In 2020, our nation celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. This legislation granted most women the right to vote.
Join us in reflecting on women leaders of the past and present, listening to perspectives from various cultural communities, learning about anti-suffragists and discovering events commemorating the suffrage centennial.
We invite you to start by learning about the complex history of woman suffrage. Then, explore the list of resources that follow.
NEVERTHELESS, THEY PERSISTED
Women’s Voting Rights and the Nineteenth Amendment
Content excerpted from the Oregon Historical Society exhibit Nevertheless, They Persisted: Women’s Voting Rights and the Nineteenth Amendment. OHS displayed the exhibit in Portland, March 14 to Aug. 15, 2021. The Capitol Foundation proudly helped sponsor this original exhibit and provided suffrage desk flags as a gift to visitors.
OREGON’S JOURNEY TO WOMAN SUFFRAGE
Abigail Scott Duniway, c. 1879
Oregon Historical Society Research Library, ba018089
Abigail Scott Duniway
In Oregon, women’s rights activists began the struggle for suffrage in the 1870s. They formed the first suffrage organizations across the state, echoing a national trend. Abigail Scott Duniway rose as one of the earliest leaders, publishing a suffrage newspaper and eventually working for over forty years to achieve the vote. The suffragists knew legislation was needed to provide equal rights but the process to bring any measure to a vote was a challenging one. Any legislation that would change the Oregon constitution required passage in both houses of the legislature followed by ratification by the voting public—all men.
New promise came in 1902 with the implementation of a groundbreaking system whereby any measure could be brought to a vote by gathering a required number of signatures on a petition, making it far easier to bring an issue to the ballot.
As the twentieth century dawned, woman suffrage supporters were enthusiastic about testing the new initiative system by bringing votes for women to the ballot. In 1905, the yearly NAWSA convention was held in Portland for the first time, in conjunction with the Lewis and Clark Exposition, attended by national leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and NAWSA president Dr. Anna Howard Shaw. The event created momentum in the Oregon movement and drew eager supporters with new ideas and fresh perspectives.
Esther Pohl Lovejoy, 1918
Courtesy of OHSU Historical Collections & Archives
Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy
With support from the national leaders, Oregon suffragists brought votes for women to the 1906 ballot and launched an energetic, grassroots campaign leading up to the vote. Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy emerged as a local leader and a strong proponent of the modern tactics, rallying groups of women to use media and organize events. The activists coordinated speeches and meetings, posted advertisements, made banners and buttons, organized parade floats, and distributed suffrage fliers.
Despite the hard work and effort that activists put into the campaign, the 1906 measure was defeated. Liquor interests, concerned with women’s support of alcohol prohibition, launched an extensive campaign against woman suffrage and were successful. After the discouraging results, the movement lost steam. Lackluster campaigns in 1908 and 1910 likely resulted in the failure of those year’s ballot measures. Though the defeats were disappointing, the suffragists redoubled their efforts.
Hattie Redmond, c. 1890
Oregon Historical Society Research Library, bb09628
By 1912, women in all surrounding Western states had achieved suffrage: Idaho in 1896, Washington in 1910, and California in 1911. Oregon women believed that voting rights were within their grasp and increased their efforts to organize and reach the public. Local organizers, with the support of national leaders, increased their use of mass media, canvassing, and public events to reach and sway the opinions of as many voters as possible.
Activist Hattie Redmond engaged African Americans in the cause, forming Oregon’s first Black woman suffrage group and organizing lectures and events. By 1912, Portland alone had at least 23 woman suffrage organizations. Finally, after forty years of fighting for voting rights in Oregon, women achieved victory on November 5, 1912, when male voters passed a woman suffrage amendment with 52 percent approval.
THE NATIONAL SUFFRAGE FIGHT
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, 1880
Library of Congress, LC-USZ61-791
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
In 1848, writer and activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton began the fight for woman suffrage, or voting rights, when she organized the first American women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York with abolitionist Lucretia Mott. During the convention, 100 of the 300 attendees, including abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, signed a Declaration of Rights and Sentiments written by Stanton. The Declaration proclaimed the equality of all and named injustices and demands, among them that women could not vote, married women could not own property, and women were taxed without representation.
Three years later, Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony, a Quaker abolitionist, and spurred her to join the cause. The two became a dynamic team, with Stanton writing powerful speeches and articles and Anthony lecturing as they traveled the country.
Sojourner Truth, 1864. Library of Congress, The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana.
Born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree in New York, Sojourner Truth escaped to freedom in 1826 and changed her name in 1843. She became a noted abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and speaker, attending rights conventions and lecturing across the eastern U.S. During a time when women and Black people were prevented from public speaking, Truth persevered and became one of the most outspoken advocates for the equality movement.
Additional women’s conferences followed as greater numbers joined the movement. Women of color faced racism and oppression related to issues of legal, class, and financial status, but they participated from the earliest days of the movement, and their numbers grew over time. Leaders included Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist and formerly enslaved woman, who became one of the cause’s greatest speakers and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first Black female publisher of a newspaper. Women from diverse backgrounds formed suffrage clubs, presenting lectures and educating women about citizenship rights, and later canvassing and organizing meetings and rallies for the cause.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association, eventually joining forces with others to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the largest suffrage group in the nation.
