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Suffrage

SUFFRAGE

This entry includes 5 subentries:
Overview
Exclusion from the Suffrage
Colonial Suffrage
African American Suffrage
Woman's Suffrage

Overview

Suffrage, the right to vote on public matters, predates American history by several thousand years. Since the founding of the American colonies, definition of the breadth of suffrage has reflected a tension between the desire to legitimize political authority by permitting expressions of consent through public acts of voting and the desires and demands of various groups and individuals for public recognition and the opportunity to participate in the selection of political representatives and governmental policies. No clearer and more distinctly American example of this tension can be offered than the election of the first legislative assembly in the colony of Virginia in 1619. Nine days before the scheduled election of this representative assembly, "the Polonians resident in Virginia" successfully protested their exclusion from the upcoming election until it was agreed "that they shall be enfranchised, and made as free as any inhabitant there whatsoever."

Since 1776 the political definition of the right to vote has been contested principally over the conceptual boundary dividing eligible and ineligible voters. Until the twentieth century, state governments were largely responsible for the determination of this boundary, although local election officials participated in the enforcement and not uncommonly capricious interpretation of this legal definition. From the early national years to the Civil War, states were free to deny the right to vote with regard to a wide range of conditions, including gender, religion, race and ethnicity, citizenship, residency, tax status, wealth, literacy, mental competence, criminal conviction, and military service. States imposed and then abandoned many of these restrictions. Several states, however, never sanctioned religious or racial restrictions, and New Jersey granted women the right to vote from 1776 until 1807. Only three groups have consistently been deemed ineligible to vote: enslaved persons until 1865, and minors and nonresidents to the present.

The U.S. Constitution also has contributed to the definition of the right to vote. Article 1 requires that those deemed eligible to vote for members of a lower state legislative body are eligible to vote for members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Seventeenth Amendment (1913) extends this requirement to U.S. Senate elections. The Fourteenth Amendment (1868) offers an incentive for states to expand their voter rolls by promising to reduce a state's representation in the U.S. House and the Electoral College in proportion to the number of male citizens over twenty-one years whose voting rights are denied or abridged. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court have never enforced this constitutional provision. The Fifteenth Amendment (1870) prohibits states from denying any citizen the right to vote "on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude." This provision, however, was not enforced nationally until Congress enacted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Nineteenth Amendment (1920) prohibits the United States or the states from denying or abridging the privilege of voting "on account of sex." The Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964) prohibits states from collecting poll taxes from voters in presidential elections, and the Twenty-sixth Amendment (1971) lowers the minimum voting age to eighteen years.

Although great advances have been made to broaden the suffrage by expanding and enforcing the concept of voter eligibility, the history of voting in the United States still is overshadowed by the history of nonvoting. Indeed, whereas less than 20 percent of the population participated in national and state elections prior to 1920, the level of voter participation has exceeded 40 percent of the U.S. population only once, in 1992. Moreover, barely over half of all eligible voters vote in presidential election years and substantially less than this vote in nonpresidential election years.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Keyssar, Alexander. The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

Kromkowski, Charles. Recreating the American Republic: Rules of Apportionment, Constitutional Change, and American Political Development, 1700–1870. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Charles A.Kromkowski

See alsoVoting Rights Act of 1965 .

Exclusion from the Suffrage

It is generally estimated that because of state property and taxpaying qualifications, fewer than one-fourth of all white adult males were eligible to vote in 1787–1789, the time the U.S. Constitution was being ratified. The history of the suffrage in the United States since then has been one of steady expansion, partly through constitutional amendments and partly through legislation. The states largely abandoned the property qualifications for voting by 1850. The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, forbade

denial of the right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The Nineteenth Amendment, which was adopted in 1920, prohibited denial of the right to vote on account of sex. The poll tax was outlawed for federal elections by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment and for state elections by the Supreme Court decision in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections. The Twenty-Sixth Amendment, ratified in 1971, lowered the age limit for all federal and state voting to eighteen. Various obstacles to African American suffrage were progressively eliminated by Supreme Court decisions—for example, the white primary in 1944 (Smith v. Allwright) and the "reasonable interpretation" of the Constitution test in 1965 (Louisiana v. United States)—and by federal legislation, notably the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed literacy, educational, "good character," and voucher devices aimed at keeping black suffrage to a minimum. Thus, by 1972, all persons over eighteen, of whatever sex, color, or race, were legally entitled to vote. The remaining obstacles to voting were largely administrative in character and related to such matters as registration procedures and the times, places, and manner of holding elections.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–63. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.

