5 Things You Didn't Know About the 19th Amendment

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect, granting women the right to vote. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about the fight to guarantee women the same right given to men…


Single Women in New Jersey Could Vote in 1797 New Jersey single women were temporarily able to vote because of their state constitution, which was vague and said those worth 50 pounds were eligible to vote. For 10 years, unmarried women voted in New Jersey, but married women couldn’t because their husbands were in control of all of the property in the family, so those women were technically worth zero. The New Jersey Assembly changed the law in 1807 by restricting voting to free white males who were 21 or over, citizens of the state and who paid taxes.

A Proposed 19th Amendment Was Defeated in 1878 An amendment proposed by Arlen Sargent, a California Senator, was debated on January 10, 1878, with the support of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Although hearings were held, several of the committee members ignored the proceedings by staring into space or reading as the debate continued. The bill was reintroduced each year for 41 years before it finally passed.


The States Had Different Voting Rights Before 1920 In January 1919, there were 15 states that allowed women to vote. Twenty-one states barred women from voting such as Texas, which only allowed females to vote in primaries. The other 21 states did not allow women to vote at all.

Millions of Women Received Voting Rights Shortly after the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 26, 10 million women became eligible to vote. A legal scholar at that time, Akhil Reed Amar, said the volume of new voters made it the largest democratizing event in the history of the United States. These new voters took their place alongside millions from 15 other states and the Alaskan Territory where voting by females was allowed.

A Missouri Woman Is Credited as Being the First to Vote Under the Amendment Although many women have been said to have voted first after the passage of the 19th Amendment, Mrs. Marie Ruoff Bynum, a Hannibal, Missouri, resident, is often credited with that honor. Although Mrs. Bynum and her husband lived about 15 blocks from the polling place, they walked there in drizzling rain and she registered and voted. The polling book with Mrs. Bynum’s signature is in Jefferson City, housed in the state archives.