Frequently Asked Questions
What is the meaning behind the WVCI logo and slogan?
The WVCI logo takes inspiration from the torch of the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty has long been “recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.” Both suffragists and second-wave feminists carried torch replicas to link their push for equality to fundamental American values. 2020 WVCI developed the logo with Fallon Worldwide of Minneapolis, seeking to connect the 2020 commemoration with every generation of American women. The torch lights our way toward equality.
What does the torch symbolize?
When used for women’s equality causes, a torch is used to remind viewers of the upheld torch of the Statue of Liberty and the idea of “passing the torch,” that is, a younger generation taking up a battle from an older generation. The 2020 designer’s modernistic torch image suggests that the cause of voting rights is unfinished. The connecting dots in the torch might stand for a timeline of the suffrage movement or connections among activists or something else.
What does suffrage mean?
Suffrage (not "sufferage"). The word suffrage originated with the Latin word suffragium, meaning a voting tablet or an actual vote. In the United States, the word means the right to vote. Woman suffrage, therefore, refers to women's right to vote.
When did women first demand the right to vote?
The first known appeal for the vote came in the Declaration of Sentiments, authored by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, presented at the July 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY. An actual amendment to the U.S. Constitution was first proposed to Congress in 1878. Seventy-two years passed between the first demand for the vote in 1848 and to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
What was the date the 19th Amendment became law?
August 26, 1920. Tennessee was the final state to ratify the 19th Amendment. It ratified on August 18, 1920. However, the U.S. secretary of state is required to certify the results of the ratification. Secretary of State Colby signed the document officially certifying the successful ratification and making the 19th Amendment law on August 26, 1920. August 26 is now known as Women’s Equality Day.
What is the 19th Amendment?
The 19th Amendment, in essence, gave American women the right to vote. Specifically, it prohibited denying anyone the right to vote because of their sex. The actual text reads, "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. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
How is an Amendment added to the U.S. Constitution?
There are only two steps in the process of adding an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but the process often takes years, if not decades. The first step is Congressional passage: an amendment must pass both the Senate and the House of Representatives with a two-thirds vote. The second step is state ratification: three-quarters of the states must ratify, or approve, the amendment either in the regular legislative session or a special session. Note that the President has no role in the amendment process, other than to urge or discourage passage as the leader of his/her political party.
When did the Women Suffrage or Votes-For-Women Movement begin?
In the United States, the first call for women to have the right to vote appeared in the Declaration of Sentiments, a document modeled after the Declaration of Independence and written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton's Declaration was presented at the 1848 Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY. The idea was quite radical at the time, though other legal rights for women were being discussed in the 1840s.
Didn’t some women vote before 1920?
Yes, millions of women did cast votes before 1920. The U.S. Constitution gives the states primary responsibility for voting rights. Fifteen states, mostly in the western U.S., gave women full voting rights between 1869 and 1919. Those states were Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, California, Oregon, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Montana, New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Women in some other states had partial voting rights before 1920.
Did the 19th Amendment Give ALL women the right to vote?
The language of the 19th Amendment included all eligible voters but not all eligible voters could exercise their right to vote. First of all, the Constitution in 1920 mandated a minimum voting age of 21, so the 19th Amendment allowed for women 21 and over to vote. Then, although the 19th Amendment included women of color, many were unable to vote. In the southern United States, restrictive state or local laws called for poll taxes and/or literacy tests before a citizen could vote. Eighty percent of African Americans lived in the southern U.S. in 1920. As more black women moved north, they were able to vote more freely. Full exercise of black voting rights was intended with the Voting Rights Act of 1965; however, even today some states continue to erect barriers to black voting. Native American women were largely excluded from voting before the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924; some states and localities still passed laws effectively barring Natives from voting until the late 1940s. Not until the late 1940s and 1950s were restrictions on Asian American voting removed.
Why did black women march at the back of the famous 1913 Suffrage Parade in Washington, DC?
African American women did NOT march at the back of the 1913 parade. This historical error often appears in suffrage histories, unfortunately. Several dozen black women participated in the 1913 parade, marching in various state, education, and occupation delegations. Ida B. Wells, marching with others from Illinois, was the most famous black marcher. A group of young college women from Howard University in Washington, DC marched with the college delegation. Delaware, New York and Michigan contingents all included black women. This information is verified in the NAACP’s April 1913 edition of the NAACP publication The Crisis.
What were the colors of the Woman Suffrage Movement?
In recent years, we have seen politicians like Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Hillary Clinton, wear white to link their campaigns to the votes-for-women movement of the 1800s and early 1900s. However, white became associated with suffrage only in the latter years of the movement, when parades and grand events provided opportunities for visual messaging.
There were a multitude of American suffrage organizations by 1900, some based in cities, others in counties or states. Two national organizations formed after the Civil War. In 1890, they united as the National American Woman Suffrage Association, known as NAWSA or the National. In 1913, the Congressional Union was founded by Alice Paul; that group later became the National Woman’s Party (CU/NWP).
NAWSA never identified official colors, knowing that state and local groups were already using a wide variety of colors. Nonetheless, during and after a failed 1867 Kansas state suffrage referendum, suffragists began using yellow or gold (for the Sunflower State) for the sashes, ribbons and buttons they wore and sold.
Many American suffragists were excited by the militant suffrage efforts in Britain after 1905, led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. The Pankhursts chose purple, white and green as their colors in the many parades and demonstrations they organized. One American enthusiast, Harriot Stanton Blatch, adopted the purple, white and green when she founded the Women’s Political Union (WPU) in New York City in 1910 and began organizing suffrage parades and other outdoor events. She asked women to wear white dresses as a visual statement in the parades.
When Alice Paul, a protégé of the Pankhursts, organized the March 1913 NAWSA suffrage procession in Washington, DC, she at first chose purple, white, and green as official parade colors. Not wishing to be associated with the British militants, NAWSA staff quickly informed Paul that NAWSA had no official colors but did not wish her to use the Pankhursts’ tricolor. Paul then switched parade colors to purple, white and gold, to acknowledge the historical use of gold in the American suffrage movement. When Alice Paul later founded the CU/NWP, she retained the purple/white/gold as official colors. The tricolor banners and sashes her followers used in the 1917 White House picketing are now legendary.
With Alice Paul’s reputation on the ascendancy in the 21st century, many 2020 groups are presenting purple, white, and gold as historical suffrage colors. White and gold are the only two colors which were historically employed by the whole of the suffrage movement, militant and mainstream.
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