|Woodrow Wilson walks past "Silent Sentinels" from |
the National Woman's Party.
The House had approved the amendment, but the Senate had not.
The 15th Amendment had already prohibited denial of the vote for reasons of race, color or servitude:
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 race, color, or previous condition of servitude.It does not mention gender; in fact neither women nor gender are mentioned in the U.S. Constitution until the 19th amendment. The Constitution (Article I, section 2) provides that members of the House of Representatives are elected in each state by those qualified to vote for their state legislature’s lower (or “most numerous”) house. This standard was changed by the 15th, 17th, 19th (the Anthony Amendment), 24th and 27th Amendments.
Wilson had refused to support the proposed Anthony Amendment at a meeting in January 1917 with a delegation of several hundred women from the National Woman's Party. They went to see him at the White House in the name of the late Inez Milholland, for whom a huge memorial service had been held on Christmas Day 1916.
Immediately after that January meeting, at which Wilson patronized the delegation and refused to support the Anthony Amendment, the White House was picketed by activists from the National Woman's Party. Many suffragists who supported the National Woman's Party, including the leader of the National Woman's Party, Alice Paul, were opposed to U.S. participation in the war in Europe and were not deterred from their picketing by the U.S. entry into the war in April 1917.
The protests grew in defiance until several van loads of women were arrested, jailed and eventually taken to the Occaquan workhouse in Lorton, Virginia. There the Pankhurst-trained suffragettes went on a hunger strike.
Wilson said he was shocked to hear about the force-feeding. He agreed to support passage of the amendment in the Senate. He attributed his change in sentiment to the women from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) who helped with the war effort:
[W]e have made partners of the women in this war… Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right?The bill failed to pass in the Senate despite Wilson's support. But the following year, in 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment. The last state to achieve the two-thirds ratification was Tennessee in August 1920.