McConnell Commemorates 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote
‘Today, June 4, 2019, marks an historic anniversary for the United States Senate. It was 100 years ago today that this body passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and sent it on to the states for ratification. It was 100 years ago today that this institution finally recognized that American women deserve the right to vote, just the same as men. Of course, this victory for equality and fairness had been a long time in the making.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the 100th anniversary of the Senate’s passage of the 19th Amendment, giving American women the right to vote:
“Today, June 4, 2019, marks an historic anniversary for the United States Senate. It was 100 years ago today that this body passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and sent it on to the states for ratification. It was 100 years ago today that this institution finally recognized that American women deserve the right to vote, just the same as men. Of course, this victory for equality and fairness had been a long time in the making.
“The very same text that would become the 19th Amendment was first introduced in the Senate more than 40 years before that, in 1878. It was introduced by Senator Aaron Sargent of California, whom with his wife were close friends of Susan B. Anthony. But when it finally received a vote, nearly a decade later, there were twice as many votes against it as for it. By 1914, there had been progress. When it received another vote that year, it failed by only 11 votes. By February 1919, more progress. It lost by just one vote.
“The old justifications were eroding. Our nation’s true principles and clear logic were chipping away at this old mistake. And then, precisely one century ago today, the right thing to do became undeniable. Women’s suffrage cleared the Senate floor. The roll call vote was 56 to 25. Two more than two-thirds. Newspaper accounts tell us that several minutes of sustained applause and cheers filled the gallery. And then the 39 words that would become the 19th Amendment were on their way to the states. On their way to concluding a 42-year journey and becoming enshrined in our Constitution.
“Of course, this chapter of Senate history is just a tiny slice of the incredible uphill battle that the broader women’s rights and suffrage movement waged in American politics and in culture. There were the pioneering thinkers of the Seneca Falls Convention — like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott — and their famous Declaration of Sentiments. There was the incredible, history-changing intellectual and strategic partnership between Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and the prolific writing, coalition-building, and grassroots activism it produced. There were devoted organizers — like Carrie Chapman Catt, Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell. And so many more — both the dynamic leaders whom history remembers and the millions more women and men who lent support to the cause and made quiet contributions of their own.
“Some of them lived to see their fruits of their work become part of our Constitution. Many did not. But the progress we celebrate would have been not just impossible, but literally unimaginable, without them. So this milestone brought one chapter of hard work to an end. But really, it started a new chapter in our history, as American women became more and more integrated into our democracy. It was just six years after the 19th Amendment was ratified that my own home state of Kentucky elected our first female member of Congress, Katherine Langley, to the House of Representatives.
“So, I could not be more glad that the Senate will spend today commemorating this historic milestone. This afternoon, I know that a number of our colleagues plan to come to the floor to describe the history and significance of this day in much more depth. And later we will vote on a resolution to officially mark the centennial of our predecessors’ historic vote. And several more Senators have been working on additional legislation to help our nation mark the whole year of commemoration that begins this spring and will continue through the anniversary of final ratification.
“So I want to thank a number of our colleagues who have helped lead the preparation for this. In particular, thanks to Senator Collins for her leadership in coordinating today and focusing the Senate’s attention on this milestone. Thanks to Senator Murkowski, the lead sponsor of the resolution we’ll be voting on this afternoon. And thanks to more of our colleagues, including Senator Blackburn, Senator Feinstein, Senator Ernst, and others for their hard work. I’d also like to thank the members of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission — led by chairwoman Kay Coles James and former Senator Mikulski, the vice chair — and its staff, including executive director Rebecca Kleefisch and Anna Laymon.
“A hundred years ago today, American women’s right to vote was up for debate in this chamber for the last time. As one member of this body remarked on June 4, 1919, quote, ‘The advocates of the Susan B. Anthony amendment have won a great victory and are justly entitled to all the praise and honor which comes with the winning of a battle which has been fought for so long a time… the right of suffrage [for] those noble, patriotic, and splendid women of our country who have so long fought for this right and who so richly deserve [it].’ Today we reflect on our gratitude for that work — and we rejoice in that victory.”
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