The women’s suffrage movement refers to the political movement that took place across the world at different times (1800s-1900s), fighting to extend suffrage (or the right to vote) to women. In the United States, the movement began around 1848 and lasted for nearly seventy years before a decisive national victory was achieved.
The woman’s suffrage movement began in New York in 1848 with the actions of women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who launched the struggle at the Seneca Falls Convention. A few years later, the now well-known Susan B. Anthony joined the fight at the Syracuse Convention.
There were a number of early victories that helped pave the way to national success in the struggle to achieve equal voting rights for men and women. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to extend the right to vote to women. In fact, their state motto, “Equal Rights”, reflects this triumphant achievement. Just one year later, Utah also gave women the right to vote.
By the end of the century, two additional states, Idaho and Colorado, had joined Utah and Wyoming in providing equal voting rights to all individuals, regardless of sex. However, despite these achievements, there was still no nationally recognized legislation allowing women the right to vote.
This changed in 1920 after a long and hard-fought struggle, involving many counts of jailing and arrest. Then President Woodrow Wilson urged Congress to pass what would become the Nineteenth Amendment, which stated “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.”
The passing of this Amendment brought a successful end to the efforts of America’s movement for women’s suffrage. However, there were still a number of sex-based inequalities that needed to be dealt with. With the issue of voting addressed, attention turned to the disparity between wages paid to men and women who performed the same work.
In 1921, just a year following the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment, William Howard Taft was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court and fought to provide equal pay to women in the workforce. In 1934, the Supreme Court overturned a decision on an earlier court ruling, agreeing with Taft’s position on the issue, and ruled that separate hours / rates for men and women was unconstitutional.