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Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which stated “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.”

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to ratify the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, finally granting women the right to vote. The successful passage was the result of decades of hard work by suffragists across the nation. Although the passage of 19th Amendment would empower millions of women to vote, there would still be years of limitations and obstacles to be overcome for minority groups.

In celebration of this momentous anniversary, let’s take a look at some of the courageous women in the World Family Tree whose hard work made it possible for all women to be guaranteed the right to vote.

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony / Library of Congress

Susan B. Anthony is perhaps one of the most well known suffragists in history. An early and prominent leader of the woman’s suffrage movement, Anthony was instrumental to the drafting of the 19th Amendment. In 1872, Anthony was arrested for illegally voting in the presidential election. Her trial was widely publicized and although she was convicted, Anthony refused to pay the fine. She continued to fight for women’s suffrage until her death in 1906.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton / Library of Congress

An early pioneer of the women’s suffrage movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton helped to organize the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 with fellow activist Lucretia Mott. The convention was the first women’s rights convention of its kind. Stanton was the principal author of the convention’s Declaration of Sentiments, calling for women to be granted the right to vote. After meeting Susan B. Anthony, the two formed a partnership that would become pivotal to the women’s suffrage movement.

Alice Paul

Alice Paul / Library of Congress

Alice Paul was an outspoken key figure in the campaign to ratify the 19th Amendment. After breaking away from the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Paul formed the National Woman’s Party alongside suffragist Lucy Burns. Known as the “Silent Sentinels,” members protested outside the White House holding banners with provocative visuals. Paul and many of her fellow protesters were arrested and imprisoned under harsh and unsanitary conditions. Once news of their mistreatment made it out to the public, sympathies swayed in their favor and in January 1818, President Woodrow Wilson announced his support of the amendment. Paul also proposed the Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee equal rights for all Americans regardless of sex.

Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Born into slavery, journalist and activist Ida B. Wells was an early pioneer of the civil rights movement. Wells gained prominence for her well-documented reporting on lynching in the United States. In addition to her anti-lynching and civil rights work, Wells was a passionate advocate of women’s rights and suffrage. As a prominent black suffragist, Wells brought together her fight for racial equality and women’s rights. With the help of her white colleagues, Belle Squire and Virginia Brooks, Wells founded the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago, Illinois. The Club was the first and one of the most important black suffrage clubs in Illinois. In 1913, the group was invited to march in the Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington, D.C. However, organizers, afraid of offending Southern white suffragists, asked them to march at the back of the parade. Wells refused. As the parade was underway, Wells stood on the sidelines. Once the white Illinois delegation passed, Wells joined the march and linked arms with her suffragist colleagues, Squire and Brooks.

Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell / Library of Congress

Mary Church Terrell was the first African American woman to earn a college degree. An activist for civil rights and suffrage, Terrell wrote and spoke frequently on women’s suffrage and education opportunities for African Americans. She founded the National Association of Colored Women and served as the first president. A supporter of women’s suffrage, Terrell joined Alice Paul and the Silent Sentinels in front of the White House picketing for the right to vote. One of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP), Terrell continued to fight for civil rights after the passage of the 19th amendment.

Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt / Library of Congress

A leader of the women’s suffrage movement, Carrie Chapman Catt was an avid campaigner for the ratification of 19th Amendment. Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1900-1904 and 1915-1920. As president, Catt developed the “winning plan” to help secure the passage of the 19th Amendment. The organization strategically coordinated with state suffrage campaigns while focusing on the passage of a federal amendment to grant women the right to vote. She later founded the League of Women Voters to help educate women on political issues.

Find more suffragists in the World Family Tree in the Women’s Rights genealogy project on Geni!


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