By Candice Buchanan, Greene Connections Archivist
100 years ago, Pennsylvania women, like most of their sisters across the country, did not have the right to vote.
In 1915, Pennsylvania attempted to give suffrage (voting rights) to the women of our state. It failed. Men in Greene County were split 1694 for, 2070 against. Women of course had no opportunity to cast a ballot on the matter.
The hope of Pennsylvania women, like those in most states, then rested upon the passage of a federal amendment to the constitution. The fight for such a move began in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848 (one year before Waynesburg College was founded in Greene County offering strikingly progressive equal coeducational opportunities for women). The fight was still going strong in 1919. The language was simple, “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.”
ON THIS VERY DAY 100 YEARS AGO, May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives in Washington DC passed the 19th Amendment. Two weeks later, June 4, 1919, the Senate also passed it. Then the all un-to-certain battle to win over 36 state legislatures began. Pennsylvania was the 7th of the 36 to ratify the Amendment on June 24, 1919. Our suffrage flag with 7 stars in each color marks our place in the slow progress. The 36th state came after a serious and never assured effort over a year later on August 18, 1920.
In Greene County alone, 7,074 women registered to vote in their first opportunity for the fall elections of 1920. This compared to the 8,082 men already registered in our county shows how readily these first eligible women (including my great-grandmothers) took up their rights.
It seems so clear to us now, so much so that we take this right for granted. But the women and men who started this fight died before it was won. And it was a fight. Intelligent debate and peaceful protests resulted in horrific treatment, arrests, imprisonment, and unfounded cruelty.
Please exercise your right today in our Pennsylvania Primaries. It has been well earned and hard fought.