Mann, Robert. The Walls of Jericho: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell, and the Struggle for Civil Rights. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996.

Phillips, Kevin, and Paul H. Blackman. Electoral Reform and Voter Participation: Federal Registration, a False Remedy for Voter Apathy. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1975.

Weisbrot, Robert. Freedom Bound: A History of America's Civil Rights Movement. New York: Norton, 1990.

Williamson, Chilton. American Suffrage: From Property to Democracy, 1760–1860. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1960.

DavidFellman/t. g.

See alsoBallot ; Literacy Test ; Massachusetts Ballot ; Preferential Voting ; Primary, White ; Suffrage: Colonial Suffrage ; Wade-Davis Bill .

Colonial Suffrage

Neither the extent nor the exercise of suffrage in colonial America can be described precisely. Voting qualifications were fixed by each colony, and in many, the requirements were changed during the colonial period. The generally accepted philosophy was the English concept that only those with "a stake in society" should vote. Each colony established some property qualification for voting for the lower house of the provincial legislature, and in each colony the upper house was almost always appointed.

The definition of freeholder in the colonies varied from colony to colony. In New York, a freehold was an estate worth forty British pounds or bearing forty shillings rent; other colonies fixed acreage rather than money definitions for the term "freehold": one hundred acres in New Jersey; fifty acres in the Carolinas, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

Many colonies had alternatives to landholding as a suffrage qualification, usually the possession of other property but sometimes mere taxpaying. An added complication was the numerous separate qualifications established for dwellers in towns and boroughs, usually lower and more liberal than the general provincial franchise. Virginia town dwellers could vote by virtue of possession of a house and lot, and in North Carolina, all taxpaying tenants and homeowners in towns and boroughs were voters. New England town qualifications were bewilderingly varied, the net effect being to admit virtually all the adult male inhabitants to the franchise.

Limitations of race, sex, age, and residence were more often the result of custom than of law. Generally, Jews and Roman Catholics were barred, usually by their inability to take the English test oaths with regard to the Anglican Church. Maryland and New York specifically barred Catholics by statute, and New York excluded Jews by law in 1737. These prohibitions were not always enforced. Jews appear on New York City voting lists in 1768 and 1769, and Catholics voted in Virginia in 1741 and 1751. Women were excluded by statute only in four colonies, but there is rare evidence that any ever voted anywhere. The age qualification was almost universally twenty-one, but in Massachusetts, suffrage was confined to twenty-four-year-olds in the seventeenth century and sometimes extended to nineteen-year-olds in the eighteenth century. Pennsylvania's two-year residence requirement was the most stringent; other colonies usually demanded six months or a year. Slaves and indentured servants were invariably denied the franchise, and in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia, freed blacks as well. Indians did vote at times in Massachusetts.

The number of adult males who qualified as voters under these requirements can only be estimated. Probably 50 to 75 percent of the adult male population could qualify as freeholders, and in some colonies up to 80 or 90 percent as freeholders or freemen. The relative ease of obtaining land in America and the high rate of wages opened the door fairly wide to those persons who sought the franchise. Suffrage limitations do not appear to have been a grievance in any of the popular protest movements that developed during the colonial period. On the other hand, this rather broadly based electorate usually voted into office a narrowly based leadership and deferred to its judgment in running the colonies' political affairs.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bailyn, Bernard. The Origins of American Politics. New York: Knopf, 1968.

Maier, Pauline. From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765–1776. New York: Knopf, 1972.

Williamson, Chilton. American Suffrage: From Property to Democracy, 1760–1860. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1960.

Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: Knopf. 1992.

Milton M.Klein/a. g.

See alsoBallot ; Literacy Test ; Massachusetts Ballot ; Preferential Voting ; Primary, White ; Suffrage: Exclusion from the Suffrage .

African American Suffrage

Throughout the American colonial era, racial distinctions were not the principal legal or conventional means employed to restrict the right to vote or to hold office. The concepts of "freeman" and "freeholder," as well as gender, age, religion, and wealth requirements, ensured that the number of individuals eligible to vote remained small relative to the population. Among those eligible, however, adult African American male propertyholders were permitted to and did cast ballots in at least South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. In the eighteenth century, a few colonies devised and adopted race-based restrictions, but the right to vote in other colonies remained free of similar limitations.

