Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
With leaders like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the push for female suffrage began in earnest in the mid-19th century. An amendment to the Constitution that would let women vote was first introduced in Congress in 1878, and though it was defeated, it was reintroduced in every session for the next 40 years. In 1919, the Senate finally passed what would become the 19th Amendment and sent it to the states for ratification. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 27, 1920:
Promulgating the woman suffrage amendment at 8 o'clock yesterday morning as a part of the Constitution of the United States, Secretary of State Colby last night addressed a mass meeting of suffragists at Poli's Theater, carrying the personal greetings and congratulations of President Wilson. The White House message, as delivered, was:
"Will you take advantage of the opportunity that will be offered to say that I deem it one of the greatest honors of my life that this event so stoutly fought for so many years should have occurred during my administration as President? And please tell my fellow citizens that nothing has given me more pleasure than to do what I could to hasten the day when the womanhood of America would be recognized on the equal footing it deserves." ...
The early hour of the signing of the declaration was a disappointment to leaders of both suffrage organizations, the National Woman's Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, who had hoped to make of the signature something of a ceremony, and it was partly to prevent any frictions between the rival organizations that Secretary Colby affixed his name when he did.
The certificate of ratification by the thirty-sixth State did not arrive at the State Department, in fact, until 3:45 o'clock yesterday morning.
The Secretary was notified at his home and he at once called F. K. Nielsen, department solicitor, instructing him to examine the papers for possible legal flaws and to bring the proclamation to the Secretary's home at 8 o'clock.
The Secretary later issued the following statement:
"The certified record of the action of the legislature of the State of Tennessee on the suffrage amendment was received by mail this morning. Immediately on its receipt the record was brought to my house. This was in compliance with my directions and in accordance with numerous requests for prompt action.
"I thereupon signed the certificate required of the secretary of State this morning at 8 o'clock in the presence of Mr. F. K. Nielsen, the solicitor of the State Department, and Mr. Charles L. Cook, also of the State Department. The seal of the United States has been duly affixed to the certificate and the suffrage amendment is now the nineteenth amendment of the Constitution.
"It was decided not to accompany the simple ministerial action of my part with any ceremony or setting. This secondary aspect of the subject has, regretfully, been the source of considerable contention as to who shall participate in it and who shall not. Insomuch as I am not interested in the aftermath of any of the frictions or collisions which may have been developed in the long struggle for ratification of the amendment, I contented myself with the performance in the simplest manner of the duties developed upon me under the law.
"I congratulate the women of the country upon the successful culmination of their efforts, which have been sustained in the face of many discouragements and which have now conducted them to the achievement of that great object.
"Today marks the day of the opening of a great and new era in the political life of the nation. I confidently believe that every salutary, forward and upward force in our public life will receive fresh vigor and reinforcement from the enfranchisement of the women of the country."