Wisconsin and the 19th Amendment

State of Wisconsin depicted in purple, white, and gold (colors of the National Woman’s Party suffrage flag) – indicating Wisconsin was one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. Courtesy Megan Springate.
State of Wisconsin depicted in purple, white, and gold (colors of the National Woman’s Party suffrage flag) – indicating Wisconsin was 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.

On June 10, 1919, Wisconsin voted in favor of the Nineteenth Amendment. By August of 1920, 36 states (including Wisconsin) ratified the amendment, giving women the right to vote.

State flag of Wisconsin
State flag of Wisconsin. CC0

Women in Wisconsin

Before European colonizers arrived in America, the Wisconsin region was home to many Indigenous tribes including the Menominee and Ho-chunk. There are few written records about the Indigenous women of Wisconsin, but the account of a British soldier from the 1700s still survives. He wrote about a female chief of the Ho-chunk called Ho-poe-kaw, or Glory of the Morning. As French and British fur traders moved into the area they often married Indigenous women who served as liaisons between their husbands and the leaders of their tribes.

When the territory of Wisconsin became a state in 1848, it drafted a state constitution. A heated debate about women’s rights and suffrage broke out. Some legislators wanted to recognize women's rights to own property and vote. But ultimately the constitution passed without any mention of women’s rights.

Many women in Wisconsin participated locally and nationally in advocating for women’s suffrage. Jessie Jack Hooper, for example, served at the first president of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters. Noted suffragist and temperance leader Frances Willard also grew up in Wisconsin in Rock County. The efforts of women like Hooper and Willard paid off. In 1920, Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment. In addition, the state also ratified an equal rights bill - the first of its kind in the United States. This law recognized women and men as equals under the law.