The Woman’s Suffrage Centennial

Winning the Vote

Jeanette Pickering Rankin of Montana, which had granted women suffrage in 1914, was the first woman elected to Congress. Rankin introduced the legislation for the 19th Amendment in 1919. That spring it was passed by the House and Senate and sent to the states for ratification. A broad coalition of women’s groups united under suffragists to campaign for ratification. 

In Connecticut, anti-suffrage Republicans controlled the General Assembly and the governor’s office. In 1919 the legislature adjourned before the U.S. Congress ratified the 19th Amendment; they were not scheduled to meet again until January 1921.  Despite calls for Governor Marcus Holcomb to hold a special session, he refused to call one, claiming that ratifying the 19th Amendment was not an important enough reason. 

The Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association brought in women from all 48 states to push for a special session to vote on ratification. The governor finally caved to the pressure. The state legislators took control of the session and ratified the amendment three times, just to be sure that their vote was not called into question. 

Connecticut became the 37th state to ratify the amendment in September 1920 – less than a month after Tennessee became the 36th, which was the required number of states needed for adoption into the U.S. Constitution. Although the fight for women’s suffrage appeared to have concluded with Tennessee’s ratification, that vote was later challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, putting the amendment’s passage in jeopardy. Connecticut’s subsequent ratification ensured that the necessary number of states supported suffrage, finally providing 26 million American women with the right to vote.

Catherine Flanagan Delivers Connecticut’s Ratified 19th Amendment to the State Department

Catherine Flanagan (1888-1927) of Hartford was a passionate supporter of women’s suffrage who had been arrested for protesting at the White House. As one member of the CWSA said of her following her arrest, “We are indeed in a sad state of affairs in this country when the government uses its strong arm to protect disorderly mobs in their cowardly assault upon American women, who are still fighting after 50 years for a principle which was held to be a self-evident truth nearly a century and a half ago: namely that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Catherine Flanagan photographed bringing Connecticut's ratification
to the U.S. State Department
Library of Congress
“Congratulations,” Cover of Life Magazine October 28, 1920
Courtesy of Kenneth Florey

In an illustration appearing on the cover of Life Magazine, artist Charles Dana Gibson shows Columbia congratulating an American woman holding a ballot on winning the right to vote.

“Paddling Their Own Canoe,” ca. 1920
“Paddling Their Own Canoe,” ca. 1920 RG 101, State Archives,
Connecticut State Library

This political cartoon notes that the politicians in Connecticut were missing their chance to get on board with suffrage before the 19th Amendment was ratified.

Diary belonging to Helen Binney Kitchel

In this daily diary dating to 1917 to 1921 Helen Binney Kitchel, a future state representative from Greenwich, recorded her first time voting in the Presidential election on November 2, 1920. 

Diary belonging to Helen Binney Kitchel Entry dated November 2, 1920
Greenwich Historical Society, Helen Binney Kitchel Papers