August 18, 1920: American Women Can Vote!
And throughout the rest of the world, the response was “So What“! Women in Australia had been voting since 1902. Of course, you would expect such aberrational behavior from a nation descended from convicts. But prim, staid Canada had also allowed women to vote since 1918. (In fact, as a concession to the War Effort, women with sons or husbands in the Army were allowed to vote in 1917.)
Great Britain, herself, regarded women’s suffrage as a war debt. In the years preceding the Great War, the British Suffragette Movement had violated Edwardian decorum as well as the law.. Demanding the vote, its protesters had disrupted sessions of Parliament, chained themselves to Ten Downing Street, set afire mailboxes. Some had even attempted to make bombs. Those who were arrested began hunger strikes in British prisons. For punishment as well as sustenance, the fasting women were force-fed. (Having a gruel-filled hose forced down your throat actually may be an improvement over British cuisine, but that was not the intention.)
But once the War began the Suffragette Movement ceased its protests, deferring to the more urgent cause. And the women did their part, working all the shifts at the hospitals and armaments factories. And in 1918, the Crown acknowledged its gratitude to the women of Britain. For four years of tireless labour, for killing your husband and sons, and leaving you to spend the rest of your life pushing your legless brother in his wheelchair, how would you like to vote? However, the British government was not quite generous. A woman had to be 30 before she could vote; a man only had to be 21. (In 1928, the British government ended the age discrimination.)
Still, with most of the English-speaking world permitting women’s suffrage, America looked rather petty in denying it. Hadn’t Mary Pickford–selling war bonds–earned that right? (Actually, in her native Canada she could vote.) In 1919, both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the 19th Amendment.
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.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
President Wilson was a supporter of the legislation. ( He had yet to have his stroke; but even if he had, Mrs. Wilson would have signed the bill.) So, then it was left to the states to ratify the amendment. On this day in 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to accept the 19th Amendment, making it the law of the land. Mississippi was the 48th state, acquiescing in 1984.
And the enfranchised women of America voted for Warren G. Harding. Well, he was good-looking.