The 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment — which recognized the right of women to vote in the United States, will be celebrated in 2020, but for Kansans the centennial celebration began earlier this summer.
Once an amendment is officially proposed by Congress or a national convention, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. That process began with Wisconsin becoming the first state to ratify on June 10, 1919. Two other states, Illinois and Michigan, also ratified the amendment that day, but Kansas was not far behind. On June 16, 1919, Kansas, New York and Ohio ratified the amendment. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920, making women’s suffrage legal in the United States.
The 19th Amendment declared that: “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.”
More states belatedly ratified the amendment in 1920 and the years that followed. Some states originally rejected the 19th Amendment but later ratified it. Alabama, for example, originally rejected the 19th Amendment on Sept. 22, 1919. The state belatedly ratified the amendment on Sept. 8, 1953. Florida and South Carolina belatedly ratified the amendment in 1969, and Mississippi did not ratify it until 1984.
When the 19th Amendment was ratified, Alaska and Hawaii were not states. But Hawaiian women were also granted suffrage rights and (white) women in Alaska could vote in 1913.
Several states, including Kansas, recognized women’s suffrage rights before 1920.
The League of Women Voters in Barton County and other Kansas chapters will have several events planned to celebrate the Centennial of the 19th Amendment. One is taking place this Saturday, at 10:30 a.m. at the Great Bend Public Library. Diane Eickhoff, author of “Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women’s Rights,” will present the program, “The Long Road to Women’s Suffrage in Kansas.”
The lessons of the past should not be forgotten. Susan B. Anthony, born 100 years before the 19th Amendment was ratified, was arrested and fined $100 for the crime of voting in 1872. In 1876, she led a protest at the 1876 Centennial of our nation’s independence. In her speech, “Declaration of Rights,” written by fellow suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, she said, “Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”