This timeline highlights milestones in women's suffrage in the United States, particularly the right of women to vote in elections at federal and state levels.
1789: The Constitution of the United States grants the states the power to set voting requirements. Generally, states limited this right to property-owning or tax-paying white males (about 6% of the population). However, New Jersey also gave the vote to unmarried and widowed women who met the property qualifications, regardless of color. Married women were not allowed to own property and hence could not vote.
1838: Kentucky passes the first statewide woman suffrage law allowing female heads of household in rural areas to vote in elections deciding on taxes and local boards for the new county "common school" system.
1848: The Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, is held in Seneca Falls, New York. Women's suffrage is proposed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and agreed to after an impassioned argument from Frederick Douglass.
1861–1865: The American Civil War. Most suffragists focus on the war effort, and suffrage activity is minimal.
1867: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone address a subcommittee of the New York State Constitutional Convention requesting that the revised constitution include woman suffrage. Their efforts fail.
1867: Kansas holds a state referendum on whether to enfranchise women and/or black males. Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton traverse the state speaking in favor of women's suffrage. Both women's and black male suffrage is voted down.
1868: The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, introducing the word "male" into the Constitution for the first time, in Section 2 of the amendment. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Parker Pillsbury publish the first edition of The Revolution. This periodical carries the motto “Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less!” Caroline Seymour Severance establishes the New England Woman’s Club. The “Mother of Clubs” sparked the club movement which became popular by the late nineteenth century. In Vineland, New Jersey, 172 women cast ballots in a separate box during the presidential election. Senator S.C. Pomeroy of Kansas introduces the federal woman’s suffrage amendment in Congress. Many early suffrage supporters, including Susan B. Anthony, remained single because in the mid-1800s, married women could not own property in their own rights and could not make legal contracts on their own behalf. The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified. "Citizens" and "voters" are defined exclusively as male.
1869: The suffrage movement splits into the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. The NWSA is formed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony after their accusing abolitionist and Republican supporters of emphasizing black civil rights at the expense of women's rights. The AWSA is formed by Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and it protests the confrontational tactics of the NWSA and ties itself closely to the Republican Party while concentrating solely on securing the vote for women state by state. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first president of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Julia Ward Howe was the first president of the American Woman Suffrage Association.
1870: The Utah Territory grants suffrage to women.
1870: The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is adopted. The amendment holds that neither the United States nor any State can deny the right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude," leaving open the right of States to deny the right to vote on account of sex. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton oppose the amendment. Many of their former allies in the abolitionist movement, including Lucy Stone, support the amendment.
1871: Victoria Woodhull speaks to the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, arguing that women have the right to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but the committee does not agree.
1871: The Anti-Suffrage Society is formed.
1872: A suffrage proposal before the Dakota Territory legislature loses by one vote.
1872: Susan B. Anthony registers and votes in Rochester, New York, arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives her that right. However, she is arrested a few days later. Victoria Woodhull was the first female to run for President of the United States, nominated by the Equal Rights Party, with a platform supporting women's suffrage and equal rights.
1873: The trial of Susan B. Anthony is held. She is denied a trial by jury and loses her case. She never pays the $100 fine for voting.
1874: There is a referendum in Michigan on women's suffrage, but women's suffrage loses.
1875: Women in Michigan and Minnesota win the right to vote in school elections.
1878: A federal amendment to grant women the right to vote is introduced for the first time by Senator Aaron A. Sargent of California. Though initially unsuccessful, the amendment would eventually become the 19th Amendment.
1880: New York state grants school suffrage to women.
1882: The U.S. House and Senate both appoint committees on women's suffrage, which both report favorably.
1883: Women in the Washington territory are granted full voting rights.
1884: The U.S. House of Representatives debates women's suffrage.
1886: The suffrage amendment is defeated two to one in the U.S. Senate.
1887: The Supreme Court strikes down the law that enfranchised women in the Washington territory.
1887: In Kansas, women win the right to vote in municipal elections.
1887: Rhode Island becomes the first eastern state to vote on a women's suffrage referendum, but it does not pass.
1888–1889: Wyoming had already granted women voting and suffrage since 1869–70; now they insist that they maintain suffrage if Wyoming joins the Union.
