How Women Fought For and Won the Vote

The right for women to vote was not given to the American women. They fought for it.


© Jane Q. Stanchich

One century ago, American women of all races achieved the right to VOTE. It was a brutal, hard-won battle for them, full of ridicule, bloodshed, imprisonment, torture, and brutality. All of this because they wanted rights and a voice in the governance of this land, to be part of this democracy. They wanted the VOTE. 

Women wanted the vote, but the men not ready to give it to them. During the Suffragette demonstrations in the streets of New York, London and other major world capitals, men laughed and jeered at them, called them disgusting names, hit them, threw bricks at them, spat at them, and ripped their clothing. Women were pushed into paddy wagons and carted off to prison where they were often brutalized. When the women went on a hunger strike while in prison, they were force-fed a slurry mush down their throats. Some died. Justice then and now is hard won. It is a fight… sometimes to the end.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, among others, were original leaders of the American Women’s Suffrage Movement. Other leaders organized for women’s votes in the US and Europe and indeed worldwide. As serious as the movement was, at times humor prevailed. When told that women just did not have the temperment to vote, women responded with statements about the temperments of men, observing that men caroused at bars, drank away their paychecks, and led countries into an endless series of wars.

Black Women, who became highly educated and influential, stood shoulder to shoulder among powerful leaders of the Suffragette Movement in America. Two determined black women, Ida B. Wells and Anna Julia Cooper, former slaves, became pioneers in the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Forced to march at the back of the Suffragette protest line, Ida Wells, seeking equal treatment, ran to the front with her Illinois contingent. Profoundly unfair, prejudicial treatment of black voters extended well into the 1960’s, however. Note that until the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Blacks did not receive full voting protections and rights.

Women finally won the right to VOTE. After hard-fought protests and a difficult series of votes in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures, the Nineteenth Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution on August 18, 1920. It states, "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." This landmark ruling lead the way to future laws that protected women and children in labor and society, as well as established progress in education, sanitation, health and finances… because women could…and can VOTE!

Watch the two-part educational documentary on PBS entitled, “VOTE,” and show it to your family and students. I cried when I saw it. I wept for women’s suffering, their struggle to have a voice. I simply did not know what our predecessors went through…for all of us. Every time I vote I get chocked up, feeling the struggle and wars of all American patriots, especially women. We so often take our freedoms for granted. Now we can do better. VOTE in 2020!!

Let us know what you think about the VOTE series, about your town’s voting procedures, about your views of the upcoming elections. As divided as our country is politically, it has been this way at many crucial times in history. Our US Motto is: OUT OF MANY, ONE. We have a great, strong country, with compassionate and honorable people of all races and beliefs. We all must find a way to live in peace, dignity, and equality together….VOTE BY VOTE. 

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