On October 30th, 1756, Lydia Chapin Taft becomes the first recorded woman to vote at the Uxbridge, Massachusetts town meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to decide how the town should fund costs for the French and Indian War. Because much of that funding will come from the taxes her family will be paying, Taft has a When someone votes on behalf of someone else because they are unable to vote themselves as the widow of Josiah Taft, one of the largest landowners in town.
New Jersey Expands Rights
New Jersey’s 1776 constitution gives “all inhabitants” who are of legal age, worth fifty pounds proclamation money, and who have resided in the county for at least twelve months the right to vote.
Abigail Adams advocates for women's vote
In letters sent to her husband, President John Adams, Abigail reminds the men writing the Declaration of Independence to "Remember the Women." The Declaration's wording specifies that "all men are created equal."
The Constitution is ratified
Signed and ratified, the Constitution makes no central policy on voting rights. It leaves the decision to individual states.
New Jersey recognizes women's right to vote
An election for a new legislative seat is the first in America to have a significant number of women voters
After a New Jersey law explicitly recognizes "the right of women to vote across the state," John Condict, a the political philosophy adopted by the Republican Party during the early 1800s that called for a limited national government and reduced federal spending. This policy was initially put into practice by Thomas Jefferson when he assumed the presidency in 1801 from Newark, wins by only a small margin after the women of Elizabeth turn up in large numbers to cast their votes for his rival, The first American political party; Federalists believed in a loose, decentralized system of government William Crane. Women’s influence on this election is important enough that one newspaper publishes a song about the new movement toward “government in petticoats.”
The New Jersey election law is rewritten to correct a "defect" in the state constitution; women and African Americans lose the right to vote
John Condict leads the effort to propose an election law that specifically limits eligible voters to “free, white, male citizens, 21 years and older, worth fifty pounds and who resided in county for at least twelve months prior to election.” It calls the previous system a "defect" of the state constitution. Until this new law is passed, New Jersey had been the only state that deliberately enfranchised women.
Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women meets in New York City
Attended by 175 women from 10 different states, the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women passes a resolution intended to "interest women in the subject of anti-slavery, and establish a system of operations throughout every town and village in the free States, that would exert a powerful influence in the abolition of American slavery." Many women go on from this political group to be powerful in the women's suffrage movement, including women's suffrage leader Lucretia Mott.
Mississippi grants married women the right to own property
Through its Married Women's Property Act of 1839, Mississippi becomes the first U.S. State to allow married women to own property separately from their husbands. Prior to this law, married couples' property was grouped together under the control of the husband. Voting rights for whites were often tied to property ownership.
Sojourner Truth delivers her famous "Ain't I a woman?" speech
At a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio, former slave Sojourner Truth improvises an energetic speech stressing the equality of men and women and drawing attention to issues of racial inequality. This speech brings up the need for equality racially and between genders, since the African Americans that could vote at the time were all males.
The American Equal Rights Association is founded
The main organizers of the Seneca Falls Convention are Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a mother from upstate New York, and the well-known speaker and abolitionist, Lucretia Mott. About 100 people attend the convention to discuss the “social, civil and religious rights of women.” including the famous African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. At the convention, Stanton drafts a “Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions” that deliberately uses the structure and language of the Declaration of Independence as its model: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” The declaration lists the many ways American law and custom violate women’s rights. These include requiring women to submit to laws in which they had no say, the taking of women’s property and wages without their consent and the subordinate status of women to men in family and social life. One of the 13 resolutions set forth in Stanton’s “Declaration” is the goal of achieving the “sacred right of franchise,” or the right to vote.
Kansas election creates controversial choice
The campaign for African American male suffrage is angled against women's suffrage
The Kansas Republican Party begins a campaign supporting African American male suffrage – and a hostile campaign against women’s voting rights. Women’s suffrage leaders are divided. Some leaders, like Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Blackwell, remain loyal to the abolitionists and Republicans. Others, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, shift their support to the Democrats and split from the abolitionists completely. In their desperation and frustration, they resort to racist commentary in their push for women’s voting rights. In the end, both measures fail. Stanton admits that their cause lost partly because of the split in the voting rights movement. But the damage is done – the women’s suffrage movement is deeply divided and has lost allies in their fight.