1890: The National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Its first president is Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The focus turns to working at the state level. Wyoming renewed general women's suffrage, becoming the first state to allow women to vote.
1890: A suffrage campaign loses in South Dakota.
1894: Despite 600,000 signatures, a petition for women's suffrage is ignored in New York.
1895: The New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage begins.
1896: Idaho grants women suffrage.
1902: The men of New Hampshire vote down a women's suffrage referendum.
1906: Elizabeth Cady Stanton's daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, returns from England and forms the Equality League of Self Supporting Women with a membership based on professional and industrial working women. It initiates the practice of holding suffrage parades.
1908: The first suffrage march in the United States is held in Oakland, California on August 27, co-led by Johanna Pinther of San Francisco's Glen Park, her step-daughter-in-law Jeanette Pinther of Noe Valley, San Francisco, and Lillian Harris Coffin of Marin County, California. Followed by as many as 300 women, they carried the banner for the California Equal Suffrage Association hand-sewn and embroidered by Johanna Pinther. The women marched nearly a mile along Broadway in Oakland to the site of the California State Republican Convention to demand California suffrage be added to the Republican platform (state Democratic and Labor parties had already done so). California Republicans would not add suffrage until their next state convention in 1909.
1910: Washington grants women the right to vote.
1911: California grants women suffrage.
1911: In New York City, 3,000 people march for women's suffrage.
1912: Kansas grants women suffrage.
1913: Alice Paul organizes the Woman's Suffrage Procession, a parade in Washington, D.C. on the eve of Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. It is the largest suffrage parade to date. The parade is attacked by a mob, and hundreds of women are injured but no arrests are made.
1913: The Senate votes on a women's suffrage amendment, but it does not pass.
1915: Carrie Chapman Catt replaces Anna Howard Shaw as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, partly due to the constant turmoil on the National Board caused by Shaw's lack of administrative expertise.
1916: Woodrow Wilson promises that the Democratic Party Platform will endorse women's suffrage.
1917: Beginning in January, the National Woman's Party posts silent "Sentinels of Liberty," also known as the Silent Sentinels, at the White House. They are the first group to picket the White House. In June, the arrests begin. Nearly 500 women are arrested, and 168 serve jail time.
1917: The U.S. enters W.W.I. Under the leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt, the National American Woman Suffrage Association aligns itself with the war effort in order to gain support for women's suffrage.
1917: The Oklahoma state constitution grants women suffrage.
1917: The South Dakota state constitution grants women suffrage.
1918: The jailed suffragists are released from prison. An appellate court rules all the arrests were illegal.
1918: The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which eventually granted women suffrage, passes the U.S. House with exactly a two-thirds vote but loses by two votes in the Senate. Jeannette Rankin opens debate on it in the House, and President Wilson addresses the Senate in support of it.
1918: President Wilson declares his support for women's suffrage.
1919: Michigan grants women full suffrage.
1919: Oklahoma grants women full suffrage.
1919: South Dakota grants women full suffrage.
1920: The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, stating:
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.
1922: Fairchild v. Hughes, 258 U.S. 126 (1922), is a case in which the Supreme Court held that a general citizen, in a state that already had women's suffrage, lacked standing to challenge the validity of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. A companion case, Leser v. Garnett upheld the ratification.
1924: Native American women played a vital role in passing the Nineteenth Amendment, but are still unable to reap the benefits until four years later on June 24, 1924 when the American government grants citizenship to Native Americans through the Indian Citizenship Act. However, many states nonetheless make laws and policies which prohibit Native Americans from voting, and many are effectively barred from voting until 1948.
1943: Chinese immigrants are no longer barred from becoming US citizens with the passage of the Magnuson Act, allowing some Chinese immigrants, including women, to become naturalized and gain the right to vote.
1952: The race restrictions of the 1790 Naturalization Law are repealed by the McCarran-Walter Act, giving first generation Japanese Americans, including women, citizenship and voting rights.
1964: The Twenty-fourth Amendment is ratified by three-fourths of the states, formally abolishing poll taxes and literacy tests which were heavily used against African-American and poor white women and men.
1965: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 strenuously prohibits racial discrimination in voting, resulting in greatly-increased voting by African American women and men.
1966: Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections strikes down poll taxes at all levels of government.
1984: Mississippi becomes the last state in the union to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.