Civic Definitions- What is Suffrage - History

Civic Definitions- What is Suffrage - History

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Suffrage - right to vote. The Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees suffrage for all Americans, regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed suffrage for all Americans, regardless of gender.

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Civic Definitions- What is Suffrage - History

There’s no doubt your students are very aware that it’s a presidential election year. But what they may not know is that 2020 is also the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Women’s History Month is a perfect time to dive deeply into the women’s suffrage movement.

To commemorate this milestone, we’ve created several new resources to help you teach about the importance of voting and how many U.S. citizens, including women, have had to fight for their right to vote.

Women’s Suffrage: A Movement in the Right Direction Infographic
Use this printable infographic to talk about how the battle for women’s suffrage was fought at both the state and federal levels.

Movement and Action: The Women’s Suffrage Movement WebQuest
In this WebQuest, students learn about the four civic tactics employed by the women’s suffrage movement that ultimately helped them achieve their goal.

Woman Suffrage and World War I
World War I had a big impact on the woman suffrage movement. The primary sources in this powerful new DBQuest show how suffragists used the stated purpose for the war—fighting for democracy—to champion for this same right at home.


The word suffrage comes from Latin suffragium, which initially meant "a voting-tablet", "a ballot", "a vote", or "the right to vote". Suffragium in the second century and later came to mean "political patronage, influence, interest, or support", and sometimes "popular acclaim" or "applause". By the fourth century the word was used for "an intercession", asking a patron for their influence with the Almighty. Suffragium was used in the fifth and sixth centuries with connection to buying influence or profiteering from appointing to office, and eventually the word referred to the bribe itself. [9] William Smith rejects the connection of suffragium to sub "under" + fragor "crash, din, shouts (as of approval)", related to frangere "to break" Eduard Wunder writes that the word may be related to suffrago, signifying an ankle bone or knuckle bone. [10] In the 17th century the English suffrage regained the earlier meaning of the Latin suffragium, "a vote" or "the right to vote". [11]

Universal suffrage Edit

Universal suffrage consists of the right to vote without restriction due to gender, race, religion, social status, education level, or wealth. It typically does not extend the right to vote to all residents of a region as distinctions are still frequently made in regard to citizenship, age, and occasionally mental capacity or criminal convictions.

The short-lived Corsican Republic (1755–1769) was the first country to grant limited universal suffrage to all citizens over the age of 25.

In 1819 60–80,000 men and women from 30 miles around Manchester assembled in the city's St. Peter's Square to protest their lack of any representation in the Houses of Parliament. Historian Robert Poole has called the Peterloo Massacre one of the defining moments of its age. [12] (The eponymous Peterloo film featured a scene of women suffragists planning their contribution to the protest.)

This was followed by other experiments in the Paris Commune of 1871 and the island republic of Franceville (1889). From 1840 to 1852, the Kingdom of Hawai'i granted universal suffrage without mention of sex. In 1893, when the Kingdom of Hawai'i was overthrown in a coup, New Zealand was the only independent country to practice universal (active) suffrage, and the Freedom in the World index lists New Zealand as the only free country in the world in 1893. [13] [14]

Women's suffrage Edit

Women's suffrage is, by definition, the right of women to vote. [15] This was the goal of the suffragists, who believed in using legal means, as well as the suffragettes, who used extremist measures. Short-lived suffrage equity was drafted into provisions of the State of New Jersey's first, 1776 Constitution, which extended the Right to Vote to unwed female landholders and black land owners.

"IV. That all inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money, clear estate in the same, and have resided within the county in which they claim a vote for twelve months immediately preceding the election, shall be entitled to vote for Representatives in Council and Assembly and also for all other public officers, that shall be elected by the people of the county at large." New Jersey 1776

However, the document did not specify an Amendment procedure, and the provision was subsequently replaced in 1844 by the adoption of the succeeding constitution, which reverted to "all white male" suffrage restrictions. [16]

Although the Kingdom of Hawai'i granted female suffrage in 1840, the right was rescinded in 1852. Limited voting rights were gained by some women in Sweden, Britain, and some western U.S. states in the 1860s. In 1893, the British colony of New Zealand became the first self-governing nation to extend the right to vote to all adult women. [17] In 1894 the women of South Australia achieved the right to both vote and stand for Parliament. The autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire was the first nation to allow all women to both vote and run for parliament.

Anti-women's suffrage propaganda Edit

Those against the women's suffrage movement made public organizations to put down the political movement, with the main argument being that a woman's place was in the home, not polls. Political cartoons and public outrage over women's rights increased as the opposition to suffrage worked to organize legitimate groups campaigning against women's voting rights. The Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women was one organization that came out of the 1880s to put down the voting efforts. [18]

Many anti-suffrage propaganda poked fun at the idea of women in politics. Political cartoons displayed the most sentiment by portraying the issue of women's suffrage to be swapped with men's lives. Some mocked the popular suffrage hairstyle of full-upward combed hair. Others depicted young girls turning into suffragettes after a failure in life, such as not being married. [19]

Equal suffrage Edit

Equal suffrage is sometimes confused with Universal suffrage, although the meaning of the former is the removal of graded votes, wherein a voter could possess a number of votes in accordance with income, wealth or social status. [20]

Census suffrage Edit

Also known as "censitary suffrage", the opposite of equal suffrage, meaning that the votes cast by those eligible to vote are not equal, but are weighed differently according to the person's rank in the census (e.g., people with higher education have more votes than those with lower education, or a stockholder in a company with more shares has more votes than someone with fewer shares). Suffrage may therefore be limited, but can still be universal.

Compulsory suffrage Edit

Where compulsory suffrage exists, those who are eligible to vote are required by law to do so. Thirty-two countries currently practise this form of suffrage. [21]

Business vote Edit

In local government in England and some of its ex-colonies, businesses formerly had, and in some places still have, a vote in the urban area in which they paid rates. This is an extension of the historical property-based franchise from natural persons to other legal persons.

In the United Kingdom, the Corporation of the City of London has retained and even expanded business vote, following the passing of the City of London (Ward Elections) Act 2002. This has given business interests within the City of London, which is a major financial centre with few residents, the opportunity to apply the accumulated wealth of the corporation to the development of an effective lobby for UK policies. [22] [23] This includes having the City Remembrancer, financed by the City's Cash, as a parliamentary agent, provided with a special seat in the House of Commons located in the under-gallery facing the Speaker's chair. [24] In a leaked document from 2012, an official report concerning the City's Cash revealed that the aim of major occasions such as set-piece sumptious banquets featuring national politicians was "to increase the emphasis on complementing hospitality with business meetings consistent with the City corporation's role in supporting the City as a financial centre". [25]

The first issue taken up by the Northern Ireland civil rights movement was the business vote, abolished in 1968 (the same year in which it was abolished in Great Britain outside the City of London). [26]

In the Republic of Ireland, commercial ratepayers [nb 1] can vote in local plebiscites, for changing the name of the locality or street, [30] [nb 2] or delimiting a business improvement district. [33] From 1930 to 1935, 5 of 35 members of Dublin City Council were "commercial members". [34]

In cities in most Australian states, voting is optional for businesses but compulsory for individuals. [35] [36]

Gender Edit

In ancient Athens, often cited as the birthplace of democracy, only adult, male citizens who owned land were permitted to vote. Through subsequent centuries, Europe was generally ruled by monarchs, though various forms of parliament arose at different times. The high rank ascribed to abbesses within the Catholic Church permitted some women the right to sit and vote at national assemblies – as with various high-ranking abbesses in Medieval Germany, who were ranked among the independent princes of the empire. Their Protestant successors enjoyed the same privilege almost into modern times. [37]

Marie Guyart, a French nun who worked with the First Nations peoples of Canada during the seventeenth century, wrote in 1654 regarding the suffrage practices of Iroquois women, "These female chieftains are women of standing amongst the savages, and they have a deciding vote in the councils. They make decisions there like the men, and it is they who even delegated the first ambassadors to discuss peace." [38] The Iroquois, like many First Nations peoples in North America, had a matrilineal kinship system. Property and descent were passed through the female line. Women elders voted on hereditary male chiefs and could depose them.

