The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution opened voting rights to all citizens, regardless of sex. The amendment became law in 1920. Before that event, fifteen states and Alaska Territory had already enfranchised their female citizens. In my blog, I will be posting short reviews of each of those states’ battles. With the exceptions of Michigan and New York, those states all lie west the Missouri River (the river cuts through South Dakota), and include Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Historians cite many reasons for successes and failures of the woman suffrage movement in state campaigns. I find the most compelling arguments to be those espoused by Corrine M. McConnaughy in her 2013 book “The Woman Suffrage Movement in America, A Reassessment.” McConnaughy argues that the movement’s success depended upon suffragists building successful coalitions with other interest groups. She notes that idealistic arguments did not sway politicians who saw no partisan value in enfranchising female voters. No one expected all women to vote as one bloc and give one party benefit over another. Therefore, suffragists needed to partner with groups that had both political influence and constituents who could be organized. Suffragists who engaged with multiple such groups in supporting each other’s causes found greater success than those who failed to make such coalitions.
Jennifer Helton, in her article on “Woman Suffrage in the West” provides several examples of states where suffragists successfully partnered with other constituencies. For example, in Washington, the movement established strong bonds with the labor movement and Progressive causes. By also distancing themselves from the temperance movement, woman suffrage passed by 64 percent of the vote in 1910. https://www.nps.gov/articles/woman-suffrage-in-the-west.htm