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Hard to imagine: Work for 19th amendment - Daily Leader Extra : Editorials

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Hard to imagine: Work for 19th amendment

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Posted: Tuesday, December 3, 2019 3:48 pm

One hundred years ago tomorrow (Wednesday), South Dakota became the 21st state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, allowing most women the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was ratified nationally on August 18, 1920.

It's hard to imagine today how much work was required to pass this amendment. It's even harder to imagine that American women didn't vote in the first 144 years of our country's history.

Although the suffrage movement began in New England, we can be proud of our own heritage in the movement. In the Dakota Territory, women were able to vote in school elections beginning in 1883. Legislation that would have provided full suffrage to women lost by just one vote in 1875. A similar bill passed the territorial legislature in 1885 but was vetoed by the territorial governor, Gilbert Pierce. If Pierce had not struck down the law, women from the Dakota Territory would have joined those in the Wyoming and Utah territories in winning voting rights on the same terms as men.

When South Dakota became a state in 1889, the new state constitution included the word "male" in the section designating voting eligibility. However, it also called for the new state legislature to send a proposed state constitutional amendment to the voters in 1890 which would extend voting eligibility to women. Susan B. Anthony embarked on a speaking tour of South Dakota to campaign for the amendment, but the amendment was defeated by the voters. Similar amendments in 1895 and 1898 did not pass the legislature.

To learn more of the movement and ratification, we have a couple of recommendations:

The South Dakota State Historical Society is commemorating the anniversary with a display at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre entitled "RIGHTFULLY HERS." It's an exhibit on loan from the National Archives, and can be seen through the rest of this month. The exhibit explores the history of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women's voting rights before and after the 19th, and its impact today.

Also, the newest book from the South Dakota Historical Society Press focuses on the national movement for woman suffrage. It's entitled "Votes for Women on the Northern Great Plains" and can be ordered through the SDHS Press website or other booksellers.

-- Jon M. Hunter