COLBY PROCLAIMS WOMAN SUFFRAGE
Signs Certificate of Ratification at His Home Without Women Witnesses
Militants Vexed at Privacy
Wanted Movies of Ceremony but Both Factions Are Elated — Wilson Sends Message
Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Washington, Aug. 26 — The half-century struggle for woman suffrage in the United States reached its climax at 8 o’clock this morning, when Bainbridge Colby, as Secretary of State, issued his proclamation announcing that the Nineteenth Amendment had become a part of the Constitution of the United States.
“The signing of the proclamation took place at that hour at Secretary Colby’s residence, 1507 K Street Northwest, without ceremony of any kind, and the issuance of the proclamation was unaccompanied by the taking of movies or other pictures, despite the fact that the National Woman’s Party, or militant branch of the general suffrage movement, had been anxious to be represented by a delegation of women and to have the historic event filmed for public display and permanent record. Secretary Colby did not act with undue haste in signing the proclamation, but only after he had given careful study to the packet which arrived by mail during the early morning hours containing the certificate of the Governor of Tennessee that that State’s Legislature had ratified the Congressional resolution submitting the amendment to the States for action.
No Suffrage Leaders See Signing
“None of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement was present when the proclamation was signed. “It was quite tragic,” declared Mrs. Abby Scott Baker of the National Woman’s Party. “This was the final culmination of the women’s fight, and, women, irrespective of factions, should have been allowed to be present when the proclamation was signed. However the women of America have fought a big fight and nothing can take from them their triumph.”
This was it. This was the day that made it all possible. For those of you on the left, this was the day that gave us Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright. For those of us on the right, this was the day that gave us Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and Condoleezza Rice. This was the day that women in America had hoped for dating back to Susan B. Anthony. This was the day the women became politically enfranchised in our country by virtue of the 19’th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which was officially signed into law in a curiously private fashion by Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby on today’s date, August 26 in 1920.
The Long Fight For Womens’ Suffrage in the United States
The amendment is very short. It reads in full as follows:
“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.
“Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Yet it took quite a long, hard fight for it to be brought into effect. The Constitution of the United States as originally written and adopted left the matter of suffrage (the right to vote in elections) up to the states. But all of the states denied this right to women. Following the Civil War with its emphasis on the extension of suffrage to African Americans the movement to extend such rights to women began to take root. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (pictured below)
were the authors of a draft of an amendment to the Constitution which was intended to take the issue out of the hands of states and make it into a settled federal law. Their amendment was written and introduced in the U.S. Senate in 1878, with Stanton and Anthony testifying in front of Senate committees in its support. But it was not actually voted upon until 1887 at which time it was defeated 16 -34. Much time would pass during which the movement gained a little bit of success at a time. By 1914 – the next time the amendment was voted upon in Congress – all but seven of the states had some level of women’s suffrage. Still, it wasn’t until June 4, 1919 with the support of President Wilson that the amendment passed the Congress. On August 16 of 1920, Tennessee became the 36’th state to ratify the 19’th Amendment, thus giving it the two thirds of the states necessary for it’s adoption into the Constitution. This left only the signature of the U.S. Secretary of State as being needed to certify women’s suffrage as the law of the land. And that was affixed on this date that year.
More of the Times Article About the 19’th Amendment
Here is some more of what was written in the New York Times article quoted above:
“Leaders of both branches of the woman’s movement- the militants, headed by Miss Alice Paul, and the conservatives, led by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt — some of whom had been on watch nearly all night for the arrival of the Tennessee Governor’s certification, visited the State Department, and the militants sought to have Secretary Colby go through a duplication of the signing scene in the presence of movie cameras. This Mr. Colby declined to do, on the ground that it was not necessary to detract from the dignity and importance of the signing of the proclamation by staging a scene in imitation of the actual signing of the proclamation.
“In informal conversation with newspaper men late into this afternoon Secretary Colby said that “effectuating suffrage through proclamation of its ratification by the necessary thirty-six States was more important than feeding the movie cameras.”
“At the same time Mr. Colby congratulated the women of the country on the successful culmination of their efforts in the face of discouragements, and declared the day “marks the opening of a great and new era in the political life of the nation.”
“I confidently believe,” said the Secretary, “that every salutary, forward and upward force in our public life will receive fresh vigor and reinforcement from the enfranchisement of the women of America. To the leaders of this great movement I tender my sincere congratulations. To every one, from the president, who uttered the call to duty, whenever the cause seemed to falter, to the humblest worker in this great reform, the praise not only of this generation but of posterity will be freely given.”
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The full text of the N.Y. Times article can be found at: