The Suffrage Movement, which lasted from 1848 until 1920, was a time when women worked together to protest and campaign for women's voting rights. However, women's organized activism did not end with the signing of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Throughout the 1920s, women turned their focus to social welfare policies, the advancement of women in politics and equal rights legislation. Although not all of these goals were met during this decade, the work of feminists resulted in expanded rights for women in later years.
After the Nineteenth Amendment was passed, many suffrage organizations encouraged women to be active in politics to take advantage of their new-found freedom. The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan group, was established in 1920, and many women became active in the Democratic and Republican parties. Women's participation resulted in both political parties becoming interested in gaining women's votes and lobbying for some of women's causes, such as equal rights legislation. Democratic and Republican party leaders also opened up positions for women within their organizations.
Women and Political Office
In the 1920s, women were elected to political office in record numbers. By 1928, seven women were elected to the House of Representatives, although no women held positions in the Senate. Women had greater success in state-level politics, serving in positions such as secretary of state and secretary of education. Women's success in state-level politics was due in part to women exercising voting rights by voting other women into political office. Although most women held positions that were limited to state administration or to what were considered "women's issues," women were nevertheless able to make an impact through political office.
Social Welfare Policies
After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, women used their voting rights to campaign for an expansion of social policies created during the Progressive Era. In 1920, 14 women's rights organizations joined together and formed the Women's Joint Congressional Committee to lobby more aggressively for federal-level social welfare legislation. This organization was successful in establishing a mother's pension program for poor women with children, educational and industrial reform, such as child labor laws, and the Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921, which gave federal funds to states for health programs for women and children.
Equal rights became the primary focus of the National Women's Party (NWP) during the 1920s. The National League of Republican Colored Women (NLRCW) lobbied with the NWP in 1924 and proposed legislation granting men and women of all races equal rights socially, politically and economically. The bill was not passed, but women did succeed in getting one state-level equal rights bill passed in Wisconsin. The early efforts of the NWP and NLRCW put political pressure on Democrats and Republicans to include women in equal rights legislation.
- Organization of American Historians: The New Woman and the Politics of the 1920s; Lynn Dumenil; 2007
- The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History: Women in American Politics in the 20th Century; Sara Evans
- The Journal of American History: Feminist Politics in the 1920s: The National Women's Party; Nancy F. Cott; 1984
- Paul Thompson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images