Women's Suffrage Timeline: The Road to Women's Right to Vote

The path for women to be granted the right to vote in the United States was a long one filled with struggles. Review a comprehensive women's suffrage timeline, including a visual representation of key events that led up to the adoption and ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

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1840s-1860s: Early Days of the US Suffrage Movement

After centuries of unequal treatment and being denied the right to vote, the women's suffrage movement formalized and gained momentum in the United States during the 1840s.

  • 1848 - Elizabeth Cady Stanton penned the Declaration of Sentiments, which was signed at that July's first-ever convention focused on women's rights. During the convention, which 240 men and women attended, resolutions calling for equal treatment for men and women, including voting rights, were adopted, thus setting the women's rights timeline into motion.
  • 1850 - The inaugural National Women's Rights Convention was held in Worcester, Massachusetts in October 1850. More than 1,000 people attended. Presentations focused on women's rights, including the right to vote, own property, pursue higher education, and more. It met most years through 1860, then a few more times after the Civil War.
  • 1861- The Civil War began in 1861 and lasted until 1865. During this timeframe, there wasn't significant activity associated with the women's rights timeline.
  • 1866 - Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the American Equal Rights Association. This organization's purpose was to achieve universal suffrage for both Blacks and women.
  • 1869 -The 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was passed in 1869 and ratified in 1870. It forbade voting discrimination on the basis of race, color or previous servitude (enslavement), but applied only to men.
  • 1869 - After the 15th Amendment was passed, the American Equal Rights Association dissolved, with leaders splitting to form two groups, each focused on a different aspect of suffrage.
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. The group sought federal women's voting rights through a Constitutional Amendment.
    • Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell began the American Woman Suffrage Association. This group focused on seeking to secure voting rights for women via the states.

1870s-1890s: Pressing for Governmental Action

As the fight for voting rights continued, activists focused on pushing for governmental action to grant suffrage to women.

  • 1870 - The 15th Amendment was ratified, thus granting Black male citizens the right to vote and forever prohibiting voting discrimination on the basis of race, color or former status as an enslaved person. This impacted Black males, including former slaves, who were granted citizenship and equal protection under the law via the 14th Amendment.
  • 1871 - Victoria Woodhull addressed the House Judiciary Committee, presenting a proposal for suffrage using the argument that women’s voting rights should be implied under the 14th Amendment, as a right of citizenship. The committee tabled her request, but she did accomplish the milestone of becoming the first woman to address a Congressional committee.
  • 1872 - Susan B. Anthony registered to vote in Rochester, New York and cast a vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the 1873 presidential election. As it was not legal for her to do so, she was arrested for illegal voting.
  • 1873 - In 1873, Susan B. Anthony was tried and convicted for voting in the previous year's presidential election.
  • 1875 - In 1875, Virginia Minor unsuccessfully sought to register to vote in Missouri. She filed a lawsuit against Reese Happersett, who was in charge of voter registration, arguing that voting is a right of citizenship. Minor v. Happersett went to the Supreme Court, which ruled against her assertion.
  • 1876 - Suffragist leaders were allowed to attend, but not sanctioned to speak, during the 1876 Independence Day celebration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They went on-stage anyway and proceeded to read aloud the Declaration of Rights of Women of the United States, then distributed copies to the crowd.
  • 1878 - In 1878, U.S. Senator A.A. Sargeant (California) introduced a resolution calling for the U.S. Constitution to be amended to guarantee women the right to vote. It stayed in committee for several years before being defeated in 1887.
  • 1890 - During 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was formed as a result of the organizations that separated in 1869 joining forces again. The group focused on pushing for suffrage at the state level with the goal of influencing the federal government. Nationwide, many local groups organized under the parent organization.
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1900-1920: The Final Path to Women's Suffrage

After many years and struggles, women would finally receive the right to vote in the early 20th century.

  • 1911 - In 1911, a number of state-specific antisuffrage organizations joined to form a national organization against women's suffrage. The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS), headed up by women, argued that political involvement would interfere with the traditional role of women in society.
  • 1912 - In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt became the first presidential candidate to speak out in favor of voting rights for women. He was running for a second term in office at the time as the Progressive Party candidate. By the time of the election, there were over a million women voters across six states. Roosevelt lost to Woodrow Wilson.
  • 1913 - In 1913, the Woman Suffrage Procession took place in Washington, D.C. the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as president. More than 5,000 suffragists marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, of course calling for a Constitutional amendment providing women with the right to vote.
  • 1917 - The National Woman's Party (NWP) began picketing the White House in 1917. People who participated in the group's protests were often arrested and put in prison. They went on hunger strikes as a result of being denied categorization as political prisoners.
  • 1918 - In 1918, then-president Woodrow Wilson spoke before the full Congress and urged the House and the Senate to pass a Constitutional amendment in favor of women's suffrage. He gave a moving speech appealing to the legislators to pass the 19th Amendment, though the year would end without a vote in favor of adoption.
  • 1919 - After multiple votes (a total of five), the 19th Amendment was adopted by Congress on June 4, 1919.
  • 1920 - The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920, a few months before the 19th Amendment was ratified.
  • 1920 - Fourteen months after the 19th Amendment was adopted by Congress, it was ratified in August 1920. As of that date, truly universal suffrage became the law of the land.
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Women's Suffrage Timeline: Visual Representation

Bring your understanding of the women's suffrage timeline into sharp focus by reviewing this visual representation of major events leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

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Voting Rights Beyond the Women's Suffrage Timeline

The 15th Amendment made it unlawful to exclude people from voting on the basis of race or color, and the 19th Amendment made it unlawful to prohibit people from voting on the basis of sex. Even so, there are still challenges. Voting rights are an important consideration in the ongoing struggle for civil rights in the U.S. This was addressed to some degree with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but there is still work to be done. While you're thinking about voting rights, take the time to learn about gerrymandering and consider its implications on government representation.