The emergence of modern democracy generally began with male citizens obtaining the right to vote in advance of female citizens, except in the Kingdom of Hawai'i, where universal suffrage without mention of age or sex was introduced in 1840 however, a constitutional amendment in 1852 rescinded female voting and put property qualifications on male voting.

Voting rights for women were introduced into international law by the United Nations' Human Rights Commission, whose elected chair was Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 21 stated: "(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures."

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, which went into force in 1954, enshrining the equal rights of women to vote, hold office, and access public services as set out by national laws. One of the most recent jurisdictions to acknowledge women's full right to vote was Bhutan in 2008 (its first national elections). [39] Most recently, in 2011 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia let women vote in the 2015 local elections (and from then on) and be appointed to the Consultative Assembly.

Religion Edit

In the aftermath of the Reformation it was common in European countries for people of disfavored religious denominations to be denied civil and political rights, often including the right to vote, to stand for election or to sit in parliament. In Great Britain and Ireland, Roman Catholics were denied the right to vote from 1728 to 1793, and the right to sit in parliament until 1829. The anti-Catholic policy was justified on the grounds that the loyalty of Catholics supposedly lay with the Pope rather than the national monarch.

In England and Ireland, several Acts practically disenfranchised non-Anglicans or non-Protestants by imposing an oath before admission to vote or to stand for office. The 1672 and 1678 Test Acts forbade non-Anglicans to hold public offices, and the 1727 Disenfranchising Act took away Catholics' voting rights in Ireland, which were restored only in 1788. Jews could not even be naturalized. An attempt was made to change this situation, but the Jewish Naturalization Act 1753 provoked such reactions that it was repealed the following year. Nonconformists (Methodists and Presbyterians) were only allowed to run for election to the British House of Commons starting in 1828, Catholics in 1829 (following the Catholic Relief Act 1829, which extended the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791), and Jews in 1858 (with the Emancipation of the Jews in England). Benjamin Disraeli could only begin his political career in 1837 because he had been converted to Anglicanism at the age of 12.

In several states in the U.S. after the Declaration of Independence, Jews, Quakers or Catholics were denied voting rights and/or forbidden to run for office. [40] The Delaware Constitution of 1776 stated that "Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the execution of his office, shall (…) also make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: I, A B. do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration." [41] This was repealed by article I, section 2 of the 1792 Constitution: "No religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, under this State". [42] The 1778 Constitution of the State of South Carolina stated that "No person shall be eligible to sit in the house of representatives unless he be of the Protestant religion", [43] the 1777 Constitution of the State of Georgia (art. VI) that "The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county (…) and they shall be of the Protestent (sic) religion". [44] In Maryland, voting rights and eligibility were extended to Jews in 1828. [45]

In Canada, several religious groups (Mennonites, Hutterites, Doukhobors) were disenfranchised by the wartime Elections Act of 1917, mainly because they opposed military service. This disenfranchisement ended with the closure of the First World War, but was renewed for Doukhobors from 1934 (via the Dominion Elections Act) to 1955. [46]

The first Constitution of modern Romania in 1866 provided in article 7 that only Christians could become Romanian citizens. Jews native to Romania were declared stateless persons. In 1879, under pressure from the Berlin Peace Conference, this article was amended, granting non-Christians the right to become Romanian citizens, but naturalization was granted on a case-by-case basis and was subject to Parliamentary approval. An application took over ten years to process. Only in 1923 was a new constitution adopted, whose article 133 extended Romanian citizenship to all Jewish residents and equality of rights to all Romanian citizens. [47]

Wealth, tax class, social class Edit

Until the nineteenth century, many Western proto-democracies had property qualifications in their electoral laws e.g. only landowners could vote (because the only tax for such countries was the property tax), or the voting rights were weighted according to the amount of taxes paid (as in the Prussian three-class franchise). Most countries abolished the property qualification for national elections in the late nineteenth century, but retained it for local government elections for several decades. Today these laws have largely been abolished, although the homeless may not be able to register because they lack regular addresses.

In the United Kingdom, until the House of Lords Act 1999, peers who were members of the House of Lords were excluded from voting for the House of Commons as they were not commoners. Although there is nothing to prevent the monarch from voting, it is considered improper for the monarch to do so. [48]

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, many nations made voters pay to elect officials, keeping impoverished people from being fully enfranchised. These laws were in effect in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. [49]

Knowledge Edit

Sometimes the right to vote has been limited to people who had achieved a certain level of education or passed a certain test. In some US states, "literacy tests" were previously implemented to exclude those who were illiterate. [50] Black voters in the South were often deemed by election officials to have failed the test even when they did not. [51] Under the 1961 constitution of Rhodesia, voting on the "A" roll, which elected up to 50 of the 65 members of parliament, was restricted based on education requirements, which in practice led to an overwhelming white vote. Voting on the "B" roll had universal suffrage, but only appointed 15 members of parliament. [52] [ clarification needed ]

In the 20th century, many countries other than the US placed voting restrictions on illiterate people, including: Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. [49]

Race Edit

Various countries, usually countries with a dominant race within a wider population, have historically denied the vote to people of particular races, or to all but the dominant race. This has been achieved in a number of ways:

  • Official – laws and regulations passed specifically disenfranchising people of particular races (for example, the Antebellum United States, Boer republics, pre-apartheid and apartheid South Africa, or many colonial political systems, who provided suffrage only for white settlers and some privileged non-white groups). Canada and Australia denied suffrage for their indigenous populations until the 1960s.
  • Indirect – nothing in law specifically prevents anyone from voting on account of their race, but other laws or regulations are used to exclude people of a particular race. In southern states of the United States of America before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, poll taxes, literacy and other tests were used to disenfranchise African-Americans. [50][53] Property qualifications have tended to disenfranchise a minority race, particularly if tribally owned land is not allowed to be taken into consideration. In some cases this was an unintended (but usually welcome) consequence. [citation needed] Many African colonies after World War II until decolonization had tough education and property qualifications which practically gave meaningful representation only for rich European minorities.
  • Unofficial – nothing in law prevents anyone from voting on account of their race, but people of particular races are intimidated or otherwise prevented from exercising this right. This was a common tactic employed by white Southerners against Freedmen during the Reconstruction Era and the following period before more formal methods of disenfranchisement became entrenched. Unofficial discrimination could even manifest in ways which, while allowing the act of voting itself, effectively deprive it of any value – for example, in Israel, the country's Arab minority has maintained a party-system separate from that of the Jewish majority. in the run-up for the country's 2015 elections, the electoral threshold was raised from 2% to 3.25%, thus forcing the dominant Arab parties – Hadash, the United Arab List, Balad and Ta'al – either to run under one list or risk losing their parliamentary representation.

