1920: The Year Women Got The Vote? Not Entirely, And Entirely Not in Two States

On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and women across the nation were granted suffrage…right? Theoretically, yes, but as historians and your woke friends will tell you, this isn’t the full story just as the 15th Amendment wasn’t the full story for black male voters. They will say this primarily because most black women, like black men, couldn’t vote in the South due to Jim Crow practices until the 1960s. This is true, but what is not so well known, however, is that there were two states that managed to block all women from voting in the 1920 election. Even more surprising, this was 100% constitutional.

Many states in 1920 had a preexisting requirement that all voters be registered for six months before they could vote. Most states that had this rule waived it for 1920 given the ratification of the 19th Amendment, but Georgia and Mississippi, states with vehemently anti-suffragist political leadership, refused to do so. No elected officials from Mississippi voted for the 19th Amendment and in Georgia only Sen. William Harris and Rep. William Upshaw voted for. Since no women would be registered in these states for six months, none could vote. The constitutionality lies in the fact that the original laws were not passed in response to women gaining suffrage.

Women in Georgia and Mississippi would have to wait until the 1922 elections to vote for senators and Mississippi’s women wouldn’t vote on who the next governor would be until 1923. As I have written before, the blowback from this, at least in Georgia, was to the extent that the state’s anti-suffrage governor, Thomas Hardwick, appointed the first female senator, but only for 24 hours as a purely symbolic gesture. This didn’t save him from losing renomination in 1922. Georgia did not ratify the 19th Amendment until 1970 and Mississippi did not follow suit until 1984.

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