Votes for Women

After generations of struggle for suffrage, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1919 and ratified in August 1920. To mark the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020, the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, and National Archives collaborated to share this history on social media. The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence featured more than 120 portraits and objects spanning 1832 to 1965. View selections from the exhibition on the Google Arts and Culture website. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture shared "Five African American Suffragists You Should Know" to tell a more complete history of the struggle for women’s suffrage.

Although the 19th Amendment declared that the right to vote cannot be denied on the basis of sex, it did not guarantee voting access to all women. Citizenship laws, poll taxes, threats, and violence barred African American, Latina, Native American, Asian American, immigrant, and poor women. Many African American women could not vote unimpeded until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965—long after the 19th Amendment went into effect. Work continues to protect access to the vote. In the words of Coretta Scott King, "Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation."