Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Today marks the centennial anniversary of the formal adoption of the 19th Amendment into the U.S. Constitution. This landmark victory—which granted women the constitutional right to vote— was the culmination of more than 70 years of persistent and determined work by suffragists to ensure women enjoyed the same right as their male counterparts to cast ballots in elections and make their voices heard on questions of representation and public policy. Generations of women fought to achieve this milestone.

The women’s suffrage movement dates back to 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first women’s rights convention in Stanton, New York. The fight for constitutional change flourished in the decades following, and women suffragists and advocates alike publicly demonstrated through protests, silent vigils and even hunger strikes to demand change. 

While women’s suffrage saw little progress at the federal level initially, efforts to modify state suffrage requirements progressed. Advancement at the state level is largely attributed to the development of women’s suffrage organizations and the influential work of their members. Two such groups formed in Arkansas: the Arkansas Women Suffrage Association in 1881 and the Political Equality League in 1911. Leaders of these two organizations tirelessly lobbied the Arkansas State Legislature for an equal suffrage law and eventually saw success in 1918 when women won the right to vote in Arkansas primary elections. However, the fight was not over.

In 1919, Congress passed the Susan B. Anthony amendment, which became the 19th amendment, pushing the bill to the states for ratification. In overwhelming support of women’s suffrage, Arkansas became the 12th state to ratify the amendment and other states quickly followed. 

Thirteen years later, Arkansas voters helped break the glass ceiling for women legislators when they elected Hattie Caraway to serve in the U.S. Senate. She became the first woman to win election to the Senate in 1932. Her portrait hangsoutside of the U.S. Senate chamber as a reminder of the trail she blazed for future generations of women.

As we celebrate 100 years of the ratification of the 19th amendment, we recognize the pioneers who championed women’s rights and those who continue to fight for opportunities granted by the American promise.