"The Complex History of Women's Suffrage"

In August 2020, the United States celebrated 100 years of the 19th Amendment, which established American women’s right to vote. Ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, and added to the Constitution eight days later, this amendment became the single largest act of enfranchisement in U.S. history.

But the right to vote wasn’t simply handed to women; it was the result of a generations-long fight led by Americans from all walks of life — and that fight didn’t end in 1920.

As the story is often told, the path to women’s suffrage began ​in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848 and ended with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton​ were the leaders of the movement. It granted all women in America the right to vote.

And yet we are learning, slowly, that telling is ​wildly incomplete. It was not simply Stanton and Anthony who led the movement​ for voting rights in this country​; ​women of color, working-class, and immigrant women also paved the way. (Source: New York Times Learning Network)

  • Who are some the lesser-known activists involved in the struggle for women’s voting rights?

  • What strategies did they use?

  • What divisions existed in the movement?

We will explore these questions through a reading, video and role play. 

  • Warm Up

  • “The Compex History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement” Reading and Study Guide

  • “Finish the Fight” Play

  • “The roles of women of color, queer women, working-class and immigrant women, and their male allies in the suffrage movement” Case Studies

The Indigenous suffragist Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, also known as Zitkala-Sa, a citizen of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. After the ratification of the 19th Amendment, she reminded the rejoicing, newly enfranchised white women that the fight was not over.

Credit: National Museum of American History