7e. NATIONAL WOMAN SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT

Medallion NameNATIONAL WOMAN SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT

Significance – Suffrage is the right vote in political elections. in the U.S., it’s not like a politician waved a magic wand and said, “Voila, Women can now vote, “and scattered equality over everyone. When Colorado elected to give women suffrage rights on November 7, 1893, they became the first state in the U.S. to do so. This historic victory was no small achievement.

Inscription – NATIONAL WOMAN SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT

Until 1911, Denver was the largest city in the nation where women could vote. Western states, including Colorado, were among the first to give women the right to vote.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed full suffrage for women.

Location – 39.748296, -104.993567

Details – When Colorado elected to give women suffrage rights on November 7, 1893, it became the first state to give females the right to vote. This historic victory was no small achievement.  Colorado women won the right to vote through legislative action; people voted in favor of giving women the vote, and even the most prominent suffragettes were surprised.  Leaders of the movement like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were Easterners, and they assumed the more progressive eastern states would the first to approve women’s suffrage.

The territories were more progressive about writing suffrage into bills, in large part because they desperately needed women in the Wild West. Administrative leaders in the West appreciated the idea of women voting to enhance the image of their states or territories. Anything to encourage white women – always in short supply in the Wild West – to come and settle.  The rugged and majestic Washington Territory introduced the first women’s suffrage bill in 1848. But the flag goes to the Wyoming Territory which gave women the vote in 1869. This was quickly followed by Utah Territory (1870) and the Washington Territory (1883). As these territories became states, they continued their precedents of women’s suffrage.

Colorado had tried to get women’s suffrage as far back as 1876, when the Centennial State was striving for statehood. The idea was before its time…but suffragettes did get the right to have the public vote to approve a woman’s right to vote. Known as Article 7, Section 2 of the Colorado State constitution; it allowed female suffrage to become state law through a majority vote by the electorate. (This was an easier option than a constitutional amendment, which would have required a two-thirds majority.) It also allowed women to vote on school issues.

Women had permission to ask for permission vote; so, the quandary was how to convince a majority of men in the state that they should relinquish their political autocracy to become a democracy with liberty and justice for all.

Using fundamentals offered by the national suffrage movement, Colorado ladies created a successful strategy that complimented the American political tradition of equality and democracy. They understood the power of grassroots organization and established around 60 local chapters of their suffrage association. High-profile journalists including Ellis Meredith, Minnie J. Reynolds, and Caroline Nichols Churchill, praised the movement as, “The true principles upon which liberty is based.” Around men, women highlighted how voting was just a public extension of their roles as mothers and housekeepers; their say allowed women to extend their caretaking responsibilities beyond the home and use their vote to reform society.

To receive endorsements, they sent out postcards to Colorado’s newspapers asking editors to commit to woman suffrage. This strategy had quite an impact. Additionally, advocates persuaded the public using leaflets, cartoons, and the door-to-door canvasing strategies proclaiming that women’s suffrage was, the “the dawn of a golden era.”

Suffragettes also developed strong allies. They understood that political support was critical to women achieving the right to vote in Colorado.  The Populist Party – a third political party committed to “equal rights for all, and special privileges to none” – upset the balance of power between the Republicans and the Democrats. So much so, that in 1892, Populist Davis H. Waite was elected governor. The emboldened new party believed women were a way to increase the size of their loyal electorate.

They partnered with the state Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, a group that had enacted the voting right of school suffrage in May 1893. Largely through women’s votes, W.C.T.U. clubwoman Ione T. Hanna was elected to Denver Board #1.

All these allies paid off. Months later, on Election Day 1893, the referendum on women’s suffrage was held in Colorado. Impressively, 55% of the electorate turned out to vote, with 35,798 voting in favor of women’s suffrage and 29,551 voting against. Constitutional amendment HB 118 was ratified to prohibit discrimination against female voting in the state of Colorado. This was the first time in U.S. history that a state referendum had passed women’s suffrage into law.

Now that Colorado women had the right to vote, they became a strong political force. The following year, women were elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. Clara Cressingham, Carrie Clyde Holly and Frances Klock became first women the first women elected to U.S. State Legislature.

It was not until August 18, 1920 that the U.S. Constitution ratified the 19th Amendment to grant women nationwide the right to vote. “Welcome to the sisterhood,” congratulated the women of Colorado.

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Bonus suffragette info: Of 480 campaigns to put votes for women on the ballot of various states in the nineteenth century, only seventeen actually reached the ballot, and a mere two, in Colorado in 1893 and Idaho in 1896, met with success.

Quiz Questions

How did those in the female minority get their voices heard by those in the majority?

What arguments did proponents of woman suffrage make?

What role(s) did political parties play in this process?

How did a woman’s right to vote in Colorado become state law?

Why was Colorado so important to national debates about woman suffrage?

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