‘The Vote’: How the West Won Women’s Vote ☆☆☆

As a third-generation California, the second-generation born in the US, I’ve long chafed at the representation of history, as if the United States must always look towards not only Anglican roots, but also focus on the events on the East Coast to explain the United States. Sexism has always been one explanation for why the women’s civil rights movement for suffrage got such a brief and dismissive paragraph or two in the history books commonly used in public education, but after watching the two-part series of “American Experience: The Vote,” I’m convinced it is because the West led the way to the 19th Amendment.

“The Vote” is currently streaming on PBS and is a must-see for all US voters as well as  activists. You didn’t learn this in your history classes in high school but this was a civil rights movement that affected half of the US population.

While it is true that the great leaders for women’s suffrage were from the East Coast, the first state that gave women the vote was Wyoming (1890). Colorado soon followed in 1893. Say what you may about the Mormons, but Utah soon followed suit, granting women the vote in 1896 as did Idaho.

Then what was called The Doldrums set in. It wasn’t until 1910 that another state, Washington, joined in the Women’s Civil Rights campaign.

By 1914 (Part 2), 11 states had given women the vote:

  1. Wyoming (1890)
  2. Colorado (1893)
  3. Idaho (1886)
  4. Utah (1886)
  5. Washington (1910)
  6. California (1911)
  7. Arizona (1912)
  8. Kansas (1912)
  9. Oregon (1912)
  10. Illinois (1913)
  11. Montana (1914)
  12. Nevada (1914)

By 1912, the West Coast had given women the vote. (The territory of Alaska gave women the vote in 1913.) By 1914, the only state that gave women the vote for the president outside of the West, was Illinois (1913).

The states that would eventually join and grant women the vote prior to the 19th Amendment:

  1. New York (1917)
  2. Michigan (1918)
  3. Oklahoma (1918): First state from the South.
  4. South Dakota (1918)

The states that granted women the right to vote for president prior to the 19th Amendment:

  1. Illinois (1913)
  2. Nebraska (1917)
  3. Ohio (1917)
  4. Indiana (1917)
  5. North Dakota (1917)
  6. Rhode Island (1917)
  7. Iowa (1919)
  8. Maine (1919)
  9. Minnesota (1919)
  10. Missouri (1919)
  11. Tennessee (1919)
  12. Wisconsin (1919)

Yet look at the states where women gained the voting rights after the passage of the 19th Amendment.  The ConstitutionCenter.org has an excellent map.

New England:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Delaware
  3. Maryland
  4. Massachusetts
  5. New Hampshire
  6. New Jersey
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Vermont

The South

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. Georgia
  4. Florida
  5. Kentucky
  6. Louisiana
  7. Mississippi
  8. North Carolina
  9. South Carolina
  10. Texas
  11. Virginia
  12. West Virginia

The West:

  1. New Mexico

Of the original 13 states only New York and Rhode Island granted women the vote before the passing of the 19th Amendment:

  1. Connecticut (19th Amendment, 1920)
  2. Delaware (19th Amendment, 1920)
  3. Georgia (19th Amendment, 1920)
  4. Maryland (19th Amendment, 1920)
  5. Massachusetts (19th Amendment, 1920)
  6. New Hampshire (19th Amendment, 1920)
  7. New Jersey (19th Amendment, 1920)
  8. New York (1917)
  9. North Carolina (19th Amendment, 1920)
  10. Rhode Island (1917)
  11. South Carolina (19th Amendment, 1920)

Women get the vote because of two men from Tennessee whose vote passed the Amendment in the house: Harry T. Burn and Banks R. Turner. Notice that Tennessee had already given women the vote. In the end, it was the mothers who helped win women the vote.

In Part 1, there’s a trade-off where African American men are given the vote over women with the women expecting that their turn will come. This was a tactical error made by Susan B. Anthony. In Part 2, Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt had different strategies. One failed strategy was the Western Campaign which assumed that Woodrow Wilson would be defeated by women voting on a single issue: Women’s suffrage, but Wilson was campaign on keeping the US out of World War I.

Of course, in hindsight, Wilson didn’t keep the US out of World War I and would disastrously handle the Treaty of Versailles.

Although the first protest in front of the White House was in 1894 by Veterans of the Civil War over lack of pensions, that protest was quickly dispersed. Alice Paul led a peaceful protest of picketers that continued on throughout Wilson’s administration in the White House.

Below I’ve listed some of the people mentioned in “The Vote” as well as the experts you’ll hear and why they were consulted. This was really a battle that was won in the West and slowly creeped to the East, with, for the most part, the South and the original 13 states resisting even to the end. That explains some of the current problems with the vote as it applies to women and non-whites. The passage of the 19th Amendment is really a tale about political strategy, conflict and compromise and in today’s climate, well worth studying.

