August is National Women’s Suffrage month, commemorating the long struggles women faced for the right to vote, gained through the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on Aug. 26, 1920.
The struggles began before the Civil War (1861-1865) when women began to speak out publicly against slavery as early as 1830. The women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and freed slave Sojourner Truth, were joined by a few men like Frederick Douglass in speaking against slavery. Black women had formed anti-slavery and women’s rights societies by 1832.

In New York, Stanton, Mott and Matilda Joslyn Gage observed how Iroquois women wore comfortable dress allowing them to be active, had main rights to the children they bore, and were respected by the men. Women worked as co-equals in government and leadership.

These Nations and the abolition movement provided the model for designing the first national women’s rights meeting in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. At the meeting, 68 women and 32 men signed the Declaration of Sentiments, stating equal rights, including the right for women to vote.

Until the Civil War, there had been agreement among abolitionists and suffragists to work for a suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution for all women. After the Civil War ended, Congress passed the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, granting Black men the right to vote, but failing to extend voting rights to women.

At that point some white suffragists, Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, became determined to campaign for white women to gain the right to vote, while others, Mott and Lucy Stone, continued to support the universal right for all women to vote.

New suffrage groups formed; one focused on a federal amendment to the Constitution and another worked on a state by state approach. Meanwhile, some states introduced voter suppression laws, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, to prevent black men from voting and white supremacists organized lynch mobs against Black citizens.