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Epigraphs: The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Part VI, Chapter 20

At the dawn of woman’s political power in America. This phrase by Maud Younger, is the epigraph for The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Chapter 20, On the Brink: March-June 1919

The chapter title, “On the Brink” reflects the fact that 271 years after Mistress Margaret Brent demanded and was denied two votes, it appeared that the Sixty-Sixth Congress would pass a federal woman suffrage amendment. It had to be re-passed by the House of Representatives and passed by the Senate. Representative James Robert Mann from Illinois, the man who had left his sick bed to vote for the amendment on Jan. 10, 1918, was the new chair of the House Woman Suffrage Committee. He assured Maud Wood Park, NAWSA’s chief lobbyist,

that he would get the amendment passed. And he did on May 21, 1919. 

Now, the fight moved to the Senate. On June 3, 1919, a hot and humid day in Washington, D. C., the Senate Gallery was filled with suffragists. Confident of victory and eager to vote, only a few pro-suffrage senators spoke. Opponents voiced their anti-suffrage amendment tirades: states’ rights; fear of enfranchising “the dark sisters of the South”; and the “menace to the peace and welfare of the Nation.” Four amendments to the amendment, including one to enfranchise only white women, were voted on and defeated. On June 4,

the final roll-call began on a proposed amendment to the Constitution that 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.”

The final vote was 56 yeas, 25 nays, just two votes more than required. Maud Wood Park “sat still trying to realize” that—”The end of the fight in Congress had come.” Maud Younger later wrote that she, along with Elizabeth Selden Rogers and other veterans of the fight, “walked slowly homeward, talking a little, silent a great deal. . . .We were at the dawn of woman’s political power in America.”

Images: From top to bottom: Banner headline, Great Falls Daily Tribune, Great Falls, Montana, May 22, 1919, p.1; double photograph, The Washington Times, Washington, D.C., June 5, 1919, p. 2. This is a rare, indeed, perhaps one-of-a-kind photograph pairing the two national woman’s suffrage organizations that had split in 1914 and employed divergent, sometimes contradictory, and often controversial strategies and tactics. Top caption: “Group of lobbyists of the National Woman’s Party and Senator Jones of Washington. These women conducted a six-year fight for the Federal suffrage amendment. From left to right: Mrs. William Kent, Mrs. Richard Wainwright, Senator Jones, Miss Maud Younger, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker.” Bottom caption: “Members of the Congressional Committee of the National America Woman’s Suffrage Association who presented the suffrage bill which was passed by the Senate yesterday. From left to right: Mrs. Mabel Willard, of Massachusetts; Mrs. Edmund Post, of Kentucky; Mrs. Helen Gardiner, of this city; Mrs. Maud Wood Park, of Massachusetts; Mrs. Lewis Walker of New Jersey; Miss Marjorie Shuler, of New York; Mrs. Caroline Reilly, of Illinois. The phrase in the bottom caption—”who presented the suffrage bill”—reflected the rivalry between the two groups as to claiming credit. In fact, both groups conducted strenuous and effective campaigns in Congress. It was Senator James Eli Watson from Indiana, the new chair of the Senate’s Woman Suffrage Committee, who “presented” the woman suffrage amendment for a roll-call vote.  In the top image, Senator Jones, i.e., Andrieus Aristieus Jones from New Mexico, was the previous chair of the Woman Suffrage Committee. Note that Mrs. Kent, i.e. Elizabeth Thacher Kent, is holding an open fan. (Click on image to enlarge.)

The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight is available in paperback and eBook.

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