Georgia and the 19th Amendment

Georgia depicted in gray – indicating that it was not one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. CC0
Georgia 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 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 (the movement to end slavery). As a result, many southern women were slower to support the women’s suffrage movement. Organized efforts to promote women’s suffrage lagged in Georgia until Helen Augusta Howard established the Georgia Woman Suffrage Association (GWSA) in the 1890s.

Portrait of Mary McCurdy. Photo from SPARKLING GEMS OF RACE KNOWLEDGE WORTH READING compiled by JAMES T. HALEY.
Mary McCurdy

Photo from SPARKLING GEMS OF RACE KNOWLEDGE WORTH READING compiled by JAMES T. HALEY, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/22256/22256-h/22256-h.htm#MRS_M_A_MCURDY_ROME_GA

Many Georgia suffrage organizations only allowed membership to white women. But African American women like Adella Hunt Logan, Mary McCurdy, and Janie Porter Barrett were instrumental in the advancing women’s suffrage on a national scale. Logan, born to a white father and African American mother, became involved in the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She also wrote articles for newspapers in favor of women’s suffrage. Mary McCurdy also used her writing skills to help the suffrage cause. She established a successful career as a journalist. McCurdy encouraged Black women to speak out for their rights, even though they faced prejudiced due to their ethnicity and gender.

Other white suffrage groups were established in the 1910s, such as the Georgia Woman Equal Suffrage League. Some Georgia men also supported of women’s suffrage. Local lawyer Leonard Grossman established the Georgia Men's League for Woman Suffrage. But anti-suffrage organizations such as the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (founded 1895) had a strong following. Like many other states, Georgia was divided on the issue of women’s suffrage.

Janie Porter Barrett. Photo courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library.
Janie Porter Barrett, circa 1922.

Photo courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-d7c7-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

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 July 24, 1919 Georgia was the first state to reject the amendment. But by August of 1920, 36 states ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. While women across the county were able to vote in the 1920 presidential election, Georgia women were not able to cast their ballots. The state of Georgia cited a rule that required voters to register 6 months before an election. Most other states waived this rule, allowing women to vote in the 1920 election. But women in Georgia had to wait until 1922 to take part in a national election.

Georgia belatedly ratified the 19th Amendment on February 20, 1970.

State flag of Georgia, CC0.
State flag of Georgia, CC0.

Last updated: August 28, 2018