The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This amendment gave all women the right to vote.
W. Cleon Skousen explained, “This is the amendment which finally provided for women’s suffrage. The spirit of reform and a zeal for change smoothed the way. By 1919, women had gained an improved status in marriage and World War I had given them a more important status in business, industry, and community life.
“Originally men had voted as the representative of their families and as the owners of property. It was also assumed that women had not been exposed to the education and experience necessary to deal with public issues.
“Nevertheless, as early as 1878, Susan B. Anthony had induced a Senator from California to introduce a Senator from California to introduce a congressional resolution requesting an amendment for universal women’s suffrage.
“Wyoming had given voting rights to women as early as 1869, Colorado in 1893, Utah and Idaho in 1896, and Washington in 1910. It is interesting that since the Constitution does not limit congressional service to males, a woman was able to be elected to the House of Representatives from Montana in 1916 – four years before the Nineteenth Amendment too effect. She was therefore elected without being able to vote for herself.” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, 749.)
Tiffany Jones of The Heritage Foundation gave further explanation: “Contrary to popular belief, the United States Constitution of 1787 is a gender-neutral document. Throughout the original text, the Framer refer to `persons’ – as opposed to `male persons’ – and use the pronoun `he’ only in the generic sense. The word `male’ did not even appear in the Constitution until the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868.
“Nothing in the original Constitution bars women from voting. Instead, the Framers left the matter of determining who was eligible to participate in the election of House Members and presidential electors almost entirely to the discretion of the states….
“Although scholars typically trace the origins of the organized woman’s rights movement generally, and the drive for woman suffrage particularly, to a famous 1848 gathering in Seneca Falls, New York, the woman suffrage movement began to affect policy only during Reconstruction….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, 417.)