West Virginia Ratifies 19th Amendment

Senator Jesse Bloch cast the deciding vote on West Virginia's ratification of the 19th Amendment

One hundred years ago, women won the right to vote.

In West Virginia, ratification came down to one vote. In February, 1920, when Governor Cornwall called a special session of the legislature to ratify suffrage, two state senators were missing. One had resigned the previous year and one was playing golf in California. The House of Delegates passed the amendment, but it failed in the Senate.

Undeterred, the leadership kept the Senate in session until the pro-suffrage senator from Wheeling, Jesse Bloch, was persuaded to abandon the golf course and travel cross-country. The Charleston Gazette dramatized the senator’s journey from California to Charleston in headlines. “Senator Bloch Is Said to Be on His Way.” “Where Is Senator Bloch?” “Senator Bloch Last Seen in New Mexico.” “Senator Bloch Coming by Airplane.”

Despite that exciting headline, he came by train. The national Republican Party shelled out $5,000 for a special train to get him to Charleston in time for the vote. Senator Bloch arrived in Charleston at 2 a.m. on March 10. After a short night’s sleep, he walked to the old state capitol in today’s Lee Street Triangle and cast his vote in favor of ratification.

This message is produced­­­­ by the Kanawha Valley Chapter of the National Organization for Women with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council.