Missouri's Ratification of the 19th Amendment
As soon as the Senate passed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the Constitution on June 5, 1919, which extended the right of suffrage to women, proponents quickly organized the process of urging states to ratify the amendment. The upcoming 1920 presidential election imbued the cause with an even greater sense of urgency to reach the threshold of 36 of 48 states, the three-fourths of states required to ratify an amendment to the Constitution.
In Missouri, women were recently granted the right to vote in presidential elections, but not state or local elections. Supporters in St. Louis celebrated the passage of the federal amendment with a parade of women holding yellow parasols riding in cars that wound through downtown, followed by a jubilee meeting at the Federal Building. Speeches given on the steps of the Federal Building reflected the hope for a swift conclusion to the lengthy battle for universal suffrage.
On June 12, 1919, Missouri Governor Frederick D. Gardner called for a special session of the General Assembly to convene on July 2 to consider the amendment, saying, “Missouri must take the lead in this long-deferred justice to the state and the nation.” On July 3, as packed galleries observed, the Missouri Senate followed the lead of the House and voted to ratify the amendment. Missouri was the 11th state to vote for ratification. Shortly after Missouri’s ratification vote, during a celebratory picnic in Forest Park, suffrage leader Lutie Stearns reminded St. Louis suffragettes that the struggle was not over: “It has come to the time when we must start in to do the things we had hoped and promised to do when we got suffrage. . . . Will we be like driven sheep or be human beings and captains of our hearts, minds, and intellects? We are just now at the most critical time in world history.” Tennessee’s ratification on August 24, 1920, met the threshold for 36 of the 48 states, just in time to allow women nationwide to participate in the November elections.
The copies of the ratification documents signed by each state’s Secretary of State, including those of Missouri and Tennessee, were laid before the House of Representatives by the Speaker and became official records of the House of Representatives. The state ratifications of the 19th Amendment are now part of the records of the Committee on Woman Suffrage.