The American Revolution did not prompt a radical redefinition of the right to vote. In 1786, only two of the original thirteen states, Georgia and South Carolina, expressly restricted voting privileges to the eligible white population. The U.S. Constitution, written in 1787, recognized the authority of the states to define the right to vote. Between 1776 and 1860, about one-third of the states permitted voting by free African American adult males. Race-based voter eligibility restrictions became increasingly more common in the nineteenth century, especially among the states admitted into the Union after 1787. Among the twenty non-original states added before the American Civil War, only Vermont, Maine, and temporarily Kentucky (1792–1799) and Tennessee (1796–1834) did not explicitly limit voting rights to "free," "white" males.


Ironically, as states gradually broadened their electorates by abandoning their original property, tax payment, and religion requirements, many added explicitly racialist definitions of the right to vote into their state constitutions. The 1858 Oregon constitution, for example, expressly prescribed that "No Negro, Chinaman, or mulatto, shall have the right of suffrage." By 1860, free African American adult males were legally able to vote in only five states. A sixth state, New York, imposed racially based registration and property restrictions in 1811 and 1821, effectively curtailing African American voting. In 1849, Wisconsin voters approved a legislature-endorsed act extending the right to vote to African American males, but a state elections board refused to recognize the new eligibility standard; as a result, this statutory grant did not become effective until after the Civil War. Although formidable, constitutional, statutory, and administrative bars against voting were not always fully enforced, especially at the local level. Indeed African Americans voted in Maryland as late as 1810, although they were denied the right in a 1783 statute and again by an amendment in 1801 to the state constitution; and John Mercer Langston, though denied voting rights by Ohio's constitution, was elected a township clerk in 1855, thereby becoming the first African American elected official in the United States.

Reconstruction

Neither the Civil War nor ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (1865), which banned slavery, altered the racially discriminatory prewar understanding of the right to vote. In the South, this recalcitrance was not surprising; until the federal government imposed military rule over the region in 1867, these states were governed by many of the proslavery state political elites who had engineered and supported secession in 1860 and 1861. Suffrage reform, it must be noted, also was not forthcoming in many Northern states. In the immediate wake of the Civil War, legislatures and voters in nine Northern states rejected state constitutional amendments that extended voting rights to African Americans. Abolitionist activists like Frederick Douglass and members of the Republican controlled U.S. Congress, however, continued to push for national suffrage reform, advocating and enacting numerous Reconstruction acts and the Fourteenth Amendment (1868). The latter constitutional amendment recognized African Americans as full citizens of the United States, guaranteed all persons equal protection of the law, and provided a mechanism for reducing a state's federal representation if it denied or abridged voting rights to any eligible male voters. Congress never used the latter mechanism, but it made ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment a precondition for readmission of each secessionist

state into Congress. Under the leadership of the Republicans, Congress additionally enacted the Fifteenth Amendment. Ratified in 1870, this amendment barred states from denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, and it empowered Congress with the legislative authority to enforce this amendment.

The federal government's Reconstruction program and commitment to African American voting rights supported dramatic changes in the states that had been placed under military rule. By 1868, more than 800,000 African Americans had registered to vote as did approximately 660,000 eligible white voters. In addition to exercising their newly acquired right to vote, African American males also participated in political party and state constitutional conventions, and as elected and appointed state and local government officials. Between 1869 and 1901, twenty African Americans also served as U.S. Representatives and Blanche K. Bruce and Hiram R. Revels represented Mississippi as the first and only African American U.S. senators until Edward Brooke represented Massachusetts in the Senate from 1967 until 1979.

These electoral reforms and political achievements, however, were repeatedly resisted, tempered, and eventually overcome by the organized violence, voter intimidation, and electoral fraud tactics employed by white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and their various political supporters. In Louisiana alone, more than 2,000 were killed or injured before the 1868 presidential election. The same year in Georgia, white legislators gained control over the state legislature by fraudulently expelling thirty legally elected African American state legislators. Congress responded to these and similar events, compiling testimony from the individuals affected, proposing the Fifteenth Amendment, and enacting additional enforcement legislation in 1870, 1871, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Resistance to African American suffrage continued in the South, becoming politically acceptable and increasingly invidious with each success. The federal government's role in the Reconstruction of the South also decreased after the contested 1876 presidential election of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and the subsequent withdrawal of federal supervision and military protection of the right to vote. Over the next four decades, southern state legislatures, governors, judiciaries, and numerous local governments systematically enacted and supported segregationist policies and electoral devices designed to accomplish under the cover of law what the Fifteenth Amendment expressly prohibited. These devices included locally administered registration laws; literacy, understanding of the Constitution, and character tests; cumulative poll taxes; criminal disenfranchisements; white party primary elections; closed political party membership rules; racially skewed redistricting plans; and so-called grandfather clauses, which effectively exempted some white voters from state voter restrictions. As a result of these exclusionary devices and practices, the number and political weight of African American voters declined substantially in every Southern state and the region fell under the one-party political domination of the Democratic Party. As Figure 1 reveals, the exclusion of African Americans from the electorate and the concomitant loss of party competition throughout the South depressed voter turnout from the 1870s to 1919.