The 14th Amendment is ratified
The Amendment's famous "equal protection under the law" provision has is later used to decide important cases including Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges. However, at the time, "citizens" and "voters" are exclusively defined as male.
Due to disagreement about how to gain the right to vote, two different women's rights organizations are formed: the National Woman Suffrage Assocation (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Assocation (AWSA)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony create the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) to fight for suffrage on the national level. At first, they work toward a 16th Amendment for women based on the language of the 15th Amendment for African Americans. The NWSA has a controversial reputation of fostering public debate about women’s rights through reform proposals on contentious social issues, including marriage and divorce. Meanwhile, Lucy Stone and her allies create the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), a more conservative organization with similar goals. The AWSA allows male officers, generally supports the Republican Party, seeks simple enfranchisement for women and keeps its abolitionist base. Its members believe in organizing on the state and local level and they work to win the ballot for women on a state-by-state basis.
The Fifteenth Amendment is passed, giving black men the right to vote but making no mention of women
The Fifteenth Amendment proves a controversial issue for women's suffrage groups, adding to the growing division. The NWSA refuses to support its ratification, arguing instead for a Sixteenth Amendment that will grant the vote to both women and American Indians. As a show of disapproval, Frederick Douglass breaks his ties with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
The Anti-Suffrage Party is founded
It is just the first of a number of organizations created to fight against women's suffrage in the political field.
Prominent abolitionists including Susan B. Anthony attempt to vote in the 1872 election
Susan B. Anthony and fifteen other women are arrested for voting in the 1872 presidential election and are brought to trial in Rochester, New York. Susan B. Anthony refuses to pay the court's fine, but no further legal action is taken against her. In the same election, Sojourner Truth attempts to vote at a polling station in Battle Creek, Michigan, but is turned away.
The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded, and works to promote women's suffrage
Founded by Annie Wittenmeyer, the Women's Christian Temperance Union focuses on the twin issues of women's suffrage and temperance, an increasingly popular issue at the time. In response, the liquor lobby becomes a leading opponent of women's suffrage, fearing that if women gain the right to vote it will push the temperance supporters into the majority.
The Missouri Supreme Court rules that the 14th Amendment does not apply to women
In 1872, Virginia Minor and her husband sued a Missouri registrar for refusing to allow her to register to vote. In the case that followed, Minor v. Happersett, the Missouri Supreme Court rules that neither the 14th Amendment nor the Constitution itself guarantee women's suffrage, thus upholding each State's right to decide who can and cannot vote.
Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States
Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage disrupt the official Centennial program at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, presenting a “Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States” to the presiding officer after the reading of the Declaration of Independence. The Centennial program was put on to honor the nation's growth, so many activists saw it as a useful platform to discuss the continuing inequities.
Universal Suffrage amendment introduced in Congress
A Women's Suffrage Amendment is officially proposed in the U.S. Congress. While it is quickly turned down at the time, it remains under discussion. It is passed years later in 1919 with the same wording to form the 19th Amendment.
Washington Territory Act of 1888 grants citizenship to Native Americans who marry Whites
Washington Territory grants citizenship and the right to vote to American Indian women who marry white men. But the Washington Territory's Supreme Court quickly repeals women's right to vote for the second time.
The NWSA and AWSA reunite
In a long-awaited reversal of the schism that had divided the Suffrage movement in the 1860s, the National Woman Suffrage Association and American Woman Suffrage Association merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr found the Hull House, a settlement house in Chicago
Hull House is the most famous of many such settlement houses built in poor urban areas as part of the Progressive movement. In addition to providing local working-class immigrants with education, employment opportunities and access to community cultural events, Hull House and other institutions like it propel large numbers of college-educated women into social work and political activism.
Women gain the right to vote in Colorado
Colorado becomes the first state to pass a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, though in 1890 Wyoming was allowed to retain its Woman Suffrage law when it became a state. Three years later, Idaho and Utah follow suit with woman suffrage laws of their own.
The National Association of Colored Women (NACW) is founded
Founded by prominent activists including Harriet Tubman and Ida B. Wells, the NACW's mission includes the goal of fighting for voting rights for African American women, who still lack the right to vote, and African American men, who are officially guaranteed the right to vote but in practice have very limited access to the polls.
