Women's Suffrage is 100 Years Old! | MPHPL 

Women's Suffrage is 100 Years Old!

Women's Suffrage is 100 Years Old!


In this article:
Nineteenth Amendment, Britannica
Indiana Women’s Suffrage Centennial
Indiana Women’s Suffrage History Map
DPLA’s Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection
Women’s History Month Recommended Reads

“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 the account of sex.”
-Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States


In August 2020, The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution celebrated 100 years since its ratification on August 26th, 1920. This legislation finally allowed American women the right to vote. This came after decades of struggle for women across the nation. In fact, the constitutional amendment was introduced in Congress in 1878 and every Congress after that until its passage in 1919. Previously, it was generally accepted that women should be protected from the evils of politics, both in regards to voting and holding office ("Nineteenth Amendment", Encyclopedia Britannica).

Some states introduced their own legislation extending the vote to women prior to the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment. By 1918, women in as many as fifteen states had secured their vote after fighting for decades ("Nineteenth Amendment", Encyclopedia Britannica). For Indiana women, their struggle began as early as 1850 by proposing married women had the right to own property. The very next year, the first statewide Women’s Rights Association began. After years fraught with failed amendments, lost records, and Indiana Supreme Court challenges, Indiana women finally received their voting rights from the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. This information and more can be found in this fantastic timeline and poster  created by The Indiana Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission to “honor the ideas and ideals that fueled the suffrage movement in Indiana.”

Unfortunately, just as some states extended the vote to women before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, many southern states actively stopped some women from voting after its ratification. Black women were largely barred from using their legal right to vote due to state laws that supported poll taxes and literacy tests to block voter registration. In fact, Black women would have to wait for almost five decades after the Nineteenth Amendment. This timeline by the Digital Public Library of America  shows how Black women’s suffrage battle was interwoven with the fight against racism and took them through such historical events as Brown vs. Board of Education, the March on Washington by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory voting practices, these women finally had the ability to exercise their legal right to vote given by the Nineteenth Amendment.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s legal right to vote, Ball State University Map Collection specialist Melissa Gentry in partnership with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission has developed a project to honor Indiana suffragettes and their fight for equal voting rights: The Indiana Suffrage History by Location interactive map. Her project is designed to let Hoosiers and students connect with their own history by populating this interactive map with the stories of the dedicated activists in the Indiana women’s suffrage fight.

MPHPL invites you to join in this project by telling the stories of local women from St. Joseph County and the surrounding area. Let’s put their stories on the (interactive) map!

To participate in this project, research a suffragette of your choosing, write up a short biography, and send it to mishinfo@mphpl.org. That’s it! With just a short biography we can put local women’s voting rights history on the map! Participants will receive a free MPHPL book bag to celebrate their historical contributions; this can be picked up any of our library locations or via our curbside service.

If you would like to know more about Women’s History, MPHPL can help! Check out this book on the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Indiana and these other recommended reads.

Additional resources:
“Q&A With Anita Morgan: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Indiana”
“An Act of Tardy Justice: The Story of Women’s Suffrage in Indiana”
Other Books from the Indiana Women’s Suffrage Centennial
Black Women’s Suffrage Collection by the Digital Public Library of America
“It’s a Struggle They Will Wage Alone: How Black Women Earned the Right to Vote”, Time Magazine

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