The Twentieth Century

At the beginning of the twentieth century, civil rights activists like W. E. B. Du Bois and civil rights organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), established in 1909, initiated and sustained more organized private efforts to protect and to restore African American civil rights. Many of the initial successes of these efforts were achieved in litigation that challenged the constitutionality of state voting restrictions. In Guinn and Beal v. United States (1915), for example, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma literacy tests but found the state's grandfather clause to be an unconstitutional attempt to evade the Fifteenth Amendment. In Nixon v. Herndon (1927) and Nixon v. Condon (1932), the Court determined that all-white primary systems were unconstitutional if they were authorized by state action. Subsequently, in U.S. v. Classic (1941) and Smith v. Allwright (1944), the Supreme Court ruled against the constitutionality of all-white primary elections. In Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960), the Court furthered the dismantling of state-supported disfranchisement schemes when it struck down a local Alabama redistricting plan that intentionally discriminated against African Americans.

Many factors, including long-term emigration patterns and the immediate need to desegregate the U.S. military during World War II, renewed congressional interest in civil and voting rights reform in the 1940s. In 1942, Congress exempted U.S. soldiers from state voter poll taxes, but state senators in the South repeatedly rejected or filibustered legislative efforts to broaden civil rights guarantees over the next two decades. Despite the setbacks in Congress, civil rights and voting rights reformers pursued their goals by mobilizing and orchestrating public protests and demonstrations throughout the South. Finally, in 1957 and 1960, Congress managed to enact two new Civil Rights Acts. The legislation created the United States Civil Rights Commission and authorized litigation by the U.S. Attorney General against voting rights violations. The Commission proved especially useful because it gathered and reported statistics that detailed the extent to which African Americans remained excluded from participating in U.S. elections. In 1962, Congress responded by endorsing the Twenty-fourth Amendment, which, when ratified two years later, banned state poll taxes required for voting in federal elections. Civil rights demonstrations and voter registration drives continued throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, although they often were met with local and sometimes lethal levels of violence. In 1964, Congress enacted a more expansive and enforceable Civil Rights Act, and in the aftermath of nationally televised attacks against a peaceful civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, President Lyndon Johnson and Congress approved the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The act banned literacy tests and other racially discriminatory devices, and it guaranteed direct federal supervision of voter registration, voting procedures, and elections in seven southern states and several non-southern states as well. In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act and extended the ban on poll taxes to state elections.

Congress amended and extended the protections of the Voting Rights Act in 1970, 1975, and 1982. In the states and jurisdictions covered by the act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and its amendments had immediate and lasting effects upon African American voter registration, electoral participation, and political office holding. In Mississippi, for example, the voting age percentage of the nonwhite population registered to vote increased from 6.7 to 59.8 percent between 1965 and 1967. Today African Americans register and vote at rates approximately similar to other ethnic groups. Federal protection of African American voting rights also has supported increases in the number of African American elected officials. In 1967, more than 200 African Americans were elected to state and local offices in southern states—twice the number elected before the act. Today, there are thirty-eight African American members of Congress, almost 600 African American state legislators, and more than 8,400 locally elected officials.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Davidson, Chandler, and Bernard Grofman, eds. Quiet Revolution in the South: The Impact of the Voting Rights Act, 1965–1990. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Goldman, Robert M. Reconstruction and Black Suffrage: Losing the Vote in Reese and Cruikshank. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001.

Keyssar, Alexander. The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

Kousser, J. Morgan. Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Kromkowski, Charles. Recreating the American Republic: Rules of Apportionment, Constitutional Change, and American Political Development, 1700–1870. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Charles A.Kromkowski

See alsoCivil Rights Act of 1957 ; Civil Rights Act of 1964 ; Civil Rights Movement ; Reconstruction ; Voting Rights Act of 1965 andvol. 9:An Interview with Fannie Lou Hamer .

