. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton focused their attentions on New York, while Stone and Blackwell headed to Kansas, where the November election would be taking place.[35]

During the New York Constitutional Convention, held on June 4, 1867, Horace Greeley, the chairman of the committee on Suffrage and an ardent supporter of women's suffrage over the previous 20 years, betrayed the women's movement and submitted a report in favor of removal of property qualification for free black men, but against women's suffrage. New York legislators supported the report by a vote of 125 to 19.[36]

Harriot Stanton Blatch, the daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, focused on New York where she succeeded in mobilizing many working-class women, even as she continued to collaborate with prominent society women. She could organize militant street protests while still working expertly in backroom politics to neutralize the opposition of Sharp Hall politicians who feared the women would vote for prohibition.[37] New York finally joined the procession in 1917 after Tammany Hall ended its opposition.

New Jersey

New Jersey, on confederation of the United States following the Revolutionary War, placed only one restriction on the general suffrage—the possession of at least £50 (about $8,500 adjusted for inflation) in cash or property.[38][39] In 1790, the law was revised to include women specifically, and in 1797 the election laws referred to a voter as "he or she".[40] Female voters became so objectionable to professional politicians, that in 1807 the law was revised to exclude them. Later, when New Jersey rewrote its constitution, the 1844 constitution limited a guaranteed right to vote to men. By 1947, all state constitutional provisions that barred women from voting had been rendered ineffective by the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. The updated constitution of 1947, reflecting this, once again included women as eligible voters—as they had been in New Jersey in 1776.


The 19th Amendment, which insures women the right to vote, was ratified August 18, 1920.[41] However, Maryland did not ratify the Amendment until March 29, 1941. Indeed, the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates both voted against women's suffrage in 1920.[42] In the time between the United States and Maryland approving the amendment, women fought very hard for their rights. In Maryland, there was suffragists and suffrage groups all protesting for women’s rights.

Edith Houghton Hooker, born in Buffalo, New York in 1879, was a suffragist in Maryland.[43] She graduated from Bryn Mawr College and later enrolled in the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, where she was one of the first women to be accepted into the program.[43] Hooker was an active member of the suffrage movement.[44] She and her husband, Donald Russell Hooker, were responsible for establishing the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Baltimore.[44] Edith also established the Just Government League of Maryland, which brought the question of women's suffrage to the people of Maryland.[45] In addition to all the things Edith contributed to, she also founded the Maryland Suffrage News.[46] This newspaper was designed to help unite the various suffrage organizations scattered across the state to bring pressure to the legislature to be more sympathetic to the issues of women and to serve as a source of information about suffrage to the women of the state because mainstream papers were virtually blind to the existence of the movement.[46] Hooker saw the need for a focus on passing a national amendment so she did all she could to get the amendment approved.[46]

Etta H. Maddox (c. 1860 - 1933) was the first woman to graduate from Baltimore Law School in 1901, and later to be admitted to the Maryland bar.[47] However, initially she was not permitted to take the exam.[48] The Maryland Court of Appeals rejected her application on the grounds that the wording of Maryland's law only permitted male citizens to practice law.[48][49] Therefore, Maddox and several other female attorneys from other states went to Maryland's General Assembly to lobby for women to be admitted to the Maryland bar. In 1902, a bill introduced by Senator Jacob M. Moses was passed, permitting women to practice law in Maryland.[50] Maddox passed the bar exam with distinction and in September 1902, she was the first woman to become a licensed lawyer in Maryland.[51]


In 1912, Grace Wilbur Trout, then head of the Chicago Political Equality League, was elected president of the state organization. Changing her tactics from a confrontational style of lobbying the state legislature, she turned to building the organization internally. She made sure that a local organization was started in every Senate district. She sent four lobbyists to Springfield, the state capital, to persuade one legislator at a time to support suffrage for women.

