Voting Rights Timeline
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which recognized women's right to vote. On paper, it seemed to expand voting rights to all women, but in practice, it would be decades before Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) would be able to exercise that right. The centennial commemoration provides an opportunity to review the uneven expansion of voting rights in America. This timeline denotes milestones in that process, highlighting those who were enfranchised, and noting those who were not. It is a resource intended to support ongoing education about voting rights and what that means for equity and equality in this country.
The Birth of a New Nation
The Declaration of Independence establishes the right to vote only for white property owners.
• Individual states control the voting process and only white men who own land and are 21 or older can vote.
The United States Constitutional Convention decides to count three out of five slaves as people for tax purposes.
• The Compromise gives 1/3 more seats and 1/3 more electoral votes to the Southern States
No Votes for Women
Women are officially denied the right to vote in every state.
• New Jersey was the first state to legally deny women the right to vote and started a chain reaction with every other state following its path. • Women would not have the right to vote for the next 113 years and women of color would face discrimination until 1964.
New Land, New Citizens
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo offers U.S. citizenship to the people living in the newly transferred Mexican Territory, extending the right to vote to property owners.
• Even though they had the right, many Mexican Americans still faced threats when trying to cast their vote.
Women’s Rights and Anti-slavery Activists Unite
The first women’s rights convention in the United States is held in New York.
• This became known as the Seneca Falls Convention. It would ultimately begin the national women’s suffrage movement. • The convention involved mostly white women.
Former slave and newspaper editor Frederick Douglass attends the women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. He gives a speech in support of universal voting rights.
Arizona becomes a territory
Every white male citizen of the United States and/or white male citizen of Mexico who had become a citizen under the Gadsden Purchase was entitled to vote for any election.
• Voter turnout was scarce during the initial years • 1864 – 885 people voted • 1865 – 1,343 people voted • 1866 – 1,695 people voted
The 14th Amendment grants “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” citizenship and the right to vote.
• This law is primarily created to ensure newly freed slaves have the right to vote. • The amendment applied to African Americans and Mexican Americans, but not Native Americans or women.
The 15th Amendment builds on the 14th Amendment, clarifying that states cannot deny anyone the right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
• The amendment is passed to counteract some state-led efforts to prevent people of color from voting.
United States v. Susan B. Anthony
Police in Rochester, New York arrest suffragist leader Susan B. Anthony for trying to vote in a presidential election.
• U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ward Hurd, tells the jury to find Anthony guilty without discussing the case. • On the final day of her trial she is finally offered the chance to speak, giving what is regarded as one of the greatest speeches for women’s suffrage: o "It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people - women as well as men."
Chinese are not American
The Chinese Exclusion Act prevents anyone of Chinese descent from becoming a U.S. citizen.
• The act is a continuation of the Page Act, which banned Chinese women from immigrating to the United States. • The Chinese Exclusion Act is the first law that targeted a specific national/ethnic group. • Arizona legislation voted to restrict various Chinese businesses from operating such as, laundries and opium dens.
The Dawes Act
The Dawes Act grants Native Americans U.S. citizenship if they gave up their reservation land claim and native culture to adopt "the habits of civilized life."
• The act was supposed to protect Native American land rights, but it resulted in indigenous people losing thousands of acres to outside settlers.
The Indian Naturalization Act
The Indian Naturalization Act allows Native Americans to apply for citizenship.
• This only applies to Native Americans living in the "Indian Territory," or modern day Oklahoma.
The Mother of Arizona
Josephine Brawley Hughes created the first women’s suffrage organization in Arizona. Hughes pushed for women’s right to vote to be included in the new state constitution.
• President Benjamin Harrison rejected Arizona’s bid for statehood, thus legally derailing women’s suffrage in the state.
First Arizona Suffrage Bill
Arizona suffragists came close to passing a bill in 1903. Unfortunately, Territorial Governor Alexander Brodie vetoed it. He believed allowing women to be eligible to vote would hurt Arizona’s chance for statehood.
• Pauline O’Neill had served as the President of the Arizona Territorial Women’s Suffrage Association for several years. O’Neill and her friend, Frances Munds, reached out to Mormon women about supporting the movement.
Arizona adopts Women’s Suffrage
Arizona, Oregon, and Kansas each approve state constitutional amendments for women’s suffrage.
• Frances W. Munds leads Arizona’s suffrage movement. She became a state senator five years before the U.S. ratified the 19th Amendment.
Women March for their Voting Rights
Women’s suffrage marches take place in several prominent cities, including New York and Washington D.C.
• Their focus is getting a national constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage, so that women would be able to exercise the right to vote in every state. • Mrs. Weller represents Arizona in a Washington D.C. march.
White Women Gain the Right to Vote in the United States
Congress passes the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote on both state and federal levels.
• The National American Woman Suffrage Association supports the war effort during World War I, helping change the perception of women as passive and peaceful. • Due to their patriotic wartime service, they made the case that denying women the right to vote contradicts the entire war they are fighting abroad.
Indian Citizenship Act
The Indian Citizenship Act grants U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans, regardless of nation or tribe.
• The United States government had specifically omitted Native Americans from previous citizenship related legislation. • Some states did not allow Native Americans to officially vote until the 1960s.
Increased Voter Turnout
By the 1930s, the amount of people voting in the presidential election increased nationally.
• 1928 – 56.9 million people voted • 1932 – 56.9 million people voted • 1936 – 61 million people voted
Arizona also saw a significant change in voter turnout as well.
• Arizona in 1928 – 91,254 people voted • Arizona in 1932 – 118,251 people voted • Arizona in 1936 – 124,163 people voted
Magnuson Act/Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act
The Magnuson Act repeals the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and extends the right to become a naturalized citizen to "Chinese persons or persons of Chinese descent."
Voting Rights Act
The federal legislation legally prohibits any kind of racial discrimination in voting.
• President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the act during the civil rights movement. • It officially recognizes that racial minorities have the right to vote and is considered the most important federal civil rights legislation of the 20th century.
The 26th Amendment changes the voting age minimum from 21 years old to 18 years old.
• This amendment was a response to the Vietnam War, since 18 to 21-year-old men could be drafted to fight but could not vote.