Kansas and the 19th Amendment

Kansas state overlaid with the purple, white, and gold suffrage flag
State of Kansas overlaid with the purple, white, and gold suffrage flag, indicating it was one of the 36 original states that ratified the 19th Amendment.

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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.

Kansas was unique in that it was the first state to hold a referendum on women’s suffrage in 1867. A referendum is when citizens directly vote on an issue. While the referendum was defeated (leaving Kansas women without the vote), it inspired other western states to hold similar referendums. Kansas eventually recognized a woman’s right to vote in local elections in 1887.

Kansas women could still not participate in national elections, yet they were able to vote for town officials. That April, the town of Argonia, Kansas elected the first woman mayor in the United States, Susanna Salter. She did not realize her name was on the ballot until the morning of the election!

State flag of Kansas
State flag of Kansas. CC0

In the following decades, Kansas suffragists like Mamie Dillard and Carrie Langston worked across white and black communities to promote women’s suffrage. As African American women, Dillard and Langston encouraged other Black women to get involved in promoting suffrage rights. They served as examples of how citizens needed to be inclusive in order to secure the rights of all women.

In 1912, eight years before the 19th Amendment was ratified, Kansas recognized the right of women to vote. Kansas women could now vote in national elections, but not all American women could. In support of the suffrage rights of all American women, Kansas voted to ratify the 19th Amendment on June 16, 1919. By August of 1920, 36 states (including Kansas) ratified the amendment, recognizing women's suffrage rights.

Last updated: November 13, 2018