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Minnesota Women's Legislative Timeline

Significant Legislation Passed by the Minnesota Legislature Since Suffrage
(1919-2014)

1919 - Suffrage in Minnesota and the U.S., 1919-1920 

Synopsis: In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution received approval from three-fifths of the states and the right to vote was extended to women. Minnesota was the 15th state to ratify the amendment, in 1919 (Laws 1919, First Special Session, Resolution 1).

Legislative History: The text of the 19th amendment reads: 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. It was originally written by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and introduced in 1878 but did not pass out of the U.S. Congress until 1919. To achieve passage of the amendment before the 1920 elections, President Wilson put his muscle behind the amendment and, in June 1919, it narrowly passed. It then went to the states for ratification, which happened in short order by June 1920.

When the US Congress sent the amendment to the states for ratification, Wisconsin was the first state to ratify in June 1919. Minnesota was the 15th state to ratify the so-called 'Anthony Amendment,' receiving approval from both the House and Senate on the first day of a special session on September 8, 1919. In 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify and the amendment achieved the three-fifths state approval required for a Constitutional amendment. Interestingly, nine states did not officially ratify the 19th Amendment until well after the 1920s, with Mississippi being the last to ratify -- in 1984.

Historical Context: In 1881, the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA) was founded in Hastings. Prior to 1881, the campaign for suffrage in Minnesota was splintered and loosely organized, yet advances were made. In 1875 a constitutional amendment passed that allowed Minnesota women the right to vote in school elections (Laws 1875, Chapter 2). But two years later, a temperance-related suffrage constitutional amendment was defeated (Laws 1877, Chapter 2). That amendment proposed that women could vote on a 'question of selling, or restraining the sale, or licensing the selling, or the manufacture of intoxicating liquors.' In 1877, an interesting clarification of election law was passed by the Legislature, requiring separate ballots and separate ballot boxes for women voting in local elections, as they could only vote for 'officers of public schools' but not other officers of the village or city (Laws 1877, Chapter 74, Sec. 14).

As the national movement for suffrage gained strength, so did Minnesota's movement for suffrage. Minnesota suffragists began to use new tactics such as parades, rallies, advertising, and promotional tours in newly purchased automobiles. They even had female stunt pilots put on aerial shows in support of suffrage. Clara Ueland served as MWSA President from 1914-1919, when the suffrage campaign in Minnesota gained significant momentum. In 1919, the Legislature passed a law allowing women to vote for presidential electors (Laws 1919, Chapter 89), and later in the year ratified the national amendment ensuring universal suffrage. Other prominent organizers for suffrage in Minnesota included Sarah Burger Stearns, Julia Bullard Nelson, Ethel Edgerton Hurd, Emily Haskell Bright, Bertha Berglin Moller, Emily Gilman Noyes, and Nellie Griswold Francis.

Though suffrage granted all women in the United States the right to vote, certain populations were not allowed to become full citizens which denied the women of these populations the right to vote. For example, Native Americans were not granted citizenship until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. And despite passage of that law, states still could decide whether or not Native Americans could vote.

Selected Resources
Stuhler, Barbara. 'Organizing for the Vote: Leaders of Minnesota's Woman Suffrage Movement.' Minnesota History, Fall, 1995, p. 291-303.

Grassroots Women's Organizations: Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association Records, 1894-1923. Bethesda, MD: Lexis Nexis. This is a reel index to the extensive microform collections of suffrage materials at the Minnesota Historical Society.


This is a joint project of the LCC Office on the Economic Status of Women and the Legislative Reference Library.  The project is made possible by the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.

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