Features

18 August 1920: Women guaranteed the vote in the USA

On this day in 1920, Tennessee became the last state in America to give women the vote, more than half a century after Wyoming.

It may surprise you to learn (given the whole “no taxation without representation” thing) that the USA did not introduce universal suffrage when it threw off the yoke of an unjust monarchical system and declared itself a republic.

Despite the egalitarian pronouncements of the US declaration of independence, it would take another 150 years or so before all adults were allowed to vote. Indeed, it would be nearly a 100 years before anyone but white, property-owning men were allowed to vote.

Unfortunately, when the US Constitution was drafted, it did not define who was allowed to vote. That was left up to the individual states. And most states imposed restrictions.

In 1869, the 15th Amendment prohibited states from denying the vote to citizens based on their "race, colour, or previous condition of servitude". But many states slyly got round these restrictions by imposing literacy tests and other more nefarious hurdles.

Wyoming was the first state to give women the vote in 1869. But still, most women were disenfranchised.

The National Women Suffrage Association was formed that year by Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In 1878, Anthony and Stanton drafted an amendment to the Constitution that would give women the vote. But it was rejected in the Senate.

A second submission was rejected in 1914. Two more submissions, in 1918 and 1919, also failed. But a further submission in 1919 passed, and it was submitted to the states for ratification.

The last state to ratify was Tennessee. On 18 August 1920, 50 of the 99 members of the state's House of Representatives voted in favour, and women were finally allowed to vote.

In the UK, meanwhile, property-owning women over the age of 30 were given the vote in 1918 (along with, effectively, working-class men over the age of 21). But it would not be until 1928 that all women were given the vote in the UK on the same terms as men.

Recommended

Too embarrassed to ask: what is fiscal drag?
Too embarrassed to ask

Too embarrassed to ask: what is fiscal drag?

How can politicians raise more tax revenue, without damaging their political popularity too badly? One way is by using “fiscal drag”. Here's what that…
2 Mar 2021
What is “yield curve control” and why is it coming to a central bank near you?
Government bonds

What is “yield curve control” and why is it coming to a central bank near you?

Central banks around the world are determined not to let interest rates go up too quickly or by too much – a practice known as “yield curve control”. …
1 Mar 2021
Are we heading for another bond market tantrum?
Government bonds

Are we heading for another bond market tantrum?

The last time the US central bank tried tightening the purse strings, the bond markets threw a tantrum. With yields now rising, could we be about to s…
25 Feb 2021
Four ways to boost Britain’s stricken economy
UK Economy

Four ways to boost Britain’s stricken economy

When lockdowns end, we will need a plan to get our businesses up and running again. Matthew Lynn outlines four urgently needed measures that the gover…
21 Feb 2021

Most Popular

A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: where to store your bitcoins
Bitcoin

A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: where to store your bitcoins

Once you've got hold of some bitcoins, you need somewhere secure to keep them. Dominic Frisby outlines some of the best options, from exchanges to col…
4 Mar 2021
A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: the technical genius behind bitcoin and the blockchain – and how it all works
Bitcoin

A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: the technical genius behind bitcoin and the blockchain – and how it all works

In the second in his series on bitcoin, Dominic Frisby looks at the blockchain – bitcoin’s unique underlying architecture – and what makes it and the …
2 Mar 2021
Why gold has been such a bad investment so far this year
Gold

Why gold has been such a bad investment so far this year

Gold – the ultimate safe haven investment – is proving anything but safe. It’s lost over $200 an ounce since its high at the start of the year. Domini…
3 Mar 2021