U.S. women suffragists demonstrating for the right to vote, February 1913

After passing the State Senate, the bill was brought up for a vote in the House on June 11, 1913. Trout and her team counted heads and went as far as to fetch needed male voters from their homes. Watching the door to the House chambers, Trout urged members in favor not to leave before the vote, while also trying to prevent "anti" lobbyists from illegally being allowed onto the House floor. The bill passed with six votes to spare, 83 to 58. On June 26, 1913, Illinois Governor Edward F. Dunne signed the bill in the presence of Trout, Booth and union labor leader Margaret Healy.

Women in Illinois could now vote for presidential electors and for all local offices not specifically named in the Illinois Constitution. However, they still could not vote for state representative, congressman or governor; and they still had to use separate ballots and ballot boxes. But by virtue of this law, Illinois had become the first state east of the Mississippi River to grant women the right to vote for President. Carrie Chapman Catt wrote,

"The effect of this victory upon the nation was astounding. When the first Illinois election took place in April, (1914) the press carried the headlines that 250,000 women had voted in Chicago. Illinois, with its large electoral vote of 29, proved the turning point beyond which politicians at last got a clear view of the fact that women were gaining genuine political power."

Besides the passage of the Illinois Municipal Voting Act, 1913 was also a significant year in other facets of the women's suffrage movement. In Chicago, Ida B. Wells-Barnett founded the Alpha Suffrage Club, the first such organization for Negro women in Illinois. Although white women as a group were sometimes ambivalent about obtaining the franchise, African American women were almost universally in favor of gaining the vote to help end their sexual exploitation, promote their educational opportunities and protect those who were wage earners. African-American women often found themselves fighting both sexism and racism. As a result, there was an African-American Woman Suffrage Movement.

South Carolina

Women's suffrage in South Carolina began as a movement in 1898, nearly 50 years after the women's suffrage movement began in Seneca Falls, New York.

Amongst the leading lights of the movement was Virginia Durant Young, a temperance campaigner who expanded her campaign to push for votes for women in South Carolina elections. Amongst the objections she attempted to argue against was a claim that, because polling booths were often located in bars, the act of voting would take women into unpleasant situations.[52] Her former home is a preserved national monument.