Age Edit

All modern democracies require voters to meet age qualifications to vote. Worldwide voting ages are not consistent, differing between countries and even within countries, though the range usually varies between 16 and 21 years. Demeny voting has been proposed as a form of proxy voting by parents on behalf of their children who are below the age of suffrage. The movement to lower the voting age is one aspect of the Youth rights movement.

Criminality Edit

Some countries restrict the voting rights of convicted criminals. Some countries, and some U.S. states, also deny the right to vote to those convicted of serious crimes even after they are released from prison. In some cases (e.g. in many U.S. states) the denial of the right to vote is automatic upon a felony conviction in other cases (e.g. France and Germany) deprivation of the vote is meted out separately, and often limited to perpetrators of specific crimes such as those against the electoral system or corruption of public officials. In the Republic of Ireland, prisoners are allowed the right to vote, following the Hirst v UK (No2) ruling, which was granted in 2006. Canada allowed only prisoners serving a term of less than 2 years the right to vote, but this was found to be unconstitutional in 2002 by the Supreme Court of Canada in Sauvé v. Canada (Chief Electoral Officer), and all prisoners have been allowed to vote as of the 2004 Canadian federal election.

Residency Edit

Under certain electoral systems elections are held within subnational jurisdictions, thus preventing persons from voting who would otherwise be eligible on the basis that they do not reside within such a jurisdiction, or because they live in an area that cannot participate. In the United States, license plates in Washington, D.C. read "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION," in reference to the district not holding a seat in either the House of Representatives or Senate, however residents can vote in presidential elections based on the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution adopted in 1961. Residents of Puerto Rico enjoy neither.

Sometimes citizens become ineligible to vote because they are no longer resident in their country of citizenship. For example, Australian citizens who have been outside Australia for more than one and fewer than six years may excuse themselves from the requirement to vote in Australian elections while they remain outside Australia (voting in Australia is compulsory for resident citizens). [54] Danish citizens that reside permanently outside Denmark lose their right to vote. [55]

In some cases, a certain period of residence in a locality may required for the right to vote in that location. For example, in the United Kingdom up to 2001, each 15 February a new electoral register came into effect, based on registration as of the previous 10 October, with the effect of limiting voting to those resident five to seventeen months earlier depending on the timing of the election.

Nationality Edit

In most countries, suffrage is limited to citizens and, in many cases, permanent residents of that country. However, some members of supra-national organisations such as the Commonwealth of Nations and the European Union have granted voting rights to citizens of all countries within that organisation. Until the mid-twentieth century, many Commonwealth countries gave the vote to all British citizens within the country, regardless of whether they were normally resident there. In most cases this was because there was no distinction between British and local citizenship. Several countries qualified this with restrictions preventing non-white British citizens such as Indians and British Africans from voting. Under European Union law, citizens of European Union countries can vote in each other's local and European Parliament elections on the same basis as citizens of the country in question, but usually not in national elections.

Naturalization Edit

In some countries, naturalized citizens do not have the right to vote or to be a candidate, either permanently or for a determined period.

Article 5 of the 1831 Belgian Constitution made a difference between ordinary naturalization, and grande naturalisation. Only (former) foreigners who had been granted grande naturalisation were entitled to vote, be a candidate for parliamentary elections, or be appointed minister. However, ordinary naturalized citizens could vote for municipal elections. [56] Ordinary naturalized citizens and citizens who had acquired Belgian nationality through marriage could vote, but not run as candidates for parliamentary elections in 1976. The concepts of ordinary and grande naturalization were suppressed from the Constitution in 1991. [57]

In France, the 1889 Nationality Law barred those who had acquired the French nationality by naturalization or marriage from voting, and from eligibility and access to several public jobs. In 1938 the delay was reduced to five years. [58] These instances of discrimination, as well as others against naturalized citizens, were gradually abolished in 1973 (9 January 1973 law) and 1983.

In Morocco, a former French protectorate, and in Guinea, a former French colony, naturalized citizens are prohibited from voting for five years following their naturalization. [59] [60]

In the Federated States of Micronesia, one must be a Micronesian citizen for at least 15 years to run for parliament. [61]

In Nicaragua, Peru and the Philippines, only citizens by birth are eligible for being elected to the national legislature naturalized citizens enjoy only voting rights. [62] [63] [64]

In Uruguay, naturalized citizens have the right of eligibility to the parliament after five years. [65]

In the United States, the President and Vice President must be natural-born citizens. All other governmental offices may be held by any citizen, although citizens may only run for Congress after an extended period of citizenship (seven years for the House of Representatives and nine for the Senate).

Function Edit

In France, an 1872 law, rescinded by a 1945 decree, prohibited all army personnel from voting. [66]

In Ireland, police (the Garda Síochána and, before 1925, the Dublin Metropolitan Police) were barred from voting in national elections, though not local elections, from 1923 to 1960. [67] [68] [69] [70]

The 1876 Constitution of Texas (article VI, section 1) stated that "The following classes of persons shall not be allowed to vote in this State, to wit: (…) Fifth—All soldiers, marines and seamen, employed in the service of the army or navy of the United States." [71]

In many countries with a presidential system of government a person is forbidden to be a legislator and an official of the executive branch at the same time. Such provisions are found, for example, in Article I of the U.S. Constitution.

In 1840, the Kingdom of Hawai'i adopted full suffrage for all subjects without mention of sex, but the constitution of 1852 specified voting by male subjects over the age of 20. In 1902 the Commonwealth Franchise Act enabled women to vote federally in Australia and in the state of New South Wales. This legislation also allowed women to run for government, making Australia the first in the world to allow this. In 1906 Finland became the next nation in the world to give all adult citizens full suffrage, in other words the right to vote and to run for office. New Zealand granted all adult citizens the right to vote (in 1893), but women did not get the right to run for the New Zealand legislature until 1919.

Australia Edit

  • 1855 – South Australia is the first colony to allow all male suffrage to British subjects (later extended to Australian Aborigines, who weren’t considered humans at this time [citation needed] ) over the age of 21.
  • 1894 – South Australian women eligible to vote. [73]
  • 1896 – Tasmania becomes last colony to allow all male suffrage.
  • 1899 – Western Australian women eligible to vote. [73]
  • 1902 – The Commonwealth Franchise Act enables women to vote federally and in the state of New South Wales. This legislation also allows women to run for government, making Australia the first democratic state in the world to allow this.
  • 1921 – Edith Cowan is elected to the West Australian Legislative Assembly as member for West Perth, the first woman elected to any Australian Parliament. [74]
  • 1962 – Australian Aborigines guaranteed the right to vote in Commonwealth elections, however, in practice this right was dependent on Aboriginal voting rights having been granted by the individual's respective state.
  • 1965 – Queensland is the last state to grant voting rights to Aboriginal Australians.
  • 1973 - The voting age for all federal elections was lowered from 21 to 18. The states had lowered the voting age to 18 by 1973, the first being Western Australia in 1970.

