Women's Suffrage: Key Moments in History

Women's Suffrage: Key Moments in History
Lindsay Lange
August 13, 2020

The Story

August 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment – giving women the constitutional right to vote in the US. Its passage was the result of decades of pressure from suffragists. But in reality, Jim Crow policies preventing Black Americans from voting also kept many Black women from the polls for decades. And other laws barred Native Americans and Asian immigrants from even getting citizenship for years after the 19th Amendment passed.

Read about some of the key moments in the fight for women’s voting rights and representation in government or listen here:

Seneca Falls Convention
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July 19-20, 1848: Seneca Falls Convention. Organizers – and prominent women’s rights activists – Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott headed up the first US women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. About 300 women and men attended, including prominent abolitionist Frederick Douglass – the only Black person who was there. The convention passed a “Declaration of Sentiments” describing their grievances – including that women couldn’t vote, had no voice in creating laws, and had no property rights. They also passed a series of resolutions calling for equal rights. The most controversial resolution – and the only one that didn’t pass unanimously – called for women’s right to vote. The fight for suffrage goes on for decades…

Woman Suffrage Parade
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March 3, 1913: Woman Suffrage Parade. More than 5,000 women marched in Washington the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration to push for the right to vote. Some White organizers wanted to keep the event segregated. They tried to force Black suffragists like Ida B Wells-Barnett to march at the back of the parade. But Wells-Barnett refused and marched in her state’s delegation. The parade brought new energy and national attention to the suffrage movement. Congress held an investigation into the lack of police protection for marchers, which kept the story in the news even longer – and helped gain more sympathy for the movement. Then it was a few years until...

Jeannette Rankin
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November 7, 1916: Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress. She represented Montana – one of several states that granted women full voting rights before the passage of the 19th Amendment. (Wyoming was the first in 1869). She continued the fight for voting rights while in Congress, serving on the Committee on Woman Suffrage and introducing the issue for debate on the House Floor. By 1918, President Woodrow Wilson announced his support for women’s suffrage. And from there...

The 19th Amendment
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August 18, 1920: The 19th Amendment was adopted, when Tennessee became the last state to ratify it. But many people of color including some Black people, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Latinos were still blocked from voting for years until...

January 23, 1964: The 24th Amendment was ratified
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January 23, 1964: The 24th Amendment was ratified, banning poll taxes in federal elections. Poll taxes were one of the many ways Southern states in the Jim Crow era tried to prevent Black Americans from voting. In some cases, Latinos and Native Americans also faced poll taxes. But other discriminatory practices continued...

The Voting Rights Act
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August 6, 1965: The Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon B Johnson. It’s considered one of the most significant civil rights laws ever passed. It banned the use of literacy tests for registering to vote, called for federal examiners to register voters in counties with a history of voting discrimination, and required those areas to get “preclearance” before they could change voting rules. The Voting Rights Act had a major impact in increasing participation rates among Black voters. But Black women still weren’t represented in office until...

Shirley Chisholm
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November 5, 1968: Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman ever elected to Congress. (Patsy Takemoto Mink – an Asian-American representative from Hawaii was the first woman of color elected to the House in 1964.) In 1972, Chisholm became the first Black woman to seek a major party nomination for president. But women weren’t at the top of the ticket until…

Geraldine Ferraro
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July 12, 1984: Geraldine Ferraro was named the vice presidential running mate to Democrat Walter Mondale. Ferraro – a New York congresswoman – was the first woman to be on a presidential ticket for a major party. The second, former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), became the first woman to get the Republican VP nomination in 2008.

June 25, 2013: Shelby County v. Holder
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June 25, 2013: Shelby County v. Holder. In a major voting rights decision, the Supreme Court essentially ruled that states with a history of discrimination no longer had to get the federal gov’s ok before they changed voting laws – something the Voting Rights Act required. Now states have a lot more leeway to make changes like adding new photo ID requirements and shortening voting hours. Democrats – including current members of Congress and Hillary Clinton – have argued it disenfranchises voters. Speaking of Clinton…

Hillary Clinton
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July 26, 2016: Hillary Clinton was picked as the Democratic presidential nominee. Clinton was the first (and so far, only) woman nominated by a major party for president.

Kamala Harris
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August 11, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) was chosen as vice presidential running mate to Democrat and former VP Joe Biden. Harris is the first Black woman and first South Asian-American on a major party’s presidential ticket.


In the last 100 years, women have gone from winning the right to vote to serving in some of the highest positions in government – including as Supreme Court justices and Speaker of the House. But progress has been slow – and uneven. Laws and policies blocked many women from voting for years after 1920. Many still face barriers to voting today and women remain underrepresented in political office. But women continue to push to make their voices heard in this country. Step one: vote.

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