100 years of the 19th Amendment

US history

Published: 30th September 2020

Centenary of (some) American women's right to vote

When the Founding Fathers of the US created their Constitution in 1787 (formally starting in 1789) they were keen to make the US a modern and fair place to live, a new start away from the restrictions of the Old World and its antiquated forms of rule. However, they also wanted it created to their own vision, with their own ideals of what democracy was, which meant a continuation of slavery and only men included in the franchise.

Over the following years various additions – or amendments – would be made to the constitution. These amendments would be incredibly difficult to get through the complex federal system that underpins US democracy, which is why there are only 27 of them over that 240-year period – and one of those amendments was to cancel out an earlier one.

Passed on 18 August 1920, the 19th Amendment formally prevented the ‘states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex’. This ground-breaking law finally brought the US up to date with many of its European old-world rivals – although it was still not all about equality as most women of colour would be denied the right to vote for a further 50 years. To commemorate the centenary of the 19th Amendment the HA has produced two new podcasts which tell the story of the American women’s suffrage campaign and its problems and setbacks. 

100 years on from the 19th Amendment, in the run-up to the current US presidential elections the campaign must surely now be to persuade all American women to exercise their right to vote. We wonder how they will uphold the 19th Amendment this year?