Brazil Edit

  • 1824 – The first Brazilian constitution allows free men over the age of 25 to vote, even former slaves, but there are income restrictions. The House of Deputies' representatives are chosen via electoral colleges.
  • 1881 – The Saraiva Law implements direct voting, but there are literacy restriction. Women and slaves do not have the right to vote.
  • 1932 – Voting becomes obligatory for all adults over 21 years of age, unlimited by gender or income.
  • 1955 – Adoption of standardized voting ballots and identification requirements to mitigate frauds.
  • 1964 – Military regime established. From then on, presidents were elected by members of the congress, chosen by regular vote.
  • 1989 – Reestablishment of universal suffrage for all citizens over 16 years of age. People considered illiterate are not obliged to vote, nor are people younger than 18 and older than 70 years of age. People under the obligation rule shall file a document to justify their absence should they not vote.
  • 2000 – Brazil becomes the first country to fully adopt electronic ballots in their voting process.

Canada Edit

  • 1871 – One of the first acts of the new Province of British Columbia strips the franchise from First Nations, and ensures Chinese and Japanese people are prevented from voting.
  • 1916 – Manitoba becomes the first province in which women have the right to vote in provincial elections. [75][76] [citation needed]
  • 1917 – Wartime Elections Act gives voting rights to women with relatives fighting overseas. Voting rights are stripped from all "enemy aliens" (those born in enemy countries who arrived in Canada after 1902 see also Ukrainian Canadian internment). [77]Military Voters Act gives the vote to all soldiers, even non-citizens, (with the exception of Indian and Metis veterans) [78] and to women serving as nurses or clerks for the armed forces, but the votes are not for specific candidates but simply for or against the government.
  • 1918 – Women gain full voting rights in federal elections. [79]
  • 1919 – Women gain the right to run for federal office. [79]
  • 1940 – Quebec becomes the last province where women's right to vote is recognized. (see Canadian women during the world wars for more information on Canadian suffrage)
  • 1947 – Racial exclusions against Chinese and Indo-Canadians lifted.
  • 1948 – Racial exclusions against Japanese Canadians lifted. [80]
  • 1955 – Religious exclusions are removed from election laws. [81]
  • 1960 – Right to vote is extended unconditionally to First Nations peoples. (Previously they could vote only by giving up their status as First Nations people.) [82]
  • 1960 – Right to vote in advance is extended to all electors willing to swear they would be absent on election day. [83] [citation needed]
  • 1965 – First Nations people granted the right to vote in Alberta provincial elections, starting with the 1967 Alberta general election. [82]
  • 1969 – First Nations people granted the right to vote in Quebec provincial elections, starting with the 1970 Quebec general election. [82]
  • 1970 – Voting age lowered from 21 to 18. [84]
  • 1982 – Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all adult citizens the right to vote.
  • 1988 – Supreme Court of Canada rules mentally ill patients have the right to vote. [85]
  • 1993 [81] [citation needed] – Any elector can vote in advance.
  • 2000 – Legislation is introduced making it easier for people of no fixed address to vote.
  • 2002 – Prisoners given the right to vote in the riding (voting district) where they were convicted. All adult Canadians except the Chief and Deputy Electoral Officers can now vote in Canada. [86]
  • 2019 – The Supreme Court of Canada rules that portions of the Canada Elections Act which prevent citizens who have been living abroad for more than five years from voting by mail are in violation of Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and thus unconstitutional. [87]

European Union Edit

The European Union has given the right to vote in municipal elections to the citizen of another EU country by the Council Directive 94/80/EG from 19 December 1994. [88]

Finland Edit

  • 1906 – Full suffrage for all citizens adults aged 24 or older at beginning of voting year.
  • 1921 – Suppression of property-based number of votes on municipal level equal vote for everybody.
  • 1944 – Voting age lowered to 21 years.
  • 1969 – Voting age lowered to 20 years.
  • 1972 – Voting age lowered to 18 years.
  • 1981 – Voting and eligibility rights were granted to Nordic Passport Union country citizens without residency condition for municipal elections.
  • 1991 – Voting and eligibility rights were extended to all foreign residents in 1991 with a two-year residency condition for municipal elections.
  • 1995 – Residency requirement abolished for EU residents, in conformity with European legislation (Law 365/95, confirmed by Electoral Law 714/1998).
  • 1996 – Voting age lowered to 18 years at date of voting.
  • 2000 – Section 14, al. 2 of the 2000 Constitution of Finland states that "Every Finnish citizen and every foreigner permanently resident in Finland, having attained eighteen years of age, has the right to vote in municipal elections and municipal referendums, as provided by an Act. Provisions on the right to otherwise participate in municipal government are laid down by an Act." [89]

France Edit

  • 11 August 1792 : Introduction of universal suffrage (men only)
  • 1795 : Universal suffrage for men is replaced with indirect Census suffrage
  • 13 December 1799: The French Consulate re-establishes male universal suffrage increased from 246,000 to over 9 million.
  • In 1850 (31 May): The number of people eligible to vote is reduced by 30% by excluding criminals and the homeless. calls a referendum in 1851 (21 December), all men aged 21 and over are allowed to vote. Male universal suffrage is established thereafter.
  • As of 21 April 1944 the franchise is extended to women over 21
  • On 5 July 1974 the minimum age to vote is reduced to 18 years old.

Germany Edit

    – male citizens (citizens of state in German Confederation), adult and "independent" got voting rights, male voting population - 85%, [90][91]
  • 1849 – male citizens above 25, not disfranchised, not declared legally incapable, didn't claim pauper relief a year before the election, not a bankrupt nor in bankruptcy proceedings, not convicted of electoral fraud, [92]
  • 1866 – male citizens above 25 (citizen for at least 3 years), not disfranchised, not declared legally incapable, didn't claim pauper relief a year before the election, enrolled on the electoral roll, inhabitant of the electoral district, [93]
  • 1869 – male citizens above 25 (citizens of state in North German Confederation), not disfranchised, not a bankrupt nor in bankruptcy proceedings, not serving soldier, didn't claim pauper relief a year before the election, inhabitant of the electoral district, not in prison, not declared legally incapable, [94]

Kingdom of Hawai'i Edit

In 1840, the king of Hawai'i issued a constitution that granted universal suffrage without mention of sex or age, but later amendments added restrictions, as the influence of Caucasian settlers increased:

  • 1852 – Women lost the right to vote, and the minimum voting age was specified as 20.
  • 1864 – Voting was restricted on the basis of new qualifications—literacy and either a certain level of income or property ownership.
  • 1887 – Citizens of Hawai'i with Asian descent were disqualified. There was an increase in the minimum value of income or owned property.

Hawai'i lost its independence in 1893.

