Guam and the 19th Amendment

Island of Guam, shaded gray
Guam, shaded gray showing it was not one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. CC0

Women first organized and collectively fought for suffrage at the national level in July of 1848. Suffragists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott convened a meeting of over 300 people in Seneca Falls, New York. In the following decades, women 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.

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.

Guam became a US Territory in December of 1898. But because Guam was not a state, it could not vote for or against the 19th Amendment. But on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, making women’s suffrage legal in the United States.

Flag of Guam
Flag of Guam. CC0

Women in Guam did not have voting rights after the passage of the 19th Amendment because they were not US citizens. In 1950, President Truman signed the Guam Organic Act. This act recognized the limited voting rights of women and men in Guam. They could vote in US congressional elections and presidential primaries, but they were not able to vote for president. US citizens must be residents of one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia in order to vote for president. As a result, the women of Guam have some (but not full) voting rights.

Last updated: September 5, 2018