The Nineteenth Amendment

Women's suffrage map

Map of women’s suffrage before the 19th Amendment. Created by Madison County Historical Museum and Archival Library Staff. Based on similar map in: Bailey, Thomas A. The American Pageant: A History of the Republic. [Boston: D.C. Heath, 1967?].

After helping win the fight for an Illinois constitutional convention, Anna Wilkinson of Alton shifted her energies toward the campaign for national suffrage by means of an amendment to the United States Constitution. She was joined by Angie Schweppe, previously active in the American Woman’s League and president of the Alton Woman’s Council.

The efforts of women like Wilkinson and Schweppe and countless others paid off. Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment on June 4, 1919. But there was no rest for the suffragists: now they had to convince at least 36 states to ratify it. Illinois was the very first state to do so (however, due to a “typo” it didn’t count; by the time it was corrected six other states had already stepped up).∗∗ With ratification by Tennessee on August 18, 1920, the amendment became part of the Constitution. Women had full and equal suffrage at last.

Be attentive every sister! Hear ye not the ringing note
Loudly pealing forth to womankind that Justice needs her vote;
The Nation’s starry emblem o’er no right denied shall float,
And calls us to the fray.

(Chorus)

Hear the call for Woman’s freedom!
Help the world through Woman’s freedom!
Strike the hour of Woman’s freedom!
Her right shall win the day.

Would they lull us with the legend of the ivy and the oak?
‘Tis the ivy ‘round the home we love whose spirit we invoke.
In its name we’ll cast, forever off repression’s galling yoke
And end its blighting sway.

(Chorus)

Let us grasp the ballot firmly, and its gift to all demand;
It will be a flaming sword of might, upheld in woman’s hand.
And its stroke shall win for righteousness o’er all our hallowed land;
Then use it all who may.

—Song composed by Philip Tindall (Angie Schweppe’s nephew) and sung at a meeting of the Alton Woman’s Council in March 1919. Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 15, 1919.


For more about Anna Wilkinson, see exhibit pages An Illinois Constitutional Convention and Postscripts.

∗∗Illinois really wanted to be the first to ratify. House Joint Resolution 29 passed unanimously in the Senate and with three opposing House votes on June 10, 1919. But the phrase “all events and purposes” in the Resolution was supposed to read “all intents and purposes.” Once the error was found, the vote was retaken on a corrected version (House Joint Resolution 31). By that time—June 17, 1919—Illinois had missed the chance to go down in history as the first to endorse the Nineteenth Amendment.

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