“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.”
Formally ratified as the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution on August 18, 1920, these words provided some women the right to vote nationwide. Today marks the anniversary of its passage in Texas, the ninth of 36 states to ratify the amendment after more than 50 years of debate. Next year, for the hundredth anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Dallas has big plans to celebrate.
The Communities Foundation of Texas has joined forces with various philanthropic partners to create the 19th Amendment Centennial Fund. The fund will support the creation of a year-long series of events in recognition of the 19th Amendment’s centennial anniversary through grants awarded to Dallas-based organizations working to create conversation, drive positive change, and build strategies to advance gender equity.
Partners from across Dallas came together on June 14th at the Communities Foundation of Texas to learn more about what is planned for the recognition of this milestone. To illustrate the voting timeline of suffrage in the United States, community leaders shared pieces of the 19th Amendment’s history and how it affected certain groups. The powerful demonstration highlighted the inequities that existed and still remain today.
“I reflected on the magnitude of what we lose when the richness of perspective and voice you represented is missing,” said Sarah Cotton Nelson, Chief Philanthropy Officer for Communities Foundation of Texas. “When even one of us is not at the table to speak, to vote, and to direct where we as a nation go from here, we cannot say that our nation is living out its stated values that we pledge to the flag: with liberty and justice for all.”
The 19th Amendment Centennial LOI Application is now open and due on August 29th at 5pm. Click here to learn more.
The Voting Timeline
The US Constitution created a system exclusively for white males who were property owners who had the right to vote.
By the end of the 1820s, under President Jackson, attitudes and state laws had shifted in favor of universal white male suffrage.
The Emancipation proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 was a declaration statement that freed enslaved people in the southern states during the civil war. The ability to enforce the proclamation was dependent on the outcome of the war. After 1865, the period called Reconstruction began the repair of the relationship between northern and southern state with concessions to southern plantation owners to pass the 15th Amendment.
1870: The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents states from denying the right to vote on grounds of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". Black males in the Northern states could vote, but the majority of African Americans lived in the South where other barriers to voting existed like violence, poll taxes, literacy tests, and the like.
The second term election of President Ulysses S. Grant showed Black males in the South could be a voting bloc. During this period, the first Black males were elected to Congress and Senate from southern states.
Sarah Cotton Nelson
The 1848 Senaca Falls convention launched the women’s suffrage movement which splintered from the women’s abolitionists movement. Some of those white women had fought vocally against the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote in 1870, saying that white women deserved to vote instead.
By 1917 suffragists began to protest President Woodrow Wilson with signs saying, “Mr. President, you say liberty is the fundamental demand of the human spirit,” and “Mr. President! How long must women wait for liberty?” Some of the protesters were hauled from the sidewalk protests to prison. The idea was “to break us down by inflicting extraordinary humiliation upon us,” Eunice Brannan told The New York Times after her release, in November. Brannan and others described being beaten repeatedly, dragged down stairs, thrown across rooms, kicked, manacled to prison-cell bars, denied toothbrushes, and forced to share a single bar of soap.
Some of the social structures built on the assumption that women would be forever excluded from political and professional spheres remain rigidly in place. Over the last 100 years, no woman has been elected president of the United States.
1920: Women are guaranteed the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In practice, the same restrictions that hindered the ability of non-white men to vote now also applied to non-white women.
Yolanda Blue Horse
My ancestors have been on this land for centuries and we were not granted citizenship nor voting rights until June 2, 1924, when Congress granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. Yet even after the Indian Citizenship Act, some Native Americans weren't allowed to vote because the right to vote was governed by state law. Until 1957, some states barred Native Americans from voting.
1924: All Native Americans are granted citizenship and the right to vote, regardless of tribal affiliation.
The first recorded Chinese immigration into San Francisco was in 1848. The Chinese were valued as cheap labor in the building of the railroads and in agriculture. In 1870, 90% of the agricultural labor in California was Chinese. Declining wages and economic ills on the West coast were blamed on the Chinese workers
In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act signed by President Chester A. Arthur. It was the first significant law that restricted immigration into the United States of an ethnic working group. It was followed by official government policy that excluded or limited by quota immigration by Japanese, Filipinos, Middle Easterners, Hindu and East Indians and the whole range of peoples from Asian nations. The policies expanded to include quota restrictions against European immigrants.
Chinese people were banned from American citizenship, voting rights, public school and other rights until 1943 when The Magnuson Act was passed two years after China became an official allied nation of the United States in World War II. During WWII, American citizens of Japanese, German and Italian descent were interned in camps stripped of their rights and assets.
In many states, Chinese Americans were denied property-ownership rights either by law or de facto until the Magnuson Act itself was fully repealed in 1965.
Black women were finally able to vote when protections under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 banned the use of literacy tests, provided for federal oversight of voter registration in areas where less than 50 percent of the non-white population had not registered to vote, and authorized the U.S. attorney general to investigate the use of poll taxes in state and local elections.
1965: Protection of voter registration and voting for racial minorities is established by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Juanita Craft was first Black woman in Dallas to vote and she was first Black woman in Texas to be deputized and sell poll taxes.
Latinas and other minority populations were able to vote when protections were added in 1975 Amendment to the Voting Rights Act that called for protections from voting discrimination for language minority citizens. The law now requires jurisdictions with significant numbers of voters with limited or no English proficiency to provide voting materials and assistance in relevant languages in addition to English.
This is when all people were fully granted the right to vote in America. As you can see the journey to universal suffrage has been long and took another 55 years from the 19th Amendment to truly include all women and men.