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U.S. News
19: Women's suffrage

Wednesday, November 27, 2002


In 1917, Mary Winsor, Lucy Branham and nine other women hardly accustomed to writing such letters, informed the commissioners of the District of Columbia: "As political prisoners, we, the undersigned, refuse to work while in prison. We have taken this stand as a matter of principle after careful consideration, and from it we shall not recede." They had been jailed for protesting for women's voting rights.

A year later, with the United States drawn into the World War, President Woodrow Wilson found himself before the Senate. Penned in by his advocacy for universal rights overseas, he warned them that America stood to lose its credibility with allies if it did not act to give women the vote. "If we reject measures like this, in ignorant defiance of what a new age has brought forth, of what they have seen but we have not, they will cease to believe in us; they will cease to follow or to trust us," Wilson said. "Do you stand in need of the trust of other peoples and of the trust of our own women? Is that trust an asset or is it not?"

The year Wilson demanded the Senate act, Winnie Green Davis was a 20-year-old bride, living in Atlanta, where she cast her first vote. "I voted for Harding -- but you know, we didn't have any Republican party down there." Today, Winnie Davis, 103, lives in Country Meadows, a retirement home near Bridgeville. She still votes, though by the absentee ballot she holds here. Looking back on her first vote, she remembers it as no big deal. "I thought it was fine. Nobody around me objected," she says. But getting the results was a bit different. In those days, people crowded outside the offices of the local newspaper to await results. Winnie stayed away. "Ladies didn't go in crowded places like that," she says.

Amendment XIX: 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.

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