District of Columbia and the 19th Amendment

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

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. By August of 1920, 36 states ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

Flag of the District of Columbia, CC0
Flag of the District of Columbia, CC0.
But the ratification of the 19th Amendment impacted women differently based on where they lived. Women in the District of Columbia were not able to vote after the amendment was ratified in 1920.

The District of Columbia is a federal district, not a state. Under the Constitution, D.C. does not have voting rights in Congress. While states elect members to the House of Representatives and to the Senate, D.C. doesn’t have this right. From 1790 up through 1961, residents of the District of Columbia were also not permitted to vote in presidential elections.

Women in D.C. were not able to vote for president until 1961 - over forty years after the ratification of the 19th amendment.