Hong Kong Edit

Minimum age to vote was reduced from 21 to 18 years in 1995. The Basic Law, the constitution of the territory since 1997, stipulates that all permanent residents (a status conferred by birth or by seven years of residence) have the right to vote. The right of permanent residents who have right of abode in other countries to stand in election is, however, restricted to 12 functional constituencies by the Legislative Council Ordinance of 1997.

The right to vote and the right to stand in elections are not equal. Fewer than 250,000 of the electorate are eligible to run in the 30 functional constituencies, of which 23 are elected by fewer than 80,000 of the electorate, and in the 2008 Legislative Council election 14 members were elected unopposed from these functional constituencies. The size of the electorates of some constituencies is fewer than 200. Only persons who can demonstrate a connection to the sector are eligible to run in a functional constituency.

The Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2012, if passed, amends the Legislative Council Ordinance to restrict the right to stand in Legislative Council by-elections in geographical constituencies and the District Council (Second) functional constituency. In addition to those persons who are mentally disabled, bankrupt, or imprisoned, members who resign their seats will not have the right to stand for six months' time from their resignation. The bill is currently passing through the committee stage.

Hungary Edit

  • 1848 - The parliament of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 introduced voting rights to men over 20 who met certain criteria as part of the legislative package known as the April Laws.
  • 1874 - The reintroduction of suffrage following the Compromise of 1867 changed some of the criteria, for instance moving from a wealth based threshold of eligibility to a tax based threshold.
  • 1918 - Universal suffrage for those over 24 who can read and write. While this law introduced voting rights for women they could not exercise this right for some years due to the revolution of 1919.

India Edit

Since the very first Indian general election held in 1951–52, universal suffrage for all adult citizens aged 21 or older was established under Article 326 of the Constitution of India. The minimum voting age was reduced to 18 years by the 61st Amendment, effective 28 March 1989.

Ireland Edit

Isle of Man Edit

  • 1866 – The House of Keys Election Act makes the House of Keys an elected body. The vote is given to men over the age of 21 who own property worth at least £8 a year or rent property worth at least £12 a year. Candidates must be male, with real estate of an annual value of £100, or of £50 along with a personal estate producing an annual income of £100.
  • 1881 – The House of Keys Election Act is amended so that the property qualification is reduced to a net annual value of not less than £4. Most significantly, the Act is also amended to extend the franchise to unmarried women and widows over the age of 21 who own property, making the Isle of Man the first place to give some women the vote in a national election. The property qualification for candidates is modified to allow the alternative of personal property producing a year income of £150.
  • 1892 – The franchise is extended to unmarried women and widows over the age of 21 who rent property worth a net annual value of at least £4, as well as to male lodgers. The property qualification for candidates is removed.
  • 1903 – A residency qualification is introduced in addition to the property qualification for voters. The time between elections is reduced from 7 to 5 years.
  • 1919 – Universal adult suffrage based on residency is introduced: all male and female residents over the age of 21 may vote. The entire electorate (with the exception of clergy and holders of office of profit) becomes eligible to stand for election.
  • 1970 – Voting age lowered to 18.
  • 2006 – Voting age lowered to 16. The age of eligibility for candidates remains at 18.

Italy Edit

The Supreme Court states that "the rules derogating from the passive electoral law must be strictly interpreted". [95]

Japan Edit

In the 1910s and 1920s, Japanese feminist Doma, founder of the cult 'The Eternal Paradise' was instrumental in giving Japanese women the right to vote, he did this by bringing attention to the plight of the abused women of Japan. Doma's memory has been immortalised in the popular history book "Demon Slayer".

  • 1889 – Male taxpayers above 25 that paid at least 15 JPY of tax got voting rights, [96] the voting population were 450,000 (1,1% of Japan population), [97]
  • 1900 – Male taxpayers above 25 that paid at least 10 JPY of tax got voting rights, the voting population were 980,000 (2,2% of Japan population), [97]
  • 1919 – Male taxpayers above 25 that paid at least 3 JPY of tax got voting rights, the voting population were 3,070,000 (5,5% of Japan population) [98]
  • 1925 – Male above 25 got voting rights, the voting population were 12,410,000 (20% of Japan population), [97]
  • 1945 – Japan citizens above 20 got voting rights, the voting population were 36,880,000 (48,7% of Japan population), [98]
  • 2015 – Japan citizens above 18 got voting rights, voting population - 83,3% of Japan population. [99]

New Zealand Edit

  • 1853 – British government passes the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, granting limited self-rule, including a bicameral parliament, to the colony. The vote was limited to male British subjects aged 21 or over who owned or rented sufficient property and were not imprisoned for a serious offence. Communally owned land was excluded from the property qualification, thus disenfranchising most Māori (indigenous) men.
  • 1860 – Franchise extended to holders of miner's licenses who met all voting qualifications except that of property.
  • 1867 – Māori seats established, giving Māori four reserved seats in the lower house. There was no property qualification thus Māori men gained universal suffrage before other New Zealanders. The number of seats did not reflect the size of the Māori population, but Māori men who met the property requirement for general electorates were able to vote in them or in the Māori electorates but not both.
  • 1879 – Property requirement abolished.
  • 1893 – Women won equal voting rights with men, making New Zealand the first nation in the world to allow women to vote.
  • 1969 – Voting age lowered to 20.
  • 1974 – Voting age lowered to 18.
  • 1975 – Franchise extended to permanent residents of New Zealand, regardless of whether they have citizenship.
  • 1996 – Number of Māori seats increased to reflect Māori population.
  • 2010 – Prisoners imprisoned for one year or more denied voting rights while serving the sentence.

Norway Edit

  • 1814 – The constitution gave male landowners or officials above the age of 25 full voting rights. [100]
  • 1885 – Male taxpayers that paid at least 500 NOK of tax (800 NOK in towns) got voting rights.
  • 1900 – Universal suffrage for men over 25.
  • 1901 – Women, over 25, paying tax or having common household with a man paying tax, got the right to vote in local elections.
  • 1909 – Women, over 25, paying tax or having common household with a man paying tax, got full voting rights.
  • 1913 – Universal suffrage for all over 25, applying from the election in 1915.
  • 1920 – Voting age lowered to 23. [101]
  • 1946 – Voting age lowered to 21.
  • 1967 – Voting age lowered to 20.
  • 1978 – Voting age lowered to 18.

Poland Edit

  • 1918 – In its first days of independence in 1918, after 123 years of partition, voting rights were granted to both men and women. Eight women were elected to the Sejm in 1919.
  • 1952 – Voting age lowered to 18.

