The 19th Amendment and its Legacy
Susan B. Anthony National Suffrage Amendment Handbill James F. Willard Collection / COU:1730:02:035:001
A national women's suffrage amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878. The persistence of activists ensured such a proposal repeatedly returned; it was fondly dubbed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment as numbers 16, 17, and 18 went to other causes. On May 21, 1919 women's suffrage passed in the House of Representatives. It was approved by the Senate two weeks later. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, it was adopted into law.
With the ratification of the 19th amendment, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) dissolved. Members reestablished themselves under Carrie Chapman Catt as the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization committed to promoting civic awareness and participation. The League of Women Voters remains active today, defending voter rights and advocating for perennial issues including education and equal opportunity.
A Colorado chapter was founded in 1928, its board members overseeing local leagues in Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Greeley. CU Special Collections and Archives holds records of the Colorado League of Women Voters (COU: 974) as well as those of the Boulder Valley chapter (COU: 206).
Although the 19th amendment secured their right to vote, women of color continued to face obstacles to civic engagement. Voter suppression policies of the Jim Crow era, including poll taxes and literacy tests, prevented many people of color from casting their ballot. It was not until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (on the heels of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) that such discrimination was expressly prohibited. Over the years, the law was weakened by revisions. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, which reaffirmed and strengthened the original legislation, passed in the House of Representatives in December 2019. The following July it was re-named the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020, in honor of the late congressman and civil rights activist. As of this writing, the Act has not been taken up by the Senate.