One hundred years ago, women won the right to vote.
Many got their start as leaders in the anti-slavery movement. But when women delegates attended the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention, they were relegated to the gallery. This humiliation led to the seneca falls convention with broad goals for women’s rights, including the vote.
After the Civil War, suffragists expected legal changes to include women’s voting rights. A series of constitutional amendments abolished slavery, granted citizenship to persons born in the us, including former slaves, and guaranteed a right to vote regardless of race. However, the 14th Amendment inserted “male” into the US Constitution for purposes of voting. The suffragists felt bitterly betrayed; some campaigned against the 14th and 15th Amendments. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote: “If that word ‘male’ be inserted, it will take us a century … to get it out.” Shamefully the former slaves enjoyed less than a decade of voting rights. Southern states enacted Jim Crow laws to prevent black voting.
Another century passed before the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 accomplished what the 14th and 15th Amendments had not. So, in effect, white women got to vote nearly half a century before black citizens did.
This message is a produced by the Kanawha valley National Organization for Women with funding from the WV Humanities Council.