Florida and the 19th Amendment

Picture of state of Florida in gray – indicating it was not one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. CC0
Picture of state of Florida in gray – indicating 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 recognize their suffrage rights. This amendment became known as the 19th Amendment.

In the late 1800s, regional suffrage organizations began to form in states across the US. But the suffrage movement had roots in abolitionism (movement to end slavery). As a result, many southern women were slower to support women’s suffrage. Organized efforts to promote women’s suffrage lagged in Florida until Ella C. Chamberlain founded the Florida Women’s Suffrage Association in 1893. But when Chamberlain moved out of state four years later, the organization disbanded. Women’s suffrage did not have widespread support in the state until the 1910s when groups like the Florida Equal Franchise League and the Orlando Suffrage League were founded. Unfortunately, women’s suffrage groups in Florida often only supported the white woman’s right to vote. As a result, African American women were often excluded from the suffrage organizations of white women.

Mary Nolan of Florida joined the National Woman’s Party. She picketed the White House in 1917 and was arrested and imprisoned. Photograph taken by Edmonston, Washington, D.C., Records of the National Woman’s Party Collection, Library of Congress. https://
Mary Nolan of Florida joined the National Woman’s Party. She picketed the White House in 1917 and was arrested and imprisoned.

Photograph taken by Edmonston, Washington, D.C., Records of the National Woman’s Party Collection, Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000040/

Women from Florida were also involved in national organizations like the National Woman’s Party. By the late 1910s, their efforts were paying off and 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.

States across the US held special sessions to vote on the amendment. Some states ratified the amendment while others voted to reject it. Florida, however, did not hold a vote on the amendment. Many politicians and newspapers in the state were against women's suffrage. But on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment giving American women the right to vote.

On May 13, 1969, Florida showed its support for women’s suffrage by belatedly ratifying the 19th Amendment.

State flag of Florida, CC0.
State flag of Florida, CC0.

Last updated: August 28, 2018