Nineteenth Amendment

Original Airdates: November 2, 3, 5 (2010)

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.

For more than a century, the majority of American women were denied the right to vote. Scores of determined suffragettes who wanted to reverse this injustice spoke out through publications, lectures, rallies, and appearances before legislators. Finally, these efforts paid off with the ratification in August 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment, which states, "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."

Anna Gladys Jenkins Casimir was a student at Baylor in 1920 and recalls events surrounding the ratification:

"I remember parades they had in Waco, and there were a lot of women dressed in white on a float, and they were carrying banners or saying, ‘We want the right to vote,' or something like that. I remember how thrilled my mother was that she got to vote in the 1920 election. She was interested in voting in the gubernatorial election as well as the national election. She was thrilled that she could vote."

Martha Lena Emmons, also a student at Baylor during the amendment's adoption, describes an editorial cartoon concerning women's suffrage:

"But I remember one cartoon that I saw one time (laughs) where there was a lady policeman in Chicago—I believe was the newspaper that had it. And a cartoon came out, showed an old bum with a lady with a policeman's costume on, and she had a hat pin. And she said, ‘Now, get a move on.' And this old bum said, ‘Who say that the pin ain't mightier than the sword?' (laughs) And she was prodding him along with a hat pin. But, oh, that'd been the latest/there'd been the ladies(??) movement always, you know."

Emmons explains her reaction to the new law:

I remember very well here in Baylor that Mrs. Russell, who was an aide of Mrs. Claypool, was lecturing to us one time or talking with a group of us about how to vote and where to vote and the responsibility of voting. She said, ‘I did not seek it, but it's our responsibility now,' and that was sort of—oh, it's always been my attitude: (interviewer sneezes) I didn't seek it, but we had it, and it's our responsibility. And the tragedy of it has been that a great many have not bothered to exercise this privilege which they fit, bled, and died to get and all that sort of thing. But so is true of any of our privileges."

Interviewer: "Do you recall your first vote?"

"Very well! I don't know how I would have made it if Pa Davis hadn't shown me what to do. I was teaching in Calvert, Texas, and we went down to the city hall to vote. And Mr. Davis, whom we called Pa Davis because we took our meals over there and they were just such a sweet old couple that looked after us and called us 'our kids,' their kids and all that. And when I saw him over there helping run that thing, oh, I just felt so relieved. And I dashed over, and I said, ‘Pa Davis, show me what to do and where to go,' and he did, you know. Yes, I remember very well my first vote, um-hm."

The court case Leser v. Garnett, which reached the Supreme Court in 1922, argued the Nineteenth Amendment was not valid. But in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court stated the amendment was constitutional on all points brought into question.

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