The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granted adult women the right to vote.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a number of women's organizations advocated women's rights, including the right to vote. The right to vote was also known as the franchise or suffrage. These groups operated at local, state, and national levels. Some western states granted women the right to vote in the late nineteenth century, but most states did not. Women were not allowed to vote in presidential elections even if their states allowed them to vote. The National American Woman Suffrage Association was one group that lobbied for the right to vote. Most of its members focused on changing voting laws at the local and state levels. Another organization, the National Women's Party, was more radical in its efforts. The National Women's Party's goal was women's suffrage across the United States. It also sought additional rights for women, including more employment opportunities and an equal rights amendment to the United States Constitution. Most of its members were young, white women from the middle and upper classes. They made newspaper headlines and challenged traditional views of women's roles by forming picket lines near the White House, being arrested by the police, and going on hunger strikes while in prison. Despite the variety of different approaches that women's associations used, they were unsuccessful in gaining the right to vote before World War I.
Ohio women were actively involved in the struggle for suffrage. They formed the Ohio Woman's Suffrage Association in the late 1800s and participated in a number of other local, state, and national organizations. The state legislature approved women voting in school board elections in the 1890s, but progress was much slower for other political offices and at the state level. An Ohioan, Harriet Taylor Upton, was instrumental in both the state and national campaigns for women's suffrage. She served as president of the Ohio Women's Suffrage Association for a number of years, as well as acting as treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1912, supporters were able to persuade Ohio's Constitutional Convention to take up the issue. As a result, Ohio voters went to the polls that year and voted on an amendment to the state constitution that would allow women to vote, but the amendment did not pass. Women's suffrage was entangled in the debate about Prohibition by the early twentieth century. Manufacturers of alcoholic beverages successfully campaigned against the amendment. Brewers feared that, if women had the right to vote, they would support Prohibition.
During World War I, women contributed significantly to the nation's war effort. As a result of their service and because more and more politicians began to realize that women could be an important source of votes, the United States Congress supported passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Enough states ratified the amendment, and it went into effect in 1920. The Nineteenth Amendment states, "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." Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment was not easy. The United States House of Representatives originally approved the amendment by only one vote more than required, and the United States Senate held three different votes before passing it as well. The majority of Ohio's representatives voted in support of the Nineteenth Amendment. When the amendment came before the Ohio legislature for ratification, support was much stronger. The state Senate voted in favor of the Nineteenth Amendment by a vote of twenty-seven to three, and the House of Representatives passed it with a vote of seventy-three to six. As a result, Ohio was the fifth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.
Not only did women begin to vote in the 1920s, but they also successfully ran for office. In Ohio, a number of women entered the political arena. Amy Kaukonen became the first woman mayor of an Ohio city, Fairport Harbor, in 1921. The following year, four women entered the Ohio House of Representatives, and two were elected to the Senate. Most women served in local positions though, such as city council members and school board members. Women also joined new organizations, including the League of Women Voters, supporting voter education and attempting to influence social legislation.
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