See also


  1. Scott and Scott (1982), pp. 16–17
  2. Scott and Scott (1982), p. 22
  3. Scott and Scott (1982), p. 24
  4. Scott and Scott (1982), pp. 31–33
  5. Scott and Scott (1982), pp. 43, 45–46
  6. Myres, Sandra L., Westering Women and the Frontier Experience, 1800 - 1915, (1982) p. 232
  7. Bverly Beeton, "Susan B. Anthony's Woman Suffrage Crusade in the American West," Journal of the West, Apr 1982, Volume 21 Issue 2, pp 5–15
  8. DuBois (1978), pp. 79, 81
  9. Sister Jeanne McKenna, "With the Help of God and Lucy Stone," Kansas Historical Quarterly no. 36 (1970), pp. 13–21
  10. Dudden (2011), pp. 109–110
  11. Dudden (2011), p. 115
  12. DuBois (1978), pp. 89–90
  13. Dudden (2011), pp. 113,127
  14. DuBois (1978), p. 92
  15. DuBois (1978), pp. 93–94
  16. Harper, p. 292
  17. DuBois (1978), p. 100
  18. Dudden (2011), p. 130
  19. DuBois (1978), pp. 80–81
  20. "Kansas: Third Time is a Charm". WOW Museum.
  21. see facsimile at An Act to Grant to the Women of Wyoming Territory the Right of Suffrage and to Hold Office. Library of Congress. December 10, 1869. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  22. Women vote in the West: the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1869–1896. New York: Garland Science. 1986. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-8240-8251-2. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  23. Danilov, Victor J. (2005). Women and museums: a comprehensive guide. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7591-0854-7.
  24. White, Jean Bickmore. 2013. Women's suffrage in Utah. http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/statehood_and_the_progressive_era/womenssuffrageinutah.html
  25. Sarah Barringer Gordon, "The Liberty of Self-Degradation: Polygamy, Woman Suffrage, and Consent in Nineteenth-Century America," Journal of American History Vol. 83, No. 3 (Dec., 1996), pp. 815–847 in JSTOR
  26. Beverly Beeton, "Woman Suffrage in Territorial Utah," Utah Historical Quarterly, March 1978, Vol. 46 Issue 2, pp 100–120
  27. The History of Voting and Elections in Washington State
  28. http://theautry.org/explore/exhibits/suffrage/suffrage_wa.html
  29. Washington State History Society > Women's History Consortium
  30. see facsimile at An act to submit to the qualified electors of the State the question of extending the right of suffrage to women of lawful age, and otherwise qualified, according to the provisions of Article 7, Section 2, of the constitution of Colorado. Library of Congress. April 7, 1893 (adopted by referendum on November 7, 1893 by 35,798 votes to 29,451, ratified by the Governor on December 2, 1893). Retrieved 2007-12-09. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  31. Yung, Judy (1995). Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco. University of California Press
  32. Ruth Barnes Moynihan, Rebel for Rights: Abigail Scott Duniway (1983)
  33. Amy de Haan, "Arizona Women Argue for the Vote," Journal of Arizona History, Winter 2004, Vol. 45 Issue 4, pp 375–394
  34. Anna Peterson, "Making Women's Suffrage Support an Ethnic Duty: Norwegian American Identity Constructions and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1880–1925," Journal of American Ethnic History, Summer 2011, Vol. 30 Issue 4, pp 5–23
  35. Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, & Anthony, Susan B., & Gage, Matilda Joslyn, History of Women's Suffrage II, Ayer Company Publishers Inc. (1985), 230–232
  36. Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, & Anthony, Susan B., The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Rutgers University Press (2000) 106
  37. Ellen Carol DuBois, "Working Women, Class Relations, and Suffrage Militance: Harriot Stanton Blatch and the New York Woman Suffrage Movement, 1894–1909", Journal of American History, June 1987, Vol. 74 Issue 1, pp 34–58 in JSTOR
  38. Constitution of New Jersey, 1776. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  39. New Jersey Women's History, Rutgers . Retrieved 22 September 2008.
  40. Source, Laws of New Jersey, 1797, "An Act to regulate the election of members of the legislative council and general assembly, sheriffs and coroners, in this State". Courtesy- Special Collections/University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries facsimile here
  41. Mount, Steve. "Ratification of Constitutional Amendments". U.S. Constitution. Retrieved 1995. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  42. "Why Maryland Rejects the Suffrage Amendment". The New York Times. February 20, 1920. p. 14.
  43. 1 2 "Maryland Women's Hall of Fame". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved 2001. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  44. 1 2 "Edith Houghton". Family Tree Maker. Retrieved 2009. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  45. "Edith Houghton Hooker (1879-1948): Suffragist, Progressive, and Reformer". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved June 25, 2004.
  46. 1 2 3 "Woman Suffrage Memorabilia". Word Press.
  47. The Honorable Lynn A. Battaglia (2010), ""Where is Justice?" An Exploration of Beginnings" (PDF), University of Baltimore Law Forum, Maryland Finding Justice Project, 41 (1), retrieved 11 Apr 2016
  48. 1 2 Maryland Commission for Women (2003), Maryland Women's Hall of Fame: Etta H. Maddox, Maryland State Archives, retrieved 11 Apr 2016
  49. In re Maddox, 55 L.R.A. 298, 93 Md. 727, 50 A.487 (1901).
  50. Maryland General Assembly, Law Record, Resolutions, Ch.399 (1902).
  51. Scheeler, Mary Katherine. Notable Maryland Women: Etta Haynie Maddox, 1860–1933. Edited by Winifred G. Helmes. Cambridge: Tidewater Publishers, 1977.
  52. "OpenLearn Live: 19th February 2016: A Week in South Carolina: Allendale". OpenLearn. The Open University. Retrieved 20 February 2016.


Further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/8/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.