Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thank You, Ladies

On August 26th, 1920, the 19th Amendment went into effect, giving women the right to vote in the United States. I think that it is amazing to think that less than 100 years ago, women did not have the right to vote in this country.

In 1878, following 4 days of testimony by Susan B. Anthony before Congress, a constitutional amendment was proposed that provided "The right of citizens to vote shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." This same amendment would be introduced in every session of Congress for the next 41 years, before finally passing in 1919.

After the passing in the 19th amendment, the long and arduous process of ratification by the states began. The amendment would need the the support of at least 36 states. By 1920, with a number of states adamantly opposed to the amendment, it all came down to Tennessee. It appeared that the amendment might fail by one vote in the Tennessee house, but twenty four year old Harry Burns surprised observers by casting the deciding vote for ratification. At the time of his vote, Burns had in his pocket a letter he had received from his mother urging him, "Don't forget to be a good boy" and "vote for suffrage."
The Equal Rights Amendment, which would eliminate any discrimination based on sex, was introduced in 1923. It finally passed in 1972, but was only ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states.

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