As early as 1848, activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony began fighting for a woman’s right to vote in the United States. This struggle came to Tucson, Arizona with Frances Willard who at the time was the president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Activists successfully introduced bills “to Extend the Right of Suffrage to Women” in 1881, 1883, and 1885 but the Territorial Legislature defeated them each time.
As Arizona began its bid for statehood in 1891 the issue of women’s suffrage was again discussed, this time during the first Arizona Constitutional Convention. The problem was raised by Josephine Hughes, Frances Munds, Mary J. R. West, and Mable Ann Hakes. Unfortunately, statehood, and as result suffrage, was denied by President Benjamin Harrison. Arizona would not be allowed to pursue statehood again for 10 years. In the meantime, aspiring voters formed the Arizona Suffrage Association with future senator Frances Willard Munds as secretary.
In 1903, it seemed that the work of these suffragettes would finally find success when a Suffrage Bill was passed by both houses of the Arizona Legislature. Despite its success, Governor Alexander Brodie vetoed the bill citing constitutional issues.
The Second Arizona Constitutional Convention in 1910 provided another opportunity. The National Women’s Suffrage Association sent representatives and money to Arizona to encourage the writing of women’s suffrage into the state constitution. This time Governor Brodie objected because he thought it would jeopardize the bid for statehood with President William Taft.
Eventually, Arizona became a state on February 14, 1912, and activists were prepared to ask voters to decide the fate of women voters. The initiative qualified for the ballot on July 5, 1912. By November of that same year, voters (all men) overwhelmingly approved women’s suffrage, and Arizona joined nine other states: Wyoming (1869), Colorado, Utah (1870), Idaho, Washington, California, Oregon, and Kansas (1912). It would be another eight years until the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, “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 sex,” would pass on August 26, 1920.