PA approves 19th ammendment one hundred years ago
“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.”
Two sentences was all it took to grant voting rights to millions of Americans.
And that amendment – the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote – was approved by Pennsylvania 100 years ago today.
Suffrage had been decades in the making before Congress approved – and two-thirds of the states – ultimately signed off on the measure.
According to the League of Women Voters, the first women’s rights conventions took place at Seneca Falls, NY in 1848.
It would be over 20 years before Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association.
Two years later, Stanton came to Warren.
According to the Warren County Historical Society, Stanton spoke in Warren at Roscoe Hall – located in the 400 block of Pennsylvania Ave. W. – on November 17, 1871.
In an age when newspapers couldn’t effectively produce early photography, it was left to the reporter to tell the story and paint the scene.
According to the Warren Mail, “Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was well-received. She is 55 years old, short, stout, and has white, curly hair. She has a white cap and has a motherly and pleasant face. She does not rant for women’s suffrage, but reasons logically. She says girls should be healthy and get exercise, learn a trade, be self-sustaining. She said the vine would be in bad shape if the oak died, so women should not depend too heavily upon men. She urges the vote be given to women.”
Seven years after Stanton’s Warren visit, the first suffrage amendment was introduced in Congress. The ensuing decades saw the formation and subsequent merger of the National Women Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, according to the LWV.
During this era, a Warren County native Elnora M. Babcock rose to prominence in the effort.
Born in Columbus in 1852, Babcock ultimately lived in Chautauqua County.
According to an article from the Jamestown Community College, Babcock “served as president of the Chautauqua County Political Equality Club from 1891 to 1893, when the organization was at its largest. In this capacity, she presided over the first Political Equality Day at Chautauqua Institution in 1891.”
That set the stage for Babcock to ultimately obtain a much broader audience.
From JCC: ” In 1894, she was appointed Superintendent of Press Work for the state suffrage association, a position she assumed for the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1899. She served NAWSA in this role until 1906, spearheading all national suffrage publicity from her home in Dunkirk, NY.”
While the movement grew, the legislation didn’t move.
More drastic measures were needed.
According to the LWV, that’s exactly what happened when Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party began “demonstrations, parades, mass meetings and picketing at the White House over the refusal of President Woodrow Wilson and other incumbent Democrats to actively support the Suffrage Amendment.”
Those demonstrations continued into 1917 when Paul and others were arrested until “in January, after much bad press about the treatment of Alice Paul and the imprisoned women, President Wilson announced that women’s suffrage was urgently needed as a ‘war measure,'” according to the LWV.
The legislation finally moved through Congress – originally written by Anthony and first introduced in 1878 – but the 19th Amendment wasn’t ratified by the states until August 18, 1920, over a year after Congress granted approval, when Tennessee became the 36th state to vote in the affirmative.