“Ceaseless, Unremitting Toil:” The Wisconsin Campaign for Woman Suffrage By Ruth Page Jones
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution Adopted on August 18, 1920, after ratification by thirty-six states:
“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.”
When Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment on June 4, 1919, Wisconsin suffragists sprang into action. Time and time again, their efforts to obtain full woman suffrage had failed. Now, they had one last chance to secure a victory. With the legislature still in session, suffrage leaders Ada James and Theodora Winton Youmans quickly marshalled their forces to persuade state lawmakers “to secure for our state the honor of being the first state to ratify.” State legislators, ambitious to triumph in that competition, complied on June 10. Without delay, James’ father, former state senator David G. James obtained the signed document and hastened to catch the train to Washington, D.C. Thus, Wisconsin delivered the ratification papers before any other state and took its place in the history of woman’s voting rights.
Changes in society triggered the demand for equal voting rights. In the early 1800s, women began entering the workforce and quickly discovered the disadvantages of their status. Existing laws gave women no recourse for low wages, labor abuses, and unfair treatment. In addition, married women could not own property in their own names, sign legal papers, sue or even retain their own earnings or custody of their children in case of divorce. The unjustness of those laws motivated them to act. Starting with few legal rights and lacking public advocacy skills, women faced a daunting task.
To continue: See Landmark Summer 2019 issue, pages 29-36, published by Waukesha County Historical County Society and Museum or contact me to present this information to your organization in 2020.