Colorado and the 19th Amendment

State of Colorado depicted in purple, white, and gold (colors of the National Woman’s Party suffrage flag) – indicating Colorado was one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. CC0
State of Colorado depicted in purple, white, and gold (colors of the National Woman’s Party suffrage flag) – indicating Colorado was one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment.

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Beginning in mid-1800s, women began to come together to advocate for their rights. Many women knew that they had the same rights as men, yet the government prevented them from exercising these rights. As a result, women fought to have their rights recognized by the government at the state and national level.

One of the issues that united women was voting (or suffrage) rights. Some women wanted the federal government to recognize their right to vote by passing a constitutional amendment. Leaders like Susan B. Anthony proposed an amendment known as the 19th Amendment. If added to the Constitution, the federal government would have to recognize a woman’s right to vote all across the United States.

Other women felt they should focus on getting their state or territory to recognize their right to vote. After Colorado became a state in 1876, it held a referendum on women’s suffrage. A referendum occurs when the people directly vote on an issue. The people of Colorado narrowly voted against recognizing suffrage rights. Some voters, particularly businessmen and saloonkeepers, were afraid that if women could vote, they would ban the sale of alcohol. Known as temperance, this was a popular political issue among women at the time.

In the following decades, organizations such as the Colorado Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association sent speakers out to towns across the state. Women also wrote articles explaining the importance of a woman’s right to vote. When another referendum for women’s suffrage was held in 1893, the people of Colorado voted to recognize women’s suffrage rights. Colorado became the first state to enact women’s suffrage by popular referendum.

Colorado's ratification of the 19th Amendment on Dec. 12, 1919. Library of Congress.
Colorado's ratification of the 19th Amendment on Dec. 12, 1919.

Library of Congress, Records of the National Woman's Party Collection. https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000305/

Even though Colorado women could now vote, they continued to push for national suffrage rights. In 1919, the US Congress finally voted in favor of the 19th Amendment. 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.

On December 15, 1920, Colorado ratified the 19th Amendment. By August of 1920, 35 other states ratified the 19th Amendment, recognizing women’s suffrage rights across the United States.

State flag of Colorado, CC0
State flag of Colorado, CC0

Last updated: August 22, 2018