Singapore Edit

South Africa Edit

  • 1910 – The Union of South Africa is established by the South Africa Act 1909. The House of Assembly is elected by first-past-the-post voting in single-member constituencies. The franchise qualifications are the same as those previously existing for elections of the legislatures of the colonies that comprised the Union. In the Transvaal and the Orange Free State the franchise is limited to white men. In Natal the franchise is limited to men meeting property and literacy qualifications it was theoretically colour-blind but in practise nearly all non-white men were excluded. The traditional "Cape Qualified Franchise" of the Cape Province is limited to men meeting property and literacy qualifications and is colour-blind nonetheless 85% of voters are white. The rights of non-white voters in the Cape Province are protected by an entrenched clause in the South Africa Act requiring a two-thirds vote in a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament.
  • 1930 – The Women's Enfranchisement Act, 1930 extends the right to vote to all white women over the age of 21.
  • 1931 – The Franchise Laws Amendment Act, 1931 removes the property and literacy qualifications for all white men over the age of 21, but they are retained for non-white voters.
  • 1936 – The Representation of Natives Act, 1936 removes black voters in the Cape Province from the common voters' roll and instead allows them to elect three "Native Representative Members" to the House of Assembly. Four Senators are to be indirectly elected by chiefs and local authorities to represent black South Africans throughout the country. The act is passed with the necessary two-thirds majority in a joint sitting.
  • 1951 – The Separate Representation of Voters Act, 1951 is passed by Parliament by an ordinary majority in separate sittings. It purports to remove coloured voters in the Cape Province from the common voters' roll and instead allow them to elect four "Coloured Representative Members" to the House of Assembly.
  • 1952 – In Harris v Minister of the Interior the Separate Representation of Voters Act is annulled by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court because it was not passed with the necessary two-thirds majority in a joint sitting. Parliament passes the High Court of Parliament Act, 1952, purporting to allow it to reverse this decision, but the Appellate Division annuls it as well.
  • 1956 – By packing the Senate and the Appellate Division, the government passes the South Africa Act Amendment Act, 1956, reversing the annulment of the Separate Representation of Voters Act and giving it the force of law.
  • 1958 – The Electoral Law Amendment Act, 1958 reduces the voting age for white voters from 21 to 18.
  • 1959 – The Promotion of Bantu Self-government Act, 1959 repeals the Representation of Natives Act, removing all representation of black people in Parliament.
  • 1968 – The Separate Representation of Voters Amendment Act, 1968 repeals the Separate Representation of Voters Act, removing all representation of coloured people in Parliament.
  • 1969 – The first election of the Coloured Persons Representative Council (CPRC), which has limited legislative powers, is held. Every Coloured citizen over the age of 21 can vote for its members, in first-past-the-post elections in single-member constituencies.
  • 1978 – The voting age for the CPRC is reduced from 21 to 18.
  • 1981 – The first election of the South African Indian Council (SAIC), which has limited legislative powers, is held. Every Indian South African citizen over the age of 18 can vote for its members, in first-past-the-post elections in single-member constituencies.
  • 1984 – The Constitution of 1983 establishes the Tricameral Parliament. Two new Houses of Parliament are created, the House of Representatives to represent coloured citizens and the House of Delegates to represent Indian citizens. Every coloured and Indian citizen over the age of 18 can vote in elections for the relevant house. As with the House of Assembly, the members are elected by first-past-the-post voting in single-member constituencies. The CPRC and SAIC are abolished.
  • 1994 – With the end of apartheid, the Interim Constitution of 1993 abolishes the Tricameral Parliament and all racial discrimination in voting rights. A new National Assembly is created, and every South African citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote for the assembly. The right to vote is also extended to long term residents. It is estimated the 500 000 foreign nationals voted in the 1994 national and provincial elections. Elections of the assembly are based on party-list proportional representation. The right to vote is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
  • 1999 – In August and Another v Electoral Commission and Others the Constitutional Court rules that prisoners cannot be denied the right to vote without a law that explicitly does so.
  • 2003 – The Electoral Laws Amendment Act, 2003 purports to prohibit convicted prisoners from voting.
  • 2004 – In Minister of Home Affairs v NICRO and Others the Constitutional Court rules that prisoners cannot be denied the right to vote, and invalidates the laws that do so.
  • 2009 – In Richter v Minister for Home Affairs and Others the Constitutional Court rules that South African citizens outside the country cannot be denied the right to vote.

Sweden Edit

  • 1809 – New constitution adopted and separation of powers outlined in the Instrument of Government.
  • 1810 – The Riksdag Act, setting out the procedures of functioning of the Riksdag, is introduced.
  • 1862 – Under the municipal laws of 1862, some women were entitled to vote in local elections.
  • 1865 – Parliament of Four Estates abolished and replaced by a bicamerallegislature. The members of the First Chamber were elected indirectly by the county councils and the municipal assemblies in the larger towns and cities.
  • 1909 – All men who had done their military service and who paid tax were granted suffrage.
  • 1918 – Universal, and equal suffrage were introduced for local elections.
  • 1919 – Universal, equal, and women's suffrage granted for general elections.
  • 1921 – First general election with universal, equal, and women's suffrage enacted, although some groups were still unable to vote.
  • 1922 – Requirement that men had to have completed national military service to be able to vote abolished.
  • 1937 – Interns in prisons and institutions granted suffrage.
  • 1945 – Individuals who had gone into bankruptcy or were dependent on welfare granted suffrage.
  • 1970 – Indirectly elected upper chamber dismantled. [102] [relevant?]
  • 1974 – Instrument of Government stopped being enforced. [needs context] .
  • 1989 – The final limitations on suffrage abolished along with the Riksdag's decision to abolish the 'declaration of legal incompetency'. [103]

Turkey Edit

  • 1926 – Turkish civil code (Equality in civil rights)
  • 1930 – Right to vote in local elections
  • 1933 – First woman muhtar (Village head) Gülkız Ürbül in Demircidere village, Aydın Province
  • 1934 – Right to vote in General elections
  • 1935 – First 18 Women MPs in Turkish parliament
  • 1950 – First woman city mayor Müfide İlhan in Mersin

United Kingdom Edit

From 1265, a few percent of the adult male population in the Kingdom of England (of which Wales was a full and equal member from 1542) were able to vote in parliamentary elections that occurred at irregular intervals to the Parliament of England. [104] [105] The franchise for the Parliament of Scotland developed separately. King Henry VI of England established in 1432 that only owners of property worth at least forty shillings, a significant sum, were entitled to vote in an English county constituency. The franchise was restricted to males by custom rather than statute. [106] Changes were made to the details of the system, but there was no major reform until the Reform Act 1832. [nb 3] A series of Reform Acts and Representation of the People Acts followed. In 1918, all men over 21 and some women over 30 won the right to vote, and in 1928 all women over 21 won the right to vote resulting in universal suffrage. [108]

Because the Girl Scouts was designed for young women, Juliette Gordon Low and other Girl Scout leaders were often asked about their stance on the Suffrage Movement. While Juliette Gordon Low promoted physical activity, leadership training, civic understanding, and career development for her Girl Scouts, she did not openly support the Suffrage Movement. We must carefully read the clues left behind in her writings to find Juliette Gordon Low’s place in the Suffrage Movement.

From the Source

Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society, Gordon Family papers, MS 318. (Images 1-4) Rare Pamphlet Collection. (Image 5)

Excerpt from the letter to Edith C. Macy:

“If it is thoroughly understood by everybody that the Girl Scouts are neutral we will be left out of all practical & religious controversies. _ to leave any one in doubt means in this instance, to arouse the suspicion & perhaps the enmity of 800 suffragettes in Savannah…Neither you nor I nor any representative of Girl Scouts has any option about handling a question on suffrage because we have no right to vote at all.”

How is suffragette used in real life?