Woman's Suffrage

The history of woman's suffrage in America begins with a seventeenth-century businesswoman, Margaret Brent. Brent, a Catholic immigrant to the colony of Maryland, was a property owner and the executrix and attorney of the estate of the Maryland governor Leonard Calvert. In 1648, Brent demanded the right to two votes in the Maryland General Assembly. The first vote she claimed for herself, the second as the legal representative of the extensive Calvert estate. At the time, the colony faced political uncertainty caused by financial problems and a considerable amount of religious strife, and the General Assembly denied her claim to both votes. Brent protested her exclusion and the subsequent proceedings of the assembly, and she soon moved and settled permanently in Virginia. Although Brent's original bid for voting rights failed, women voted in several eighteenth-century colonial elections. The available evidence suggests that all of these women were widowed property owners.

Voting Rights from the Revolution to Reconstruction

After 1776, a larger but still comparatively small number of women voted more regularly in New Jersey elections until 1807, when the state amended its constitution to expressly prohibit woman's suffrage. Thereafter and with few exceptions until 1869, American women were barred from voting in all federal, state, and local elections. One noteworthy local exception to this exclusionary past was Kentucky's 1838 grant permitting voting privileges in school board elections to all propertied widows with school-age children.

Efforts to gain the right to vote for American women advanced in 1848 with the calling of a convention to meet in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss the "social, civil and religious rights of women." Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and others, and inspired by the abolitionist movement and the ideals of Quakerism and the Declaration of Independence, more than three hundred women and men attended. The Seneca Falls Convention included numerous speeches and Stanton and Mott's famous "Declaration of Sentiments," which proclaimed "that all men and women are created equal." Participants also resolved "it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise." Similar conventions were held in the 1850s, promoting greater public awareness and a network of suffrage advocates and supporters. Still women's suffragists had limited political success before the outbreak of the Civil War. In fact, only Michigan in 1855 and Kansas in 1861 extended school board election voting rights to women, and the Kansas Supreme Court voided the latter right in 1875.

The end of the war and the concomitant need for fundamental changes in the United States and many state


constitutions created opportunities for many types of social, economic, and political change. Woman's suffragists lobbied members of Congress, state legislators, Republican party leaders, and abolitionist groups with the hope of garnering support for their cause. Despite these efforts, neither Congress nor the others advocated extending voting rights to women in any of the Reconstruction amendments proposed and subsequently added to the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) explicitly recognizes the power of states to deny the right to vote to "male inhabitants," a gender-specific description of voting rights not found in the original Constitution that must have discouraged woman's suffragists and intensified their subsequent lobbying efforts in Congress. Interestingly, the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) employed gender-neutral language, barring state denial or abridgment of "the right of citizens of the United States to vote" based upon race, color, or previous condition of servitude—thus leaving open the possibility for future state extensions of the right to vote to women.

Woman's Suffrage Organizations

Failure to achieve support in Congress for a constitutional right to vote divided woman's suffrage activists for the next twenty years. In 1869, Elizabeth Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and others established the National Woman's Suffrage Association (NWSA). Unsatisfied with the results of their initial lobbying efforts, Stanton, Anthony, and the NWSA withheld support for the ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, thereby severing themselves from other suffragists as well as many of their former abolitionist and Republican allies. Under the leadership of Stanton and Anthony, the NWSA continued to work for a national constitutional amendment, focusing most of the energies and talents of the organization upon lobbying the United States Congress. These organizational investments, however, yielded both mixed and modest results. For example, between 1869 and 1888 members of Congress submitted eighteen constitutional amendments designed to extend voting rights to women, yet most of these proposals received little consideration and none won legislative approval in either the House or the Senate.

Outside of Congress, the NWSA experimented with other tactics, including a reform strategy involving civil disobedience and the federal judiciary. In 1872, Anthony and others succeeded in their efforts to be arrested for attempting to vote in state elections. Their trials attracted a considerable amount of attention to the suffrage movement and, in one case, a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Minor v. Happersett (1875). In Minor, however, the Court decisively rejected the claim that the term "citizens" in the Fourteenth Amendment granted the right to vote to women. The Court's decision was another setback for the NWSA, and it also signaled the Court's subsequent and similarly narrow reading of the individual rights protected by the Fifteenth Amendment.


