The NCSL Blog


By Martha Saenz

Today (Aug. 26) marks the 100th  anniversary of the 19 Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, becoming law. To celebrate this historic event in U.S. history, the Women’s Legislative Network (WLN) held a celebratory event highlighting the past, present and future of honoring women. View the presentation. 

women's suffrage marchStates played a pivotal role in the passage of the 19th Amendment. Five decades before it became the law of the land, Wyoming passed the right to vote. Colorado, Utah, and Idaho followed. Colorado’s Clara Cressingham, Carrie Holly and Frances Klock were the first women to serve in a state legislature.  They were elected in 1894, the year after Colorado passed legislation allowing women the right to vote, 26 years before it was granted nationally.

Last week, the Tennessee legislature hosted a reenactment to celebrate its role in being the 36th state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment by a vote on Aug. 18, 1920.  The vote that changed the course of history came down to the youngest member of the Tennessee house, 24 year-old Rep. Harry Burns who decided to switch his tie vote and listen to his mother who wrote a letter telling him to support the measure. 

The right for women of color to vote would come over the next four decades and major obstacles would be addressed in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As we look to the future, at the 2,145 women in state legislatures across the country, the WLN wonders if the average 29 percent representation of women will increase in November. Nevada is the only state where over 50 percent of the legislators are women.

The WLN event included presentations regarding how women collaborate through the formation of caucuses and the history of women’s suffrage in Kansas and Utah. During the WLN event, lawmakers across the country discussed the role of statutes, portraits and monuments that honor women as pioneers in the country.

This week Salt Lake City unveiled a sculpture facing Utah’s state capitol honoring women who fought for the right to vote, including quotes from Serap Young, the first woman to cast a ballot. Over half the states have statues honoring real women who played a pivotal role in history. To share stories about monuments honoring women in your state, please email Martha Saenz.  

Martha Saenz is a program manager in NCSL's Quad Caucus and Women’s Legislative Network.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.