The Race to Pass Suffrage Before the 1920 Election

The year 1917 was very important for the suffrage movement. Having lost the chance to defeat the reelection of President Woodrow Wilson, who had initially been lukewarm towards suffrage, campaigners set out to guarantee women’s suffrage in the 1920 presidential election.

A wing of activists began a daily picket of the White House, the first in American history. Another organized a lobbying campaign to win congressional votes. Then, in April of the same year, the United States entered the First World War, and whatever political will had been built for the emancipation of women, it evaporated.

Again, the suffragettes have not been deterred. One of the most powerful weapons they had was the four million women already authorized to vote by the constitution of their state. These women were able to vote in all elections, up to the federal level, including for Congress representatives and the President. All of these “suffrage states” were still west of the Mississippi, but in November the suffragettes won the richest state suffrage award, New York.

READ MORE: The Night of Terror: When the Suffragists were Imprisoned and Tortured in 1917

New York was the richest and most politically powerful state in the union. Henceforth, its delegation of 46 people, the largest in Congress, was responsible to voters, men and women. Barely two months later, the only member of Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Montana (a state where women could vote) introduced the bill authorizing a constitutional amendment in the House of Representatives. The legislative change requires the support of two-thirds of each chamber, and the bill was passed without an alternative vote.