The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) is founded
Led by Josephine Dodge, NAOWS members include wealthy, influential women and some Catholic clergymen. It is also supported by distillers and brewers — who fear women's influence in the Temperance movement — urban political machines, Southern congressmen and corporate capitalists in the railroad and meatpacking industries.
Bull Moose Party
Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party is the first major political party to support women's suffrage at a national level.
Alice Paul resigns from the NAWSA and forms a rival group called the National Woman's Party
Not everyone agrees that the women’s suffrage movement is moving fast enough or using the right tactics; some women activists are impatient with the pace of change. In 1913, Alice Paul is forced to resign from the NAWSA because she advocates for using extreme tactics in the fight for suffrage. She forms a rival suffrage group, the Congressional Union, later named the National Woman’s Party. The National Woman’s Party uses the militant activities of the British women’s suffrage movement as their model for action. The group’s direct-action, confrontational style – including mass marches, hunger strikes, and picketing the White House – horrifies the NAWSA, which finds their tactics “unladylike.” But their strategies also attract a younger generation of women to the cause.
The first woman is elected to Congress
Jeanette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She said, "I may be the first woman member of Congress but I won’t be the last."
National Woman's Party pickets the White House
National Woman’s Party picketers appear in front of the White House holding banners and planning to remain there permanently. Alice Paul, leader of the National Woman’s Party, is put in solitary confinement in the mental ward of the prison as an attempt to break her will and undermine her credibility with the public. Picketers start getting arrested in June for "obstructing sidewalk traffic," and are sentenced to up to six months in jail. In November, the government unconditionally releases the picketers in response to public outcry and an inability to stop National Woman’s Party picketers’ hunger strike.
The United States enters the first World War
War brings new urgency to the women’s suffrage movement, even as it leads some women's groups to temporarily suspend their activism in the name of wartime unity. The NAWSA supports the war cause, even though many women suffragists are pacifists. They point out that failing to give women the vote might keep them from supporting the war effort, just when they are most needed to work and volunteer. World War I causes a labor shortage that allows women to take on greater roles outside the home, making it hard for opponents to argue that women are unqualified to vote. After the war, these contributions to the war effort win more support for women's suffrage.
The NAWSA is transformed into The League of Women Voters
At a NAWSA convention occurring six months before the 19th Amendment is ratified, Carrie Chapman Catt proposes a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. This new organization of women banded together in a nonpartisan movement would promote women’s political participation, fight legal discrimination, and help liberate women around the world. NAWSA becomes The League of Women Voters, with sister leagues in each state.
The ratification of the 19th Amendment gives women the right to vote
On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment is ratified when Tennessee becomes the 36th state to approve it, providing full voting rights for women across the United States. White women across America win their fight for voting rights.
Margaret Sanger founds the American Birth Control League, which will evolve into Planned Parenthood in 1942
By 1924 there were nearly 30,000 members of the ABCL, which pushed for women's access to contraception nationwide.
The National Women's Party proposes an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution
The Equal Rights Amendment was intended to extend equal rights for women beyond the polls by forbidding any discrimination based on gender. At the time of its introduction, it became a source of division in the women's rights movement; many working-class women saw it as a threat to laws protecting women with a shorter workday or less heavy lifting.
Hattie Wyatt Caraway becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate
On January 12th, Hattie Wyatt Caraway, of Arkansas, becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by her husband's death. She is re-elected in 1932 and 1938.
The first lesbian organization in the United States is created
The Daughters of Bilitis work for civil and political rights for the lesbian and gay communities. They consider themselves a woman's organization devoted to the integration of lesbian and gay people into society.
Congress passes the Equal Pay Act
Congress passes the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for an employer to pay a woman less than what a man would receive for the same job. Unfortunately, the wage gap between genders still exists today.
Congress passes the Civil Rights Act
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex. At the same time, it establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties.
The National Organization for Women is founded
The largest women's rights group in the U.S., NOW seeks to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations.
Roe v. Wade
As a result of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court establishes a woman's right to safe and legal abortion, overriding the anti-abortion laws of many states.
The first marital rape law is passed in Nebraska, making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is passed
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women. Under the Act, a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is or may become pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work.
Sandra Day O'Connor becomes the first female Supreme Court justice
O'Connor was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and approved unanimously by the Senate.