Women's Suffrage



It took activists and reformers many decades to win the right to vote for women in the United States and on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified. Join Active Minds as we tell the story of women’s right to vote in the United States 100 years later. We will highlight the role of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others as well as discuss current issues around gender equality in our political process and leadership.

Key Lecture Points

  • One hundred years ago American women gained the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment.  Women had begun to point out the injustice of only male suffrage as early as the American Revolution, but it was not until the 1840s that the movement gained momentum.  Building on the philosophies of the Enlightenment, as well as on the practical experience gained in the abolitionist movement, famed suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony would come to spearhead a movement for suffrage that lasted over seven decades.
  • The US was not the first country to grant voting rights to women. New Zealand enacted women’s suffrage in 1893, 27 years before the US. The expansion of the franchise moved around the globe in fits and starts during the 20th and early 21st century. In 2015, Saudi Arabia became the latest country to extend to franchise to women.
  • Today, women are rising to prominence in the American political spotlight, a long journey from the 1920 Passage of the 19th Amendment.  Prominent women politicians include former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and others.

Exploration Questions

  • What will the future of women in American politics look like?
  • With women’s suffrage now a nearly universal policy, what are the next obstacles to overcome for women to achieve total political equality?
  • Do women face stigmas in American elections?

Reflective Questions

  • What would early suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton think about the progress women have made in the US and around the world?
  • Does the presence of equal suffrage between sexes mean women are politically equal?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • Sinclair, Evelyn and Ruth, Janice. Women Who Dare: Women of the Suffragette Movement. Pomegranate. 2006. 64 pages. Chronicles the history of the struggle, with all its political challenges and dramatic tensions, through engaging prose and dozens of historical photographs. The movement is further brought to life with five special profiles highlighting family ties and friendships among suffragists.
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  • DuBois, Ellen Carol. Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote. Simon and Schuster, 2020. 400 pages. DuBois begins in the pre-Civil War years with foremothers Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth as she explores the links of the woman suffrage movement to the abolition of slavery. She proceeds to Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul, who brought the fight into the 20th century, and she shows how African American women, led by Ida B. Wells-Barnett, demanded voting rights even as white suffragists ignored them.
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  • Purvis, June and Joannou, Maroula (Editors). The Women’s Suffrage Movement: New Feminist Perspectives. Manchester University Press, 1998. 227 pages. A collection of essays presenting recent feminist scholarship on the suffrage movement, illustrating its complexity and diversity.
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