Suffrage advocates not aligned with the NWSA pursued their reform agenda within other organizations, including the American Woman's Suffrage Association (AWSA). Established in 1869, the AWSA directed most of its efforts toward achieving state suffrage reforms. Like the NWSA, the AWSA achieved limited success in its first twenty years. By 1889, women could vote in school-related elections in about twenty states and territorial governments; in four territorial states—Wyoming (1969), Utah (1870), Washington (1883), and Montana (1887)—women possessed equivalent voting rights with men. Unification of the NWSA and AWSA in 1890 produced the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), but during the next two decades the new organization achieved limited success. Although additional states extended woman's suffrage in school, municipal, tax, or bond elections, by 1910 only five states—Wyoming (1890), Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), Idaho (1896), and Washington (1910)—guaranteed women the right to vote in all elections.

Despite these limited results, the NAWSA and various state organizations persisted with their lobbying and grassroots efforts. The persistence paid greater dividends in the 1910s as other social, economic, and political conditions fortuitously converged to accelerate the progress of the woman's suffrage movement. An early indicator of this future was President William H. Taft's decision to speak at the NAWSA 1910 annual convention. Taft declined to offer an explicit endorsement of woman's suffrage, but his presence and speech sent a different message to both the public and NAWSA members. Another significant indicator was the Progressive party's public endorsement of woman's suffrage in 1912, for although it yielded limited immediate results, the endorsement underscored the long-term electoral and partisan stakes associated with the reform's enactment. Woman's suffragists, to be sure, also benefited greatly from the new environments created by industrialization and urbanization and from increased public interest in political reform and other social movements. By 1917, not only had the NAWSA membership increased to 2 million, twelve additional states had approved woman's suffrage since 1910, increasing the total to seventeen states and adding both legitimacy and electoral consequences to the suffrage reform.

Throughout the decade, and especially after 1915, leaders of national woman's suffrage organizations like Carrie Chapman Catt of the NAWSA and Alice Paul and Lucy Burns of the Congressional Union, an organization established in 1913, began to focus their efforts upon winning congressional approval of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In addition to conducting a traditional lobbying campaign, the NAWSA and other organizations employed many of the tactics successfully used to achieve state constitutional reforms: authorizing and orchestrating mass marches, petition campaigns, and political candidate endorsements designed to exert electoral pressures upon the national political parties and members of Congress. In 1917, the National Women's Party, another new and decidedly more militant woman's suffrage organization, initiated a series of widely publicized protests and arrests at the White House. Many of the protesters chained themselves to the White House fence and some went on hunger strikes during their imprisonment. By January 1918, the combination of these various efforts with others associated with the United States involvement in World War I set the conditions within which President Woodrow Wilson issued his endorsement of a national constitutional amendment. The U.S. House of Representatives quickly followed the president, agreeing by the required two-thirds majority to send the woman's suffrage amendment on to the states for ratification. The Senate, however, balked initially, stalling the amendment in Congress until June 1919, when it, too, finally endorsed the Nineteenth Amendment. Slightly more than a year later the thirty-sixth state, or the three-quarters of the states required by the U.S. Constitution, ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. The amendment, in part, provides that "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."

Ironically, ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment did not produce dramatic national- or state-level changes in policies or party affiliation. The Nineteenth Amendment, however, did have immediate and permanent effects upon the American political landscape, bolstering its democratic characteristics and tendencies by nearly doubling the number of voters in almost every election except those occurring in southern states.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Andersen, Kristi. After Suffrage: Women in Partisan and Electoral Politics before the New Deal. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996.

Dinkin, Robert J. Voting in Provincial America: A Study of Elections in the Thirteen Colonies, 1689–1776. Westport, Conn.: Westview, 1977.

DuBois, Ellen Carol. Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848–1869. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1978.

Harvey, Anna L. Votes Without Leverage: Women in American Electoral Politics, 1920–1970. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Keyssar, Alexander. The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

Kromkowski, Charles. Recreating the American Republic: Rules of Apportionment, Constitutional Change and American Political Development, 1700–1870. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Charles A.Kromkowski

See alsovol. 9:Path Breaking ; The Seneca Falls Declaration of Rights and Sentiments .

