Friday, July 3, 2020
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The 19th turns 100 before next president leaves

Who will be in the White House on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment? If it is Hillary Clinton, look for some interesting celebrations to mark the centennial; if Donald Trump, he may wonder aloud why it has taken us so long to put a woman in the White House. Before the end of the next presidential term, the country will mark the passage of 100 years since the women’s suffrage movement got the 19th Amendment ratified in the US. It will be a historic moment in time.


The White House, Nov. 2013 (Karen Neoh / Flickr Creative Commons)

The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920, giving women the constitutional right to vote in elections in the US.

The History Channel tells us that the 19th Amendment was first proposed by US Representative James R Mann, Republican of Illinois, who was the chairman of the Suffrage Committee. It was known as the Susan Anthony Amendment, and it passed the House 304-89, just 42 votes above the two-thirds majority required for passage of a proposed amendment.

The Senate next got the amendment, passing it on June 4, 1919, by a vote of 56-25.

As specified in the Constitution, the amendment then went to the states for ratification. At the time, the US had 48 states, so since three-fourths of the states have to ratify the amendment before it becomes part of the Constitution, 36 had to ratify it.

Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin ratified the amendment within six days. Kansas, New York, and Ohio did so on June 16, 1919, just a few days later.

As of March 1920, 35 states had ratified the Amendment. The only ones left were mostly in the South, which very much opposed the amendment. Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, and—get this—Maryland had rejected the amendment before it came to Tennessee’s legislature.

On August 18, 1920, the state legislature was deadlocked in a 48-48 tie over passage, but one person hadn’t voted. That was Representative Harry T Burn, a 23-year-old Republican. He was on record as opposing the amendment, but his mother reportedly convinced him to vote in favor of its ratification. That’s how he voted, and Tennessee—and therewith, the nation—ratified the 19th Amendment.

The remaining 12 states took a long time to get around to ratifying the amendment, although it had already been made a part of the Constitution. Mississippi, the last state to ratify the 19th Amendment, did so on March 22, 1984. If we have to wait 100 years from that, most of us will probably be dead.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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