May 28: Preparing Connecticut Women to Exercise Their Rights and Responsibilities as Voters

 

On May 21, 1919, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would give American women the right to vote — legislation that would eventually become the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Even though the legislation still had to be approved by the U.S. Senate and ratified by 3/4 of the states before becoming law, suffragists in Connecticut immediately leaped into action following the encouraging House vote. Just one week later, on May 28, 1919, the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association (CWSA), founded in 1869 by Isabella Beecher Hooker. officially launched a massive campaign to reach and teach every Connecticut woman of voting age “intelligent citizenship” to prepare her for her new civic duties.

“When complete suffrage comes, women will be confronted by many new problems and responsibilities. It is the duty of Connecticut to prepare this new electorate, just as much as it is her duty to conduct citizenship work among the male citizens.”
– Mrs. Samuel Russell, Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association

During a press conference, CWSA president Katherine Ludington issued a call to action for all civic-minded Connecticans, urging them to volunteer and contribute to the organization’s education fund: “Now that the passage of the Federal Suffrage Amendment seems assured, it is necessary for all of us to face the future with a clear vision and a full sense of our responsibilities. Connecticut, for the sake of her own welfare, must prepare her new citizens.” The Hartford Courant reported that the CWSA’s direct appeal for support was “the first time in the history of suffrage that any state organization has gone to the public for such help.”

Connecticut suffragist Josephine Bennett and her two daughters.

With an estimated 400,000 Connecticut women poised to gain voting rights within the next year, CWSA appointed a committee with chapters in every Connecticut county to coordinate educational literature and classes focused on history, government, politics, and other civic-related topics. The organization was vocal about its intent to reach every eligible female voter, regardless of social status, class, or whether or not they were “foreign-born.” Thankfully, once the CWSA rolled out its civic education in May 1919, Connecticut women did not have much longer to wait before gaining the right to vote: In August 1920, the 19th Amendment was finally ratified and enacted into law.

Further Reading

Jessica Jenkins, “The Long Road to Women’s Suffrage in Connecticut,” Connecticut Explored

19th Amendment: The Fight Over Woman Suffrage in Connecticut,” connecticuthistory.org