Path to the Vote

1849

Michigan Senate committee proposes a universal suffrage amendment

“Universal meaning all people, both men and women, and all races, have the right to vote in all elections.” It is rejected because of the “unusualness” and “needlessness” of enfranchising women.

1850

First national women’s rights meeting held in Worcester, MA

Woman's Rights Convention

First national women’s rights meeting held in Worcester, MA attracting more than 1,000 activists from the Midwest, Northeast, and as far away as California. Organized by abolitionist Paulina Wright Davis, other attendees included Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, Abby Kelley Foster, Sojourner Truth, Ernestine Rose, Clarina Howard Nichols, and Harriet K. Hunt.

1851

Sojourner Truth delivers women’s rights speech in Akron, OH

Sojourner Truth Lecture Poster

Sojourner Truth delivers women’s rights speech in Akron, OH famously called, “Ar’n’t I a Woman?” Sojourner, formerly enslaved, spent her life as a freedperson lecturing throughout the Midwest and Eastern states on universal suffrage and economic independence for women and blacks, which she saw as linked. Truth especially felt the urgency for black women, avowing that “if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, … it will.. READ MORE

1855

Michigan Suffragists organize a petition drive

1855-1859 | Michigan Suffragists organize a petition drive led by Lenawee County Suffragists. Petitions are gathered statewide and presented to the State Legislature in 1855, 1857, and 1859. The efforts are dismissed by a House Committee “opposed to imposing upon the women of our country the politician’s sorry part, rather than the more congenial fostering of those domentic relations which now make women little more than an angel.”

1866

American Equal Rights Association (AERA) founded

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

American Equal Rights Association (AERA) founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. The organization is made up of white and black women and men dedicated to the goal of universal suffrage. Women petition Congress for a constitutional amendment that will prohibit states from disenfranchising their citizens on the basis of sex. Photographer unknown, Mrs. Stanton, 187-?, carte de visite, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

1867

Michigan women gain limited right to vote

Michigan Legislature grants women taxpayers the right to vote for school trustees. A full women’s voting rights bill is defeated 34-31.

1868

The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified

The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified and defines “citizens” and “voters” as “male.”

1869

The women’s rights movement divides

The women’s rights movement divides

The women’s rights movement divides over disagrement about whether to support the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments or push for immediate universal suffrage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the radical National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), seeking national universal suffrage. Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe form the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), supporting the amendments that enfranchised black men while adopting a state-level approach.. READ MORE

The Fifteenth Amendment is ratified by the State of Michigan

1869-1870 | The Fifteenth Amendment is ratified by the State of Michigan on March 8, 1869, with full ratification by the states by February 1870. The amendment states that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied … on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”; however, the Constitution still does not prohibit denial of suffrage based on gender. Affronted by women’s.. READ MORE

1870

Suffragists adopt new strategy of court cases using 14th Amendment.

1870-1875 | Several women–including Virginia Louisa Minor, Victoria Woodhull, and Myra Bradwell–attempt to use the Fourteenth Amendment in federal courts to secure the vote (Minor and Woodhull) or the right to practice law (Bradwell). They all are unsuccessful.

Works Consulted

The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote. Elaine Weiss. Penguin Books, 2019. 

Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote. Susan Ware. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2019. 

Sojourner Truth’s America. Margaret Washington. University of Illinois Press, 2009. 

“Declaration of Sentiments.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Report of the Woman’s Rights Convention, Held at Seneca Falls, New York, July 19 and 20, 1848. Printed by John Dick, Rochester, NY, The North Star office of Frederick Douglass, 1848. 

The History of Woman Suffrage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Gage. Vol. I: 1835-1860. New York, Fowler & Wells, 1881.  

Lucretia Mott. Diary of Her Visit to Great Britain to Attend the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840. Edited by Frederick B. Tolles, supplement no. 23, Journal of the Friends’ Historical Society. Friends’ Historical Association and Friends’ Historical Society, 1952. 

Crusade for the Vote. Online exhibit and resource. National Women’s History Museum.

Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote. June 4, 2019 – Sept. 2020. The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 

Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence. March 29, 2019  January 5, 2020. National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. 

Liberty Awakes in Washtenaw County: When Women Won the Vote. Jan. 8 – Feb. 27, 2011. The Museum on Main Street, Ann Arbor, sponsored by the Ann Arbor Area League of Women Voters.

Women’s History Timeline, The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame, Lansing, MI.

National Park Service. Women’s History Website, “19th Amendment,”, and “Suffrage in America: The 15th and 19th Amendments” series. https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/15th-and-19th-amendments.htm

“US Voting Rights Timeline,” Northern California Citizenship Project. https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/15th-and-19th-amendments.htm

“Who got the right to vote when? A History of Voting Rights in America” AlJezera.

Image Sources

William L. Clements Library Image Bank, University of Michigan.

Bentley Historical Library Image Bank, University of Michigan.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.