Club Chronicles: GFWC plays role in amendment 19 passage

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Why is the 19th amendment so important to women? It grants American women the right to vote!  Achieving this milestone took decades of agitation, a lengthy and difficult struggle.

During America’s early history, women were denied the opportunity to vote, hold office or own property. They had no legal claim to any money they might earn, and their voices were suppressed from the political sphere.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement began July 19-20, 1848, when a women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Principal organizers – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and other activists – marched, protested, were arrested, went on hunger strikes and picketed the White House to raise public awareness for voting rights for women.

In 1914 the General Federation Women’s Club threw the weight of its millions of clubwomen behind the American suffrage movement. Their endorsement of the 19th amendment helped to lend credibility and momentum to a movement that had been stalling just a few years earlier.

Because of the perseverance of these women, Sept. 30, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson finally endorsed the woman suffrage. It is believed that roles women played in World War I helped Wilson see the need for suffrage.

After a lengthy battle, these groups of women finally emerged victorious with Congress’ passage of the 19th amendment and ratification Aug. 18, 1920.

It took years for the states to ratify the 19th amendment. Wyoming was the first state to grant voting rights to women, and Wyoming elected Nellie Tayloe Ross as the first female governor.

Alabama originally rejected the 19th amendment Sept. 22, 1919. But Sept. 8, 1953, Alabama showed its support for women’s suffrage by officially ratifying the 19th amendment at the Alabama State Capitol building in Montgomery.

I’m sure GFWC Book Lovers Study Club members like Mrs. W. B. Mahan, Mrs. Emmet Oden and Mrs. T. S. Jones Jr., along with other GFWC Alabama members, attended this major milestone.

Mississippi was the last state to ratify the 19th amendment,. March 22, 1984.

While there is a long way to go, improving political empowerment for women typically corresponds with increased numbers of women in senior roles in the labor market, governmental position and other leadership roles.