The People

Susan B. Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906): A champion of temperance, abolition, the rights of labor, and equal pay for equal work, Susan Brownell Anthony was one of the most visible leaders of the women’s suffrage movement.

Abby Scott Baker (1871 – 1944): Baker was one of Alice Paul’s earliest associates and helped Paul and Burns plan the March 3, 1913 national suffrage parade on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.

Alice Stone Blackwell   (1857-1950): Alice Stone Blackwell was the only child of Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell, both abolitionists and women’s rights activists. She was the editor of The Woman’s Journal (1881–1917)—the official magazine of the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).

Harriot Stanton Blatch (1856-1940): Blatch helped modernize the women’s suffrage movement.

Lucy Burns (1879-1966): Burns attended Oxford and joined the Women’s Social and Political Unsion. She was arrested several times and in 1909 met, Alice Paul.

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947): A skilled political strategist,  Catt was a suffragist and peace activist who helped secure for American women the right to vote. She directed the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and founded the League of Women Voters (1920).

Josephine Dodge (February 11, 1855 – March 6, 1928): Dodge was opposed to women’s suffrage. She was the president of the  National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895): Born a slave, Douglass escaped and became a civil rights activist for abolition and suffrage for African Americans and women.

Ines Haynes Irwin (March 2, 1873 – September 25, 1970): Irwin and Maud Wood Park founded the Massachusetts College Equal Suffrage Association in 1900.

“General” Rosalie Gardiner Jones (February 24, 1883 – January 12, 1978): Jones was am American suffragette who organized marches to draw attention to women’s suffrage.

Annie Nathan Meyer (February 19, 1867 – September 23, 1951): Meyer was an American author and educator who was against suffrage for women.

Inez Milholland (August 6, 1886 – November 25, 1916): Milholland was a social activist for women, laborers, children and the poor.

Lucretia Mott (née Coffin; January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880): Mott was an early feminist and abolitionist.

Lucy Stone (1818-1893): A suffragist and abolitionist and the first Massachusetts woman to earn a college degree.

Emmeline Pankhurst (born Emiline Goulden; 15 July 1858 – 14 June 1928): A British political activist who favored militant action.

Sylvia Pankhurst (5 May 1882 – 27 September 1960): British suffragette and daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst.

Maud Wood Park (1817-1955): Park was the first president of the League of Women Voters.

Jeannette Rankin (June 11, 1880 – May 18, 1973): Rankin was the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Montana in 1916, and again in 1940.

Anna Howard Shaw (February 14, 1847 – July 2, 1919): Shaw was a  minister, physician and ardent feminist. In 1904, she waspresident of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (November 12, 1815 – October 26, 1902): Working with Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton formulated the agenda for woman’s rights.

Lucy Stone (August 13, 1818 – October 18, 1893): Stone as an abolitionist and suffragist.

Sojourner Truth  (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883): Truth was a former slave, an abolitionist, suffragist and civil and women’s rights activist.

Mary Augusta Ward (June 11, 1851 – March 26, 1920): Ward was a British novelist and educator who was the founding president of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League.

Frances Ellen Watkins (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911): Watkins was an abolitionist, suffragist teacher and public speaker. She was the first African American woman to publish a short story.

Ida B. Wells (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931): Wells, later Wells-Barnett, was a US investigative journalist and a civil rights activist.


Taking Heads

Jad Adams: Adams is a British writer and television producer. He wrote “Women and the Vote” (2014)

Col. Beth Behn: Behn served as an assistant professor in the History Department at the United States Military Academy from 2010-2012, during which time she was awarded the History Department’s Distinguished Teaching Award and earned her Ph.D. in History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Tina Cassidy : Cassidy is a journalist and author of “Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait .”

Marcia Chatelain: Chatelina is an associate professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown.

Caroline Corbin: Corbin teaches U.S. Constitutional Law I, U.S. Constitutional Law II, First Amendment, the Religion Clauses, the Free Speech Clause, and Feminism and the First Amendment.

Ellen Dubois: Professor Emeritus at UCLA.  Author of “Harriet Stanton Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage,” Yale University Press, 1997.

Paula Giddings: Professor Emerita of Africana Studies at Smith College. She wrote a biography on Ida B. Wells, “Ida: A Sword Among Lions.”

Martha S. Jones: A professor of history at Johns Hopkins.

Alexander Keyssar: An American historian, and the Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard University.

Eleanor Smeal: One of the co-founders of The Feminist Majority Foundation, a former president of the National Organization for Women, and publisher of Ms. Magazine,

Michael Waldman: President of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a nonpartisan law and policy institute.

Mary Walton: Author  of “A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot.”

Susan Ware: Author of “Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote.”

Elaine Weiss: Author of “The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.”

J.D. Zahnsier: With America R. Fry, author of “Alice Paul: Claiming the Power.”

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