Before 1920, women in the United States were not able to vote, though male citizens had long been granted this right. This inequality sparked protest.
In 1792, British author Mary Wollstonecraft advocated for womens’ right to vote in her book, A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Others like the Chartists group in Britain had begun campaigning for voting rights during the 1830s too, but women were not included in this.
In the middle of the 1800s, a movement in the U.S. pushed for women to gain the same voting rights as men. The first meeting of those involved in this movement was held at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848 and led by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Many meetings followed this original one. Well known abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Soujouner Truth were among the speakers for these meetings. Other women opposed voting rights, however.
The movement for womens’ right to vote began to progress throughout the 19th century. In 1890, Wyoming became the first state to let women vote at local elections. Three years later, New Zealand became the first country in the world to allow women to vote in national elections. In Britain, this encouraged women to form societies for women's rights.
The womens’ campaigns were peaceful at first but, in 1903, advocate Emmeline Pankhurst created a society called the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) that damaged property to gain attention for their cause. Many WSPU members were arrested and sent to prison, where some even went on hunger strikes. During World War I when many young male sodiers were sent abroad WSPU members stopped destroying property and took jobs that were usually done by men. They wanted to show that women were just as capable as men were.
In 1918, British women over the age of 30 gained the right to vote. Following the British lead, the United States finally let women vote in national elections in 1920.
Without the dedicated protests for womens’ right to vote, women today would not have the voting privleges they do today.
World History Encyclopedia