OTD 19th Amendment

June 2, 2021

102 Years Ago Today

Congress passes the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote, a result of decades of activism.
How did suffragists *finally* change the public's mind?
Here's one unique strategy you may recognize – an "influencer" campaign.

The Fight For The Vote

  • The women’s voting movement (aka “women’s suffrage”) began in the 1800s.
  • 41 years after it was first introduced, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
  • One year, two months & two weeks later, the necessary three-fourths of the states ratified the 19th Amendment, officially adding it to the Constitution.
  • Wyoming was first to ratify (the state granted women the right to vote in 1870), Tennessee was the last.

Name To Know: Sojourner Truth

  • Born in 1797 & enslaved until 1826 in NY.
  • Magnetic speaker who promoted civil rights & women’s rights.
  • Her strategy: Inspired by Fredrick Douglas, she began selling her photographed portrait on small, inexpensive cards. Similar to baseball cards, people exchanged & collected the cards.
  • The significance: By providing an image of herself, Truth influenced how people saw her & countered racist & sexist cartoons with other imagery.

The Strategy Continues

  • Inspired by Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony distributed portraits of herself & other suffragists on cards, in papers & beyond.
  • She requested & managed portraits of suffragists, giving instructions for their pose, & asking for the “best eyes,” & “best hair.”
  • Why portraits? To personalize the mission & influence public opinion; to provide visualization of strong female leaders & counteract the cartoons that mocked suffragists.
“When we shall have our amendment [for woman suffrage] . . . everybody will think it was always so . . . They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.”

Susan B. Anthony, 1894. To continue their storytelling of women’s suffrage, Anthony & other prominent leaders compiled portraits & stories, published in six volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage – each volume has approximately 1,000 pages.

While the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote in 1920, it wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act was passed, which ended discriminatory practices (ex: literacy tests) that discouraged or prevented Black Americans from voting in federal elections.

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For more on how photography was used to champion civil rights and women’s rights: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-sojourner-truth-used-photography-help-end-slavery-180959952/

A little more information on the 19th Amendment: https://www.archives.gov/files/exhibits/nates/files/19th-amendment-ratification-fact-sheet.pdf

by Jenna Lee,