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Draft for Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s address to the Senate Committee on privileges and elections, January 11, 1878

In January 1878 Elizabeth Cady Stanton appeared before a Senate committee in support of a national petition for an amendment to the Constitution. She referenced Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts in arguing that an amendment would protect the constitutional rights of women—including the right to vote—from further misinterpretation.

Our Constitution . . . already secures to the humblest individual all the rights . . . of American citizens. . . . But as statesmen differ in their interpretation of constitutional law, . . . the rights of everyday class citizens, must be clearly defined in concise, unmistakable language.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Draft for Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s address to the Senate Committee on privileges and elections, January 11, 1878 Draft for Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s address to the Senate Committee on privileges and elections, January 11, 1878 Draft for Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s address to the Senate Committee on privileges and elections, January 11, 1878 Our Constitution . . . already secures to the humblest individual all the rights . . . of American citizens. . . . But as statesmen differ in their interpretation of constitutional law, . . . the rights of everyday class citizens, must be clearly defined in concise, unmistakable language.

The Nineteenth Amendment

The movement to ensure federal voting rights for women began in the 1840s and culminated, after decades of struggle by generations of suffragists, with ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.  Eclipsed by the Civil War, the woman suffrage effort intensified after the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were interpreted to apply only to men. Supporters of woman suffrage pursued diverse strategies until Congress passed a resolution for a constitutional amendment in 1919 and the states ratified it the following year.

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.

Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution