Current Exhibit

Exhibit with roll up banners

How the Women’s Vote was Won in the West

By the end of 1914 almost every Western state and territory had enfranchised its female citizens, creating a new voting population of 4 million women: a remarkable achievement! This stands in profound contrast to the East, where few women voted until after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920), and to the South, where the disfranchisement of African American men was widespread.

Why did this breakthrough happen earlier and spread so rapidly in the West?

Factors included:

  • the unsettled nature of regional politics and western race relations;
  • the cultivation of alliances between suffragists and other reform groups; and
  • the sophisticated activism of western women, whose visually appealing campaign materials blossomed forth on banners, leaflets, and more.

Female suffrage challenged prevailing gender norms; eventually, however, suffrage agitation and socioeconomic changes stimulated public awareness and debate about women’s rights, economic roles, class and race relations, and political reform. As they prevailed, western suffragists pitched in to help their comrades in other western states and then moved east. No large suffrage parade was complete without delegations of western women voters.

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