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suffrage

suffrage. Since suffrage (the right to vote) can be the key to political power, it has been contentious since representative institutions came into being. The original county franchise seems to have included all freemen, whether freeholders or not. But an Act of Henry VI's reign in 1429 declared that ‘great, outrageous and excessive numbers of people … of small substance and of no value’ were voting at elections, and went on to limit the franchise to freeholders with land worth 40 shillings a year, free of all charges. This remained the franchise until 1832. But the effect of inflation, particularly in the Tudor period, was to weaken the qualification and increase the total electorate. The issue became lively after the Civil War. At the Putney army debates, Cromwell and Ireton opposed Rainborough and the radicals who pressed for a great extension of the franchise: where would it end, demanded Cromwell, if men ‘who have no interest but the interest of breathing’ were given the vote? In fact the subsequent Commonwealth regime cut the franchise dramatically to £200 p.a. property, though the old franchise was restored in 1660. Shaftesbury was still complaining in 1679 that ‘men of mean and abject fortune’ were voting.

In parliamentary boroughs the franchise had always varied but there were four main groups—corporation, freeman, burgage, and inhabitant householder. They ranged from Westminster, Bristol, and Coventry with thousands of voters, to Gatton, a rotten borough with two voters, and Malmesbury, where the thirteen members of the corporation elected the two MPs. The Scottish representation was extremely narrow, before and after the Union of 1707. The burgh electorate totalled some 1,250, the counties about 2,500. In the whole country, there were fewer voters than in Suffolk.

In the 18th cent. arguments for extending the franchise were heard with increasing frequency without quite getting onto the political agenda. Wilkes argued in 1776 that ‘the meanest mechanic, the poorest peasant and day labourer’ was entitled to a vote, but nobody supported him and Lord North retorted that he was surely ‘not serious’. From 1832 onwards, however, a number of measures, several of them claiming to be final, enlarged the suffrage to full democracy. By the Great Reform Act the urban franchise was made uniform at the £10 householder level, and in the counties the £50 copyholder was brought in to join the freeholders. The Scottish electorate rose from some 5,000 to 65,000. Radicals were far from satisfied and within a few years manhood suffrage was one of the six points of the charter. It was strenuously opposed, Macaulay insisting in 1842 that universal suffrage was ‘utterly incompatible with the very existence of civilization’. The second Reform Act of 1867 moved one step closer, giving the vote to borough householders, including many working men, and the 1884 Act, by extending the same franchise to the counties, brought the total electorate to well over 5 million. The introduction of secret ballot in 1872 had freed voters from landlord or employer influence, though many continued to vote deferentially.

By the later 19th cent. the campaign to give the vote to women was well under way, though they had to wait until 1918, and then were given the vote only if they were over 30. The electorate was more than doubled and, at 22 million, was fast approaching that universal suffrage Macaulay had so much feared. Women under 30 gained the vote in 1929 and in 1969 the inclusion of persons between 18 and 21 brought in another 3 million new voters. The electorate in 2001 was estimated at more than 44 million (England and Wales just over 39 million, Scotland just under 4 million, Northern Ireland just over 1 million) out of a population of 56 million. Of these, 32,800,000 or some 75 per cent cast their votes. The vote is not available to convicted felons or certified lunatics, but is granted to resident citizens of the Republic of Eire.

J. A. Cannon

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suffrage

suf·frage / ˈsəfrij/ • n. 1. the right to vote in political elections. ∎ archaic a vote given in assent to a proposal or in favor of the election of a particular person. 2. (usu. suffrages) a series of intercessory prayers or petitions.

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suffrage

suffrage pl. (intercessory) prayers XIV; vote XVI. — L. suffrāgium, partly through F. suffrage; of uncert. orig.

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suffrage

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Suffrage

SUFFRAGE

The right to vote at public elections.

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suffrage

suffrage See franchise

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suffrage

suffragecarriage, disparage, Harwich, intermarriage, marriage, miscarriage •undercarriage •cartridge, partridge •Selfridge • Cambridge • Bainbridge •Knightsbridge • umpirage •borage, forage, Norwich, porridge •Oxbridge • storage • drawbridge •Trowbridge • tollbridge • footbridge •courage, demurrage, encourage •umbrage • suffrage •peerage, steerage •sewerage • moorage •harbourage (US harborage) •pasturage • pilferage • anchorage •acreage • vicarage • brokerage •cellarage • Coleridge •haemorrhage (US hemorrhage) •amperage • factorage • hectarage •litreage (US literage), metreage (US meterage) • fosterage •porterage, quarterage •tutorage • average •beverage, Beveridge •leverage • overage • coverage

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