Suffragette has gone on to describe women who fought for the right to vote in modern history, such as in Saudi Arabia, where women were enfranchised, though only in municipal elections, for the first time in 2015.

More examples of suffragette:

“The change is slow and the wait long. But for Saudi suffragettes, even a vote in local elections is a step to celebrate.”
—Lyse Doucet, BBC, November 2015

“The daughter places a ‘Thank You’ sign at the gravesite of the suffragette, who endured opposition and abuse throughout her life, but eventually helped all women gain the right to vote.”
—Marian Hetherly, WBFO, May, 2017

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Smithsonian Marks 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment with the “Creating Icons: How We Remember Woman Suffrage” exhibition. On view in the Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Gallery through May 2, 2021, it highlights women’s achievements in winning suffrage and invites audiences to explore how the country celebrates milestones, what people as a nation remember, what (and who) has been forgotten or silenced over time and how those exclusions helped create the cracks and fissures in a movement that continues to impact women’s politics and activism.

“Ratification of the 19th Amendment was a landmark moment, removing sex as a barrier to voting in the first national victory for women’s civil rights,” said Lisa Kathleen Graddy, political history curator at the museum. “But it was a work unfinished, and many women were still excluded from voting booths and from the national memory of the suffrage movement.”

Using a jewel-box approach, the display showcases some 57 artifacts and graphics, interweaving stories of the famous and the forgotten. Materials donated between 1919 and 1939 by the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA now the League of Women Voters) to secure the organization’s place in history as leading the fight for suffrage are at the center of the exhibition. Among the artifacts are Sarah J. Eddy’s 6-foot-tall portrait of Susan B. Anthony and Anthony’s signature red shawl. Sculptor Adelaide Johnson’s busts of Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are also included. The continuing struggle for equality is reflected in two cases, one highlighting the National Women’s Conference of 1977, and the other, the 2017 National Women’s March. A case called “100 Years, 100 Women,” will highlight women serving in Congress in 2020 and includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s gavel.

“This exhibition allows us to explore how dynamic and diverse stories come to light when we approach history with deep care and consideration, so that we can then lift up the icons who will inspire the current and next generation of women’s rights activists,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the museum.

Following the passage of the 19th Amendment, NAWSA continued to add to the Smithsonian collection for the next 20 years. This included the writings of Anthony, Ida Husted Harper and Stanton. Contributions of African American, Native American, immigrant and working-class women were not preserved as thoroughly, and the exhibition will examine how some of these women were left out of the story. Visitors will be able to see African American educator Nannie Helen Burroughs’ bible and badge from the Women’s Convention Auxiliary to the National Baptist Convention.

In June 1919, Congress approved the 19th Amendment and sent it out to the states for ratification. When it became part of the Constitution in August of 1920, there were no women serving in the Congress. The first woman elected to the House was Jeannette Rankin, a Montana Republican, in 1916, but when she ran for the Senate in 1918, she lost the election. Today, there are 131 women members in the 116th Congress, which convened Jan. 3, 2019. The exhibition is aiming to represent each of them with a campaign pin or other election paraphernalia.

A torch, with a scroll containing a declaration composed by poet Maya Angelou, which was run from Seneca Falls to the Houston 1977 Women’s Conference, along with buttons, pamphlets and photos, represents women coming together more than 50 years after the 19th Amendment. Forty years later came the 2017 Women’s March. It is illustrated by protest signs and two knitted “pussy hats” worn by participants. An interactive will invite visitors to select icons of women’s history from a list of 36 women based on suggestion from visitors.

The museum’s permanent exhibition, “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith,” also tells the story of voting rights and includes a suffrage wagon used by Lucy Stone at speaking engagements and to distribute the Woman's Journal, among other suffrage related objects.

Women’s History Month programs at the museum in March include “Votes for Women,” in which visitors can join a Silent Sentinel Suffragist on her way to the 1917 White House protests, presented every Friday at noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., and a March 27 “Cooking Up History” cooking demonstration based on cookbooks related to the suffrage movement, featuring Graddy and Bonnie Benwick, former deputy editor of the Washington Post’s Food section. The museum is planning to host monthly “Objects Out of Storage” events to further showcase the historic collections.

The exhibition is made possible by the generous support of Robert and Lynne Uhler Ted and Marian Craver Mrs. Kathleen Manatt and Michele A. Manatt Sandy, Cindy, Hayden, Thea, Sabrina and William Sigal the Smithsonian Women’s Committee Diane Spry Straker and Ambassador Nicholas F. Taubman and Mrs. Eugenia L. Taubman.

This exhibition is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Because of Her Story, one of the country’s most ambitious undertakings to research, collect, document, display and share the complete and compelling story of women in America. Launched in 2018, the initiative seeks to create a more equitable and just American society by creating, educating, disseminating and amplifying the historical record of the accomplishments of American women. More information about the initiative, including exhibitions and public programs, is available online at #BecauseOfHerStory

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. Located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th streets, the museum is free and open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). For more information, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000. On social media, the museum can be found on Facebook at @americanhistory, and on Twitter and Instagram at @amhistorymuseum.

This gold pen was used to sign the congressional joint amendment which enacted the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919

What is Suffrage?

This year we mark the 100th anniversary of the woman suffrage amendment, and as it turns out, a lot of people don’t really know what “suffrage” means because it’s mostly fallen out of common usage. The term has nothing to do with suffering but instead derives from the Latin word “suffragium,” meaning the right or privilege to vote. In the United States, it is commonly associated with the 19th- and early 20th-century voting rights movements.

Petition for an amendment of the Constitution that prohibits the states from disfranchising any of citizens on the basis of sex, 1865. (National Archives Identifier 306684)

”Universal suffrage” was a term generally used to support the right to vote for all adults, regardless of race or gender. After 1870, when African American men secured the Federal right to vote with the 15th Amendment, the term “suffrage” became more commonly associated with the woman suffrage movement (ca. 1848–1920).

During the woman suffrage movement in the United States, “suffragists” were anyone—male or female—who supported extending the right to vote (suffrage) to women. Suffragists ran the gamut from those who simply advocated for women’s enfranchisement to those who actively engaged in efforts to convince state and Federal officials to give women the right to vote. In fact, many states allowed women to vote well before the Federal government did so in 1920.

Delegation of officers of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1917. (National Archives Identifier 533767)

There were also women who were called suffragettes. The term “suffragettes” originated in Great Britain to mock women fighting for the right to vote (women in Britain were struggling for the right to vote at the same time as those in the U.S.). Some women in Britain embraced the term as a way of appropriating it from its pejorative use.

This was less true in the United States, where the term suffragette was often seen offensive or derogatory. It was used to describe those who embraced more militant tactics rather than the more passive suffragists who relied on education and petitioning government officials.

Today, however, many use the term with pride to describe “unruly” women like National Women’s Party founders Alice Paul and Lucy Burns—who marched, picketed and protested, were arrested, and went on hunger strikes to fight for their right to vote.

Suffragettes bonfire and posters at the White House, Washington, DC, 1917. (National Archives Identifier 533773)

There were also “anti-suffragists” —those who opposed extending voting rights to women. Anti-suffragists were both men and women who put forth arguments against woman suffrage, such as that most women did not want to vote, or women didn’t have the time or the mental capacity to form political opinions, or that women voting would threaten the family institution or womanhood itself.

