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The Nineteenth Amendment

Updated on April 30, 2020

Women’s Suffrage

The Nineteenth Amendment

Over time, changes must be made in order to make things more equal for all citizens. These changes are the amendments and so far there are twenty seven. Amendments are the only way to formally change or edit the previously created Constitution. The Constitution’s role is to explain how the US government works, who has power, as well as the rights of the citizens. One edit to the Constitution is the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the opportunity to advance toward equality in many aspects including careers, education, as well as women’s roles in society.

The Nineteenth Amendment was passed on June 4, 1919 and was officially ratified over a year later on August 18, 1920. The 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. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation”. To summarize, the Nineteenth Amendment gave the women in America the right to vote. This achievement was a milestone for women on the road to equality and it did not come easy, either.

The women’s suffrage movement was a long struggle for equality that lasted years. Suffrage was actually a really good thing for women, even though it doesn’t sound like it would be. Women’s suffrage just means that women would have the right to vote, which men already had. Some of the important highlights and events from this movement include the Seneca Falls Convention, the formation of the American Equal Rights Association, the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, parades, and the gradual adoption of women's suffrage by each state until it became an amendment to the US Constitution. The Seneca Falls Convention is where Elizabeth Cady Stanton created the agenda for the next several decades of women’s activism. The American Equal Rights Association was formed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. This group was dedicated to suffrage for everyone of all races and genders. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868 and defined citizens of the United States as white males only. This led to the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment two years later in 1870 which said that black men had the right to vote. From there, it took fifty more years of campaigning, marches, and gaining support for women to gain full voting rights in 1920. The Nineteenth Amendment was necessary because women deserved a voice in politics and society. Women are members of society and in our Constitution, the first three words are “We the people,” not “We the men”. The Nineteenth Amendment has an effect on today’s society because women are still fighting for equal rights. Women are moving closer and closer to equality through the years but some of the important topics of today include equal pay in the workplace, women’s reproductive rights, and sexual violence in America.

With such controversial topics, there have been cases taken to court in which the rights of the Nineteenth Amendment and topics of similarity were tested. Prior to the 1970s, the Supreme Court ruled that banning contraceptives was a violation of the privacy of a married couple in the Griswold v. Connecticut case of 1965. At the time, Connecticut law punished those who used or provided “any drug, medicinal article, or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception”. The executive director of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut was charged and claimed that the law was a violation of the Constitution. This case created new privacy rights for married couples and their use of contraceptives. By the 1970s, a second wave of the women’s rights movement was in motion, fueled by a new agenda advocating for women’s reproductive rights. This movement included the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in 1973. In this case, a woman from Texas wanted to terminate her pregnancy, but Texas law said that abortion was illegal in her situation. This case led to the decision that a woman has complete control during the first 12-14 weeks of her pregnancy, but after that the state she resides in has specific rules about her rights. Without an amendment that granted women equal rights, America would look very different. Before winning suffrage, women were not allowed to own property, serve on juries, or cast their vote in any elections. Outside of the home, women had extremely limited job opportunities with very low wages, so women were practically forced to marry to ensure their security. On the topic of marriage, women were expected to fulfill the duty of having children as part of a marriage contract. By giving women the right to vote, they are able to vote for representatives with progressive mindsets that will support women’s rights.

The Nineteenth Amendment was a great achievement for women in America. It showed the country that women were willing to fight for the voice they deserved and that without women, our societies would not be able to function to their full capacity. It gave women the opportunity to advance toward equality in many aspects including careers, education, as well as women’s roles in society. It is important to remember the decades of struggles that people in support of women’s suffrage endured to reach one common goal: equality for women.

© 2020 Kaitlyn Black

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