Skip to Main Content

Women’s Suffrage 19th Amendment: Home

August 18, 1920 Ratification of the 19th Amendment

This LibGuide is dedicated to resources and lessons
in honor of the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment

The 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation and protest. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920. 

Beginning in the1800s, women organized, petitioned, and picketed to win the right to vote, but it took them decades to accomplish their purpose. Between 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, and August 18, 1920, when it was ratified, champions of voting rights for women worked tirelessly, but strategies for achieving their goal varied. Some pursued a strategy of passing suffrage acts in each state—nine western states adopted woman suffrage legislation by 1912. Others challenged male-only voting laws in the courts. Militant suffragists used tactics such as parades, silent vigils, and hunger strikes. Often supporters met fierce resistance. Opponents heckled, jailed, and sometimes physically abused them. 

By 1916, almost all of the major suffrage organizations were united behind the goal of a constitutional amendment. When New York adopted woman suffrage in 1917 and President Wilson changed his position to support an amendment in 1918, the political balance began to shift. 

On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and 2 weeks later, the Senate followed. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, the amendment passed its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification on August 26, 1920, changing the face of the American electorate forever.
from The National Archives


Suffrage Flag


The American Suffragist Flag

Purple symbolized Justice.
White symbolized Purity.
Yellow symbolized Courage.


The National Woman’s Party created their own flag to symbolize their struggles to achieve women’s suffrage. During the drive to ratify the 19th Amendment (the amendment which gave women the right to vote), they would sew on a star onto the flag for each state that ratified the amendment.

Suffrigists used the flag when picketing the White House, parades, and demonstrations. When the 19th Amendment was finally ratified, the leader of the National Women’s Party, Alice Paul, unfurled a flag with stars representing all of the States at their national headquarters in Washington, D.C.