Passers-by looking at a window display at the headquarters of National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, ca. 1919. ( National Archives Identifier 7452466)

Ultimately, the pro-woman suffrage forces were successful when Congress passed the woman suffrage amendment on June 4, 1919, extending the vote to women in the U.S. It was ratified on August 18, 1920, becoming the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The National Archives is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment with the exhibit Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote , which runs in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from May 10, 2019, through January 3, 2021.

Woman Suffrage

"The new demand of women for political enfranchisement comes at a time when unsatisfactory and degraded social conditions are held responsible for so much wretchedness and when the fate of all the unfortunate, the suffering, and the criminal, is daily forced upon woman's attention in painful and intimate ways. At the same moment, governments all over the world are insisting that it is their function, and theirs alone, so to regulate social and industrial conditions that a desirable citizenship may be secured." Jane Addams, "The Larger Aspects of the Woman's Movement," November, 1914.

Suffrage was a battle for women long before Jane Addams, but Addams helped champion these efforts into the 20th century. While it took decades of struggle to achieve national suffrage, women were able to secure this right at local, county, and state levels across the country. In order to convince those who were against woman suffrage that it was necessary, one of the major arguments made by suffragists was how women could use the vote to help protect the private sphere. With the vote, women could influence politics in effort to protect children, health services, education, and other aspects related to what was considered a woman’s role in society.

In an effort to spread the spirit of civic duty and suffrage, Addams lectured at several colleges, including Mount Holyoke and Rockford College. College educated women were important to building the suffrage movement because their education gave them the respectability and authority to take a stance on topics like public service, education, and health services. College educated women were a voice of reason and respectability within their communities, so they had some power, even without the vote. In Addams’ opinion, it was especially important that working women gain the ballot because they lacked the power of college educated women. Working women deserved to have power over the conditions they lived in, the conditions they worked in, and the future that the country held for their children. Without the vote, working women lacked power in all of these areas.

Suffragists had different approaches to how they were going to get the vote, which lead to conflicts within the suffrage movement. The conflict would also affect Addams’ involvement with the Progressive Party. Some people, including NAWSA officers like Anna Howard Shaw, did not believe that Addams should support the Progressive Party because the suffrage plank was perceived as ingenuine. Within the press, Ida Hasted Harper was critical of the suffrage plank and believed that Addams and other Progressive supporters were “tricked into” supporting Roosevelt. Addams’ involvement with the Progressive Party was also an issue because she was breaking the long-standing tradition of non-partisan activism. As a supporter of the Progressive Party, Addams made campaign speeches, which often focused on the importance of the suffrage plank and the role women could play in the future. The Progressive Party claimed that it was the first party to include the suffrage plank, which the Socialist Party disputed. The Socialist Party had included a suffrage plank for several years and believed that reformers, like Addams, should support their party instead of the Progressive Party. By including suffrage in the Progressive Party platform, there was a national conservation on the topic and women hoped that a Progressive Party win would result in federal woman suffrage.

Civic Definitions- What is Suffrage - History

The Church of Universal Suffrage was founded in Nashville, Tennessee on June 1, 2020 during the COVID-19 Pandemic on the belief that all people are created equal and that they are all endowed by their Creator with the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The right to vote is a sacred extension of these rights, because voting is the primary right we use to protect all other rights. The violation of the right to vote through voter suppression is a sin, as is the violation of any sacred right. These beliefs have been around for centuries, but the idea to codify these beliefs into a religion was inspired by a discussion on Reddit about how Tennessee was one of several States forcing citizens to risk their health and lives in order to exercise their sacred right to vote by denying them the ability to safely vote by mail during the pandemic. Protecting the rights and well-being of our fellow people is essential to the pursuit of our own happiness.

We hold regular, weekly Sunday Service in meditation on the nature of voter suppression and we observe every voting day in the United States to be an official holiday reserved the celebration of our sacred right to vote. Providing assistance and resources to ease the suffering of anyone on the pilgrimage to perform the civic sacrament of voting is a holy ritual that we perform for people in need. Our Church also holds a religious objection against felony disenfranchisement and people having to being photographed in order to exercise their right to vote.

We never ask for or accept any donations, instead we ask that you donate to a local charity of your choice. The Church of Universal Suffrage is capable of existing and expanding simply through passionate members and ministers willing to volunteer.

The Church of Universal Suffrage practices freedom of conscience and belief among our members. Anyone of any other religion may join and all members are free to be members of other religions as well. Our Church also does not support any party or candidate and we do not have an official stance on any political issues or policies. We are a neutral institution and we ask all members to contact us immediately if a Minister ever tries to pressure them to vote a certain way. This is a form of voter suppression and we do not allow it, we only support everyone's freedom to make these decisions for themselves.

While many religions are concerned about the true nature of our Creator and what happens after we die, the Church of Universal Suffrage is solely dedicated to the promotion and protection of the sacred rights and equality all people are endowed with. It is useless for us to speculate about the true nature of our Creator and more sensible to confess our ignorance in a question that evidently exceeds human understanding.

The sacred rights we are all endowed with should never be used to violate the natural rights of others, to do so would be a sin. The right to freedom does not make one free to violate the freedom of others.

Voting should always be taken seriously, we consider the act of voting to be a civic sacrament and your first vote is a rite of passage. Your sacred rights should be celebrated and attempts to violate your rights should be studied and circumvented.

Natural human rights cannot be taken away, they can only be violated or suppressed. Governments do not grant Natural Rights to people, all people are naturally endowed with these rights, governments can only protect or violate these rights. Governments and politicians use voter suppression as a form of self-preservation. If voting didn't change anything, voter suppression wouldn't exist. When the people in power refuse this change, voter suppression occurs.

The Natural Human Rights of all people can be identified through natural human instinct and reason. Countless generations of people were told they didn’t deserve the rights to life, liberty, suffrage, or the pursuit of happiness, but natural instinct and reason compelled them to fight for these rights even in the face of imprisonment, torture, and death. No one should ever settle for anything less than the full equality and rights of all people.

Research Guides

Start your research on women's suffrage with this guide highlighting the Schlesinger Library's archival collections as well as periodicals, photographs, posters, and memorabilia. Some materials may also be available in digital format and links are included where available.

Use the navigation menu to view additional material related to this topic.

To learn more about suffrage at Radcliffe College, please see the Radcliffe College Suffrage research guide.

In the summer of 2020, supported by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Schlesinger Library launched two new tools: the Long 19th Amendment Project Portal and the Suffrage School. The Portal is an open-access digital portal that facilitates interdisciplinary, transnational scholarship and innovative teaching around the history of gender and voting rights in the United States. The Suffrage School is a platform where a broad array of researchers, writers, and teachers have been invited to create a series of digital teaching modules. Each lesson in the Suffrage School connects in rich and unpredictable ways to the Library&rsquos Long 19th Amendment Project, which tackles the tangled history of gender and American citizenship.

Please Take Note: Many of our collections are stored offsite and/or have access restrictions. Be sure to contact us in advance of your visit.

Watch the video: The 19th Amendment. History