Before 1920, states were under no obligation to allow women to vote. Many western states allowed women voting rights in some capacity. As the suffrage movement gained popularity, other states farther east began to give women access to voting rights. In most states, however, voting was limited to male citizens.

Fighting for their right

The beginning of the women’s suffrage movement is popularly linked to a women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. While it wasn’t the first of its kind, it did include some of the most prominent names of the movement, including Elizabeth Cady Standon and Susan B. Anthony. During the early days of the campaign, most of the actions involved circulating petitions and lobbying congressmen to pass a bill that would allow women the right to vote. Most legislators, however, had no interest in listening to people who held no sway over them in an election. The suffragettes quickly learned that legal changes showed preference toward motivated voters. As the 20th century came into view, the suffrage movement consumed the country.

“Well-behaved women seldom make history”

The sudden growth of the women’s suffrage movement sparked the development of two primary organizations that took the lead in the fight for equal voting rights. The first, the National American Woman Suffrage Association or NAWSA, set out to campaign in individual states to gain voting rights one state at a time if need be. Simultaneously, they lobbied President Wilson and Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment for their cause. This moderate group of politically-minded women saw membership numbers climb into the millions by 1910. On the more radical side of the suffrage movement sat the National Women’s Party. They took more extreme actions, such as picketing the White House, to get their point across.

The combined efforts of these two groups ultimately led to the creation and adoption of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote on August 18, 1920.