Delaware and the 19th Amendment

Delaware depicted in gray – indicating that it was not one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. CC0
Delaware depicted in gray – indicating that it was not one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. CC0

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 give them suffrage rights. This amendment became known as the 19th Amendment.

Notable suffragists from Delaware include Mabel Vernon and Florence Bayard Hilles. Vernon met suffragist Alice Paul while attending college. Together, the two helped found the National Woman’s Party and organized national protests for women’s suffrage. Vernon also traveled around delivering speeches about the importance of women’ suffrage. Florence Bayard Hilles attended one of these meetings and was inspired by Vernon’s words. The two became friends and worked with the National Woman’s Party to advocate for women’s rights. Hilles led groups of Delaware women to the US Capitol in Washington, DC to protest. During one protest in 1917, Hilles and seven other Delaware women were arrested and imprisoned in the Occoquan Virginia Workhouse. President Woodrow Wilson pardoned Hilles after 3 days.

Suffragists picketing the White House in 1917. Multiple women were arrested for obstructing the sidewalk and sent to jail, including women from Delaware.  Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection.
Suffragists picketing the White House in 1917. Multiple women were arrested for obstructing the sidewalk and sent to jail, including women from Delaware.

Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection. https://www.loc.gov/resource/hec.08255/

Not all women and men in Delaware supported a woman’s right to vote. Members of the Women’s Committee of Delaware Opposed to Women’s Suffrage believed women should not be involved in politics. They argued that women had more important responsibilities such as raising children and taking care of the home. Like many states, Delaware was divided on the issue of women’s suffrage.

After decades of arguments for and against women's suffrage, 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.

On June 2, 1920, Delaware voted to reject the amendment. But on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, making women’s suffrage legal all across the country.

On March 6, 1923, Delaware showed its support for women’s suffrage by belatedly ratifying the 19th Amendment.

State flag of Delaware, CC0
State flag of Delaware, CC0

Last updated: August 22, 2018