Ninety years ago today, the 19th amendment was ratified and made part of the US constitution. It was an historic moment for civil rights, and gave women across the country the right to vote.
“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,” reads the 19th amendment.
The 19th amendment was not easily added to the constitution. It took the women’s suffrage movement more than 70 years to get the 19th amendment added to the constitution.
The Guardian reports that Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader in the US suffragette movement, once said that it took “480 campaigns to get legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters, 47 campaigns to get constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions; 277 campaigns to get state party conventions to include woman suffrage planks, 30 campaigns to get presidential party campaigns to include woman suffrage planks in party platforms and 19 campaigns with 19 successive congresses.”
The women’s suffrage movement started in 1848, at a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. 30 years later, the legislation finally made its way to congress, but the bill was rejected.
So suffragists took their fight to the states, and by 1916, women had the right to vote for the president in 11 states. In 1919, congress passed the amendment, and sent it to the states to be ratified.
35 states quickly approved it, but the 19th amendment needed one more state’s approval to be ratified. The nation’s eyes turned to Tennessee, the only remaining state where the 19th amendment had a chance.
The senate had approved of the amendment, but the house was deadlocked at a 48-48 vote. But on the next vote, after reading a letter from his mother, Harry Burn switched sides and voted to approve the amendment.
“I believe in full suffrage as a right. I believe we had a moral and legal right to ratify. I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow, and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification,” Burn said after the vote.
On August 18th, 1920, the 19th amendment became part of the constitution, and women were given the right to vote. You can read more about the 19th amendment at the National Archives.