In 2019, it’s hard to imagine a time period in which women didn’t have the right to vote. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, woman suffragists fought long and hard for their constitutional right to also have a say in who becomes the president of their country. Finally, on August 26, 1920, after 70 years of struggles, the 19th Amendment was adopted into the U.S. Constitution, formally changing the way women were viewed in society.

The first woman suffragists

America’s woman suffrage movement started long before 1920. In July 1848, 200 suffragists, formed by leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, met in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss their plans. The women declared “it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.” Immediately, the suffragists received public ridicule, but the suffragists weren’t going to stop. In 1890, Susan B. Anthony [another pivotal leader], Stanton, and Lucy Stone united their individual groups to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Helping during World War I

By the 20th century, women had a more productive role in American society—receiving better education and employment opportunities. In 1916, the National Woman’s Party began protesting that every state should allow women to vote. Members picketed the White House, marched in protests, and staged acts of civil disobedience.

But it wasn’t until World War I when U.S. Congress fully understood the role women played in society, in which women aided many successful war efforts. In January 1918, the woman suffrage movement passed the House of Representatives. In June 1919, the movement was approved by the Senate and sent to states for ratification.

Women can vote

On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, giving it the two-thirds majority for the amendment to be adopted into the U.S. Constitution. On August 26, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the 19th Amendment. Its two sections read: “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” and “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” This was a victorious day, but it was only the beginning of more fights for equal rights.