This article is part of In Session: The Teen Vogue Lesson Plan.
When did women get the right to vote? The 19th Amendment, passed in 1924, technically guaranteed women’s suffrage in the United States after years of work from activists. However, many women of color were excluded when the 19th Amendment was signed into law, and the battle for true equality at the polls has been much more complex and fraught than some history books might make it seem. Voter access remains an important issue today, with activists fighting for a fairer election system that makes participation accessible for all people. Ahead, Teen Vogue shares some highlights from the decades-long battle to secure the right to vote for all women.
1848: The first convention for women’s rights
What started out as an idea over tea to hold a two-day meeting to discuss women’s rights turned into a convention attended by hundreds in Seneca Falls, New York. In total, 300 people attended the convention where 68 women and 32 men signed a “Declaration of Sentiments,” making the first formal demand in the U.S. for women to have the right to vote. However, this convention did not address the racism and oppression specifically faced by Black women.
1850: The first National Woman’s Rights Convention
Two years after the Seneca Falls Convention, more than 1,000 people — including abolitionists Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, and Abby Kelley — attended a national conference in Worcester, Massachusetts to strategize ways to strengthen women’s rights. These annual conferences continued almost every year through 1860.
1866: Suffragists send petition to Congress
Suffragists garnered 10,000 signatures on a petition they prepared to send to Congress, requesting an amendment prohibiting disenfranchisement on the basis of sex. “We call your attention to the fact that we represent fifteen million people—one half the entire population of the country — intelligent, virtuous, native-born American citizens; and yet stand outside the pale of political recognition,” the petition read.
1869: The suffragists split
Three years later, suffragists split into two separate organizations: the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. The former focused on achieving voting rights through a constitutional amendment while the latter approached voting rights state-by-state. Splits were also fueled by disagreements regarding voting rights for minorities. The American Woman Suffrage Association endorsed the Fifteenth Amendment — which prohibited voter denial because of race. Members included Black men and women.