Saturday, June 3, 2017

19TH AMENDMENT | Credit for Success, Pen and Inkstand

Gold pen awarded to NAWSA after the
 Senate passed the Anthony Amendment.
A gold pen looms large in the final days of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which recognized the right of all adult American women to vote in elections.

After the passage of the Anthony Amendment in the Senate, a gold pen used in signing the law was awarded to NAWSA. This became a source of irritation to the National Woman's Party, which was originally an offshoot of NAWSA but became independent.

After the August 26, 1920 signing of the ratification of the 19th Amendment by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, he said that the pen he used to sign off on the ratification, as is required under the Constitution, was a standard steel pen, not a gold one.

The New York Times editorial suggested that two rival suffrage organizations, jockeying to take credit, both deserved credit. So while the gold pen may have gone to NAWSA, a silver inkstand should go to the National Woman's Party. A detailed analysis by the Library of Congress of the final days before President Woodrow Wilson changed his mind about supporting the Anthony Amendment shows that the initiatives were constantly emanating from the National Woman's Party, at great personal cost to the activists. It would be a great injustice to minimize the role of the activists, just as it would also be unfair to ignore the long years of patient lobbying undertaken by NAWSA.

Colby suggests that the pen he used to sign the certification of the 19th Amendment would end up in the Smithsonian. I don't know if this happened.

But the gold pen used in the signing of the Senate's approval of what had been called the Anthony Amendment is indeed at the Smithsonian. It  is part of the Women's History Collections, Political Collections of the Division of Social History in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

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