WOMEN FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY COME TOGETHER
By March 1913, women from across the country came together to participate in the first national suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., organized by militant suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. Additional parades and marches followed over the next several years, as women expanded their public demonstrations. Soon after the 1913 parade, Paul and Burns formed the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, renamed the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1916, to work towards a national constitutional amendment.
Soon, the NWP began to employ more radical tactics. On January 10, 1917, a contingent known as the “Silent Sentinels,” began picketing the White House, demanding voting rights. As the pickets continued, women were arrested and beaten by police during their first night in jail. In protest, the women went on hunger strikes. Jail staff retaliated by making the women perform hard labor and force-feeding some with tubes stuck down their throats, causing injuries. Police released the women after they served terms ranging from two to five weeks. Within two months, President Wilson announced the introduction of a woman’s voting rights bill.
THE RATIFICATION OF THE NINETEENTH AMENDMENT
Pictured above: Alice Paul unfurls ratification flag at National Woman’s Party Headquarters in Washington, D.C., 1920. Library of Congress, LC-H27- A-1112 [P&P], Harris and Ewing Photo Collection, Library of Congress.
With little action on the bill, the Silent Sentinels staged a protest, torching an effigy of President Wilson and keeping “watchfires of freedom” burning at the White House for several weeks, resulting in 22 arrests. Finally, on June 4, 1919, the U.S. Congress passed the long-awaited Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. One by one, the amendment was ratified by the necessary three-fourths of states. In Oregon, Representative Sylvia Thompson, the only woman in the Oregon legislature in 1920, proposed a ratification resolution in the House. The state ratified the amendment on January 14, 1920. Then, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th and final state to ratify the amendment. The 70 year battle was finally over.
“I wanted to give the OSCF family a big thumbs up from our family. My daughter Hailey has to do a report for her 6th grade social studies class. […] It was tough getting sites that I felt comfortable letting her use on her own so you have my thanks! She had the wonderful idea to send a personal note so I asked if she had any questions or favorites to share for fun. She did print out this article that has a lot of fun facts about Women’s suffrage in America.”
HONORING THOSE WHO LED THE WOMAN SUFFRAGE CAMPAIGN IN OREGON
Capitol Foundation commemorates the centennial of Oregon’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
We are a species with a consciousness that continuously evolves. The ratification of the 19th amendment was the first step to give women the right to vote.
Statewide in 1912 women including African American women gained suffrage in Oregon through the Women’s Suffrage Proclamation.
However, some groups were still excluded.
The success of the 1912 campaign which removed the word “male” from voting privileges outlined in the Oregon Constitution did not mean that ALL Oregon women could vote.
First-generation women (and men) who migrated from Asia were prohibited from becoming naturalized citizens and could not cast a ballot.
Native American women, except those married to white men, were also ineligible for US citizenship until federal legislation in 1924.
Oregon was one of 15 states to grant women the right to vote prior to the 19th Amendment — which today guarantees all American women the right to vote.
Racial and ethnic barriers to citizenship and voting persisted.
Nationally in 1920 women including African American women gained the right to vote.
In 1924, the Indian Citizen Act gave Native American men and women full citizenship and the right to vote.
We have come a long way because of the dedicated, visionary women and men of our great state, Oregon.
As a child my brother, sisters and I were taught — patriotism, faith in God, and service to community.
With the 4th of July being my father’s birthday, the patriotism part played itself out annually as we celebrated his birthday with creative red, white and blue cakes, clothing, and decorations.
Along with these celebrations came the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence.
We were taught that the single most important civic involvement is that of voting. A privilege obtained through the ultimate sacrifice of human life.
The line from the Marine’s hymn — first to fight for right and freedom — freedom to choose our elected officials and to choose the laws that will govern us.
Commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment is worthy of recognition by the 80th Oregon Legislative Assembly.
Later during the floor speech, OSCF board member Frankie Bell accepted recognition on behalf of the Capitol Foundation for the nonprofit’s work and support in commemorating woman suffrage.
Capitol Foundation strives to share woman suffrage history with Capitol visitors
The Oregon State Capitol Foundation handed out Oregon-shaped cookies decorated in the suffrage colors of yellow, purple and white at the Capitol in January 2020 to celebrate the anniversary of Oregon’s ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Scheduling changes at the Capitol meant the cancellation of the commemoration of the anniversary of suffrage on the House and Senate floors. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the Capitol Foundation to cancel plans to give away free cupcakes on our nation’s 100th anniversary of the ratification of the amendment.
Oregon Historical Society
- Nevertheless, They Persisted Trailer
- Oregon Encyclopedia
- Oregon Encyclopedia: Woman Suffrage in Oregon (essay)
- Women’s Resistance in Early Twentieth Century Oregon
Presented by Dr. Kimberly Jensen
Part of the Experience Oregon Series
Century of Action
- Timeline: Significant Events in the History of Oregon Women and Citizenship
- Oregon’s Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage League and the 1912 Campaign
Library of Congress
- The Founders and the Vote
- Voting Rights for African Americans
- Voting Rights for Native Americans
- Who Can Vote Today?
- Voting Rights for Women
National Park Service
- 19th Amendment
- 19th Amendment and Women’s Access to the Vote Across America
- Oregon and the 19th Amendment
- Remarkable Legacies of American Women
Oregon Secretary of State
Across the United States