Susan B. Anthony Amendment
Initially introduced to Congress in 1878 by Senator A.A. Sargent of California, the Susan B. Anthony Amendment proposed a revision of the sixteenth amendment (Weatherford 129). The revision read: “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” (Weatherford 129). This revision became the main lobbying strategy for suffragists committed to winning the vote through a constitutional amendment, who organized through the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), founded by Anthony in 1871 (Buhle, 282). Though it was repeatedly rejected by congress, Sargent continued to propose the amendment. It came to be known as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” because other amendments to the constitution used the numbers 16 through 18 before the suffrage amendment was passed.
Petition writing and speaking tours were the major lobbying techniques used by the NAWSA through the Congressional Union, to promote the amendment. These petitions are estimated to have been signed by literally millions of Americans (Weatherford 130). Despite the support that the CU found for their amendment amongst pro-suffrage Americans, opposition to the amendment was fierce. Many anti-suffrage politicians used opposition to states’ rights to justify their opposition to the amendment (Kraditor 38). Because the nineteenth amendment dealt specifically with “public will,” those in opposition suggested that it was unfair to thrust a false will on the thirteen states who did not pass the amendment (Kraditor 39). Further opposition came from other suffrage organizations, who advocated for enfranchisement solely at the local and state level (Buhle 25).
The amendment passed through the House of Representatives on May 21, 1919 by a vote of 304 to 89, after President Wilson announced his support (Buhle 415). It successfully passed through the Senate two weeks later. The amendment was ratified after being passed by the thirty-sixth state, Tennessee, on August 18, 1920. The Susan B. Anthony Amendment became the nineteenth amendment to the United States Constitution.
Buhle, Mari Jo and Paul Buhle. The Concise History of Woman Suffrage: Selections From History of Woman Suffrage. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005.
Kraditor, Aileen S.. The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890-1920. New York: Columbia University Press, 1965.
Weatherford, Doris. A History of the American Suffragist Movement. Santa Barbara: The Moschovitis Group, 1998.