Alabama and the 19th Amendment

Picture of state of Alabama in gray – indicating it was not one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. Courtesy Megan Springate.
Alabama depicted in gray – indicating that it was not one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment.

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Women fought for the right to vote since the mid-1800s. They marched, protested, lobbied, and even went to jail. By the 1870s, women pressured Congress to vote on an amendment that would recognize their suffrage rights. This amendment became known as the 19th Amendment.

In the 1890s, women in Alabama began forming their own organizations to advocate for the rights of women and children. By the 1910s, groups such as the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association (AESA) formed with the specific goal of securing women’s suffrage. But many of these groups only advocated for white women’s suffrage.

After decades of arguments for and against women's suffrage, the US Congress finally voted in favor of the 19th Amendment in 1919. This is called ratification. After Congress ratified the 19th Amendment, at least 36 states needed to vote in favor of it for it to become law.

Mrs. Pattie Jacobs, President of Alabama Suffrage Association. Library of Congress.
Mrs. Pattie Jacobs, President of Alabama Equal Suffrage Association.

Library of Congress, Records of the National Woman's Party Collection. https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000407/

Despite the many organizations pushing for Alabama to ratify the 19th Amendment, the state rejected the amendment on September 22, 1919. Many women in Alabama supported suffrage, but the Women’s Anti-Ratification League did not. Women belonging to this group thought Alabama women should be more concerned about raising families than civic life.

But by August of 1920, 36 states ratified the 19th Amendment, making women’s suffrage legal all across the country – even in Alabama.

On September 8, 1953, Alabama showed its support for women’s suffrage by officially ratifying the 19th Amendment.

State flag of Alabama, CC0
State flag of Alabama.

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Women in Alabama

Women played a major role in shaping Alabama’s history. Before it became a state in 1819, Alabama was home to Indigenous women, African American women (many enslaved), women descended from European colonizers and women from around the world. In the 1800s, white settlers forced Native Americans out of the state and many African Americans endured the horrors of slavery.

The tenacity of Alabama’s women throughout the years leading up to, during, and after the Civil War paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1955, Alabama native Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Her courageous efforts helped launch the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama and in the rest of the South. She continued to fight for equality at other demonstrations, including the Selma to Montgomery March.

The hardships and triumphs in these women's lives are stories for us to explore and learn from. Alabama has many stories of courageous women, including blind and deaf author Helen Keller and 19th-century schoolteacher Sarah Trott McKinney. As we discover their stories, we come to find that women’s history is Alabama history.