There are a small handful of women whose names you likely associate with the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are two of the few, if not only, women often celebrated for their accomplishments in attaining women’s right to vote. While their roles in the movement were instrumental, they did not act alone. There are far more than a handful of women who played a significant role in women’s voting rights whose names are often forgotten from our history books.
The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution marks a significant milestone in American history for many reasons. In its simplest terms, this amendment prohibited state and federal governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on sex and in turn gave women the right to vote. It mirrored the 15th Amendment which gave black men the right to vote, stating voting rights could not be prohibited based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” However, passing the 19th Amendment was far from simple. A bill for women’s voting rights was first introduced in 1878. It was rejected and continued to be rejected when it was reintroduced every year for the next 41 years. But even when that bill was passed in 1920, it did not guarantee the right of every woman in the United States to vote.
The suffragette movement in the United states has a contentious history with the civil rights movement. While the two should seemingly work in tandem — two disenfranchised groups working to gain basic civil liberties — racism within the suffragette movement often prioritized the rights of white women over the rights of people of color, women of color included. In fact, most Asian American women and man were barred from citizenship until the early 1950s, preventing them from voting among other civil rights.
Voter suppression is also problem that persists today, preventing people — primarily black people — from voting. Because the criminal justice system incarcerates people of color at disproportionate rate, a significant portion of black people cannot vote. So, while everyone, in theory, has the right to vote, systemic barriers and actual accessibility prevent this from happening in practice.
History has a habit of only remembering the people in power, of giving a small handful full credit while ignoring the work of others. There are many women whose work helped make the 19th Amendment happen. Here are seven whose names you should remember.