Aug. 26, 1920: 19th Amendment was declared in effect
On Aug. 26, 1920, eight days after it had been ratified, the 19th Amendment was declared in effect by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, giving female citizens the right to vote in all American elections.
The New York Times reported, “The half-century struggle for woman suffrage in the United States reached its climax at 8 o’clock this morning, when Bainbridge Colby, as secretary of state, issued his proclamation announcing that the 19th Amendment had become a part of the Constitution of the United States.”
The 19th Amendment was the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement, which dated to the mid-19th century. The movement had slowly won voting rights in individual states beginning with Wyoming in 1890. By 1919, 15 of the 48 states — primarily in the West — had full suffrage, while most others had limited suffrage, like only allowing women to vote in presidential elections.
The 19th Amendment, mandating full suffrage in all states, was first introduced to Congress in 1878. Forty-one years later, it was passed by both houses of Congress on June 4, 1919, and sent to the states for ratification.
Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving it a two-thirds majority it needed to become law.
The 19th Amendment reads:
1. 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.
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this Article by appropriate legislation.