On Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was declared the law of the land, having been ratified by the required 36 states.
“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.”
In honor of this anniversary, Carroll will participate in a statewide bell ringing at noon on August 26.
The 19th Amendment was the result of a lengthy suffrage movement in the U.S., spearheaded by women such as Theodora Youmans, an 1885 Carroll graduate.
She was born Theodora Winton, in Ashippun, a small town just north of Oconomowoc, in 1865, during the Civil War. Theodora’s father was a shopkeeper and postmaster, her mother a former teacher. When she was a child, the family moved to Prospect Hill, in what is now New Berlin, closer to Carroll Academy, where the young Theodora enrolled.
From accounts of her life, it would appear she had a keen curiosity and a sturdy independent streak. Her father’s role as postmaster introduced her to the subject of politics; her mother’s guidance developed her writing abilities. Those two interests brought her to the Waukesha Freeman. A year after graduation, she wrote a series of articles for the newspaper describing her solo journeys through the Northwoods of Wisconsin and in 1887, began penning a “Woman’s World” column for the Freeman.
In her view, just about anything was fodder for a woman’s world, but her interest in politics often came to the forefront. Her relation to the Freeman grew, first through marriage to the paper’s publisher, Henry Mott Youmans, in 1889 and then by becoming the paper’s associate editor the following year.
Over the years, Theodora grew steadily more involved in civic life, serving on numerous boards and organizations across the state and, in the 1900s, began advocating for suffrage. She joined the Political Equality League and launched a suffrage column in the Freeman, which she mailed to newspapers across the nation. A tireless advocate, she became president of the Political Equality League in 1913 and continued the fight until women were granted the right to vote. Wisconsin, her home state, was the first to ratify, on June 10, 1919.
It’s important to note that the 19th Amendment did not automatically extend the right to vote to all women. Many women across the country, particularly women of color, still faced numerous obstacles on their journey to the voting booth. It would take the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit practices across the country that had served to limit a universal right to vote.