After Suffrage: Becoming Citizens

What did women do with their voting power?

On September 8, 1919, the Minnesota state legislature ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, becoming the 15th state to do so. Eleven months later, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. Once it became law in August 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the political tool they had fought for since 1848. In the following years, they would use the vote to affect political and social change at the local and national levels. They were now constituents, and legislators were their representatives.

Following the lead of Carrie Chapman Catt, former president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), Minnesota suffragists worked to transform their organization into the Minnesota League of Women Voters.

A group led by Mabeth Hurd Paige held a planning meeting at the Radisson Hotel on October 28 and 29, 1919. Aiming to be as inclusive as possible, they sent invitations to 5500 members of local suffrage organizations, WCTU branches, women's clubs, fraternal women's organizations, 1500 farmers' clubs, and other groups. Attendees came from the Minnesota Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association, the National Council of Jewish Women, the League of Catholic Women, the YWCA, the Rotary Club, and many other organizations.

Their goal was to build a nonpartisan organization to educate the electorate and work to strengthen democratic institutions. Children's welfare and development was a top priority. In 1921, when the federal government passed the Sheppard-Towner bill, establishing federal support for infant and child welfare, local members of the League of Women Voters quickly advocated for the state legislature to join the program.

Minneapolis women were also involved in local politics. Some ran for office, challenging male incumbents for their positions. In many cases, they were successful. Within just a few years, women had joined the City Council, Board of Public Welfare, Board of Estimate and Taxation, school board, library board, park board, Board of County Commissioners, and city planning board.



Radisson Hotel, 41 7th St. S, Minneapolis