By ConSource Staff
The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the United States or any state from denying or abridging the right of citizens to vote on account of sex. The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified August 18, 1920 when Tennessee’s legislature voted for ratification. Secretary of State Colby certified the Amendment August 26, 1920.
The Nineteenth Amendment was drafted by Susan B. Anthony. She modeled her draft after the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing citizens the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton petitioned Congress for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.
Rhetoric surrounding the passage, however, demonstrates that even though women’s suffrage was successful, attitudes surrounding women’s suffrage were not universal.
The women’s suffrage movement began with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention on women’s rights. Five women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, organized the Seneca Falls Convention. The Convention adjourned with the adoption of the Declaration of Sentiments. The Declaration of Sentiments endorsed 12 resolutions, including the goal of securing women’s access to the “elective franchise.”
As the women’s suffrage movement gained momentum, groups organized to advocate against a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. The Oklahoma Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, for example, took out an advertisement in the Tulsa Daily World stating that allowing women to vote would be discriminating against mothers and harm the family.
To prevent ratification, members of the Tennessee legislature “fled the state to avoid a quorum and their associates held massive anti-suffrage rallies and attempted to convince pro-suffrage legislators to oppose ratification.” Former Tennessee legislator, R.R. Sneed, remarked to The Daily Ardmoreite, that “the old timers” of the legislature were going to try to “sidetrack the issue” and that “there is a certain element in Tennessee, and in fact all the southern states who believe that the woman’s place is in the home and that she has no business mixing in politics.”
After the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, even legal scholars speculated about the likely societal consequences of women having the right to vote. William L. Marbury, for example, published an article in the Virginia Law Review cautioning that only “actual experience (and perhaps the experience of years) can possibly determine” whether the Nineteenth Amendment may “destroy the unity of the family, to increase the frequency of divorce, to affect injuriously the training and welfare of children, to prevent in times of national peril the enactment of those severe, sometimes cruelly severe laws necessary for the safety of the people and the State or Nation.”
Others challenged the constitutionality of the Amendment. Challengers argued that the U.S. Constitution does not allow amendments of this “character.,” legislatures’ ratifications were rendered inoperative by their state constitutions, and Tennessee and North Carolina’s ratifications, specifically, are invalid because they were “adopted in violation of the rules of legislative procedure.”
The Supreme Court, however, dismissed all challenges quickly. The Supreme Court held that the character of the Nineteenth Amendment is of the same nature as the Fifteenth. The Fifteenth Amendment had been recognized as valid “for half a century.” The Supreme Court also held that state constitutions could not prevent state legislatures from ratifying the Amendment. The Court reasoned “the function of a state Legislature in ratifying a proposed amendment to the federal Constitution, like the function of Congress in proposing the amendment, is a federal function derived from the federal Constitution; and it transcends any limitations sought to be imposed by the people of a state.” And finally, the Court held that the last claim rendering the Nineteenth Amendment invalid is moot because since the Amendment had been certified two other state legislatures had already ratified the Amendment.
The above attitudes and challenges to the Nineteenth Amendment demonstrate the resistance women faced when advocating for women’s suffrage. They provide examples of some of the rhetoric that existed in the early 20th century even as much of the country accepted women’s growing role in the polity.
 19th Amendment, History.com, http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/19th-amendment (last visited Feb. 28, 2014).
 U.S. Const. amend. XV, available at http://www.consource.org/document/amendments-xi-xxvii/ (last visited March 4, 2014).
 Petition to Congress, December 1871, National Archives, http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/woman-suffrage/petition-to-congress.html (last visited March 4, 2014).
 Seneca Falls Convention begins, History.com, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/seneca-falls-convention-begins (last visited March 4, 2014) (quoting the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances).
 Tulsa daily world, November 03, 1918, Club News and Personals, Page 9, Image 31, available at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042344/1918-11-03/ed-1/seq-31/#date1=1836&index=10&rows=20&words=SUFFRAG+suffrage+Suffrage&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=suffrage&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=2 (last visited March 4, 2014).
 Teaching with Documents: Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment, National Archives. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/woman-suffrage/ratification-tn.html
 Will Tennessee’s Legislators Vote for Equal Rights for their Women? The Daily Ardmoreite, Aug. 13, 1920, available at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042303/1920-08-13/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1836&sort=relevance&rows=20&words=amendment+nineteenth&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=3&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=Nineteenth+Amendment&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=5 (last visited March 7, 2014).
 William L. Marbury, The Nineteenth Amendment and After, 7 The Virginia L. Rev. 1, 3 (1920).
 Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130, 136 (1922).
 Id. at 136-37.
 Id. at 137.
 Id. at 136.
 Id. at 137 (citing Hawke v. Smith, No. 1 253 U.S. 221, Hawke v. Smith, No. 2, 253 U.S. 231, National Prohibition Cases, 253 U.S. 350, 386).
 Id. at 137.