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19 Facts About the 19th Amendment

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On August 18, 1920, American women finally secured the right to vote. Calling the victory hard-won would be an understatement: Denounced by many, the 19th amendment had an ugly, uphill, decades-long road to ratification. 

1. IN 1797, NEW JERSEY TEMPORARILY GRANTED VOTING RIGHTS TO UNWED WOMEN. 

New Jersey's original state constitution, adopted in 1776, declared that “all inhabitants” who were “worth fifty pounds” could vote. Because some found this wording rather vague, clearer legislation was drafted, and in 1797, the State Assembly explicitly granted certain female New Jerseyans suffrage.

For the next 10 years, single women were permitted to cast ballots. Married ladies, on the other hand, weren’t given this privilege because their husbands legally controlled every piece of property they owned—so they failed the “fifty pounds” requirement. In 1807, the State Assembly passed a new law, one that forbade anyone but “free, white male citizens” who were at least 21 (and paid taxes) from voting. 

2. THE WYOMING TERRITORY LED A NATIONWIDE CHARGE FOR SUFFRAGE.

Today, it’s called “the equality state,” and in 1869, Wyomingites really earned that nickname. During this pivotal year, a game-changing bill sponsored by Councilman William Bright was approved by the Territorial Legislature. “[Every] woman, of the age of twenty-one years," the document read, "residing in this Territory, may at every election to be holden under the law thereof, cast her vote.”

Though suffragists cheered this news, some feared that the celebration would be short-lived. Just two years after women were given the right to vote, Wyoming was one vote short of repealing the act.  But eventually, women’s right to vote became so entrenched in Wyoming that when Wyoming applied for statehood, Congress threatened to deny it unless Bright’s bill was revoked—but the local legislature wouldn't back down: “We will remain out of the union [for] 100 years rather than come in without the women.” Congress caved, and Wyoming—with all her female voters—became America’s 44th state in 1890.

3. THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS FIRST PROPOSED—AND DEFEATED—IN 1878.

“The right of citizens to vote shall not be abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.” So read an amendment that California Senator Arlen A. Sargent put forth for discussion on January 10, 1878, at the urging of his friends Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Hearings were held by the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, but they weren’t encouraging—while advocates voiced their support, several committee members busied themselves by reading newspapers or staring off into space. The bill was rejected, though it would be re-introduced every year for the next 41 years.

4. BEFORE 1920, VOTING RIGHTS DIFFERED GREATLY ACROSS STATE LINES.

In January 1919, suffrage laws varied considerably: 15 states allowed women to vote in all elections, while 21 others barred them from certain contests (for instance, Texas ladies could only cast ballots during primaries). The remaining 12 prohibited female voting altogether. 

5. TEDDY ROOSEVELT'S "BULL MOOSE" PARTY CAMPAIGNED ON WOMEN'S ENFRANCHISEMENT. 

During his presidency, T.R. was quite mum on the subject. “Personally,” Roosevelt wrote in 1908, “I believe in women’s suffrage, but … I do not regard it as a very important matter.”

But he made voting equity a central issue while seeking a third term. When William Howard Taft’s 1912 re-nomination dashed Roosevelt’s hopes of running again as a Republican, he launched his own Progressive Party, which incorporated suffrage into its official platform

One day into the campaign, T.R. made history. At the party’s convention, social reformer Jane Addams became the first woman to ever second the nomination of a major presidential candidate. “It was a spectacular proceeding,” opined Woodrow Wilson backer Charles W. Elliot, “but in exceedingly bad taste, because a woman has no place at a political convention.”

6. TAFT HAD MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT IT.  

As “Big Bill” told The Saturday Evening Post in 1915, he favored a gradual approach to female voting rights. Taft believed that “the immediate enfranchisement of women would increase … the hysterical element of the electorate.” However, if such a reform could be “delayed until a great majority” desired it, the change would—in his mind—“be a correct and useful extension of the democratic principle. The benefit will come slowly and imperceptibly.”

7. NOT ALL ANTI-SUFFRAGISTS WERE MEN.

Alice Hay Wadsworth was among the most prominent women to denounce what became the 19th Amendment. The wife of Senator James Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr., she was once president of the National Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage. A now-infamous pamphlet published by this group claimed that “90 percent of women either do not want it or do not care,” and that new voting rights would mean “competition with men instead of cooperation.” The group was founded by Josephine Dodge, daughter of Grant’s Postmaster General, in her apartment in 1911. 

8. SUFFRAGE ADVOCATES THREW THE VERY FIRST WHITE HOUSE PICKET PROTEST.

Activist Alice Paul had little trouble getting under Woodrow Wilson’s skin. She broke new, nonviolent ground by establishing a group called the Silent Sentinels, which began protesting outside the White House on January 10, 1917. Over the next 2.5 years, they spent six days a week holding up pro-enfranchisement signs with such captions as “How long must women wait for liberty?” and “Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?” 

9. HUNGER STRIKES PROMPTED WILSON TO TAKE ACTION.

Eventually, policemen began arresting Silent Sentinels—including Paul herself—for “obstructing traffic.” While incarcerated, she organized a hunger strike, which drove guards to begin force-feeding captive suffragettes. And it got worse: Guards denied the protestors water; one of the protestors was manacled to the bars and nearly placed in a straitjacket and gagged for talking to her fellow inmates; and three emerged from the ordeal so weak that doctors feared for their lives. Wilson’s stance on enfranchisement shifted from tepid support to total advocacy. 

10. WILSON TRIED TO PASS NATIONAL SUFFRAGE IN 1918, BUT FELL TWO SENATE VOTES SHORT.

With World War I still raging on, Wilson officially endorsed what later became the 19th amendment. One day after he released a statement to this effect, the House passed the measure. Riding high on that victory, the commander-in-chief addressed the Senate in person, saying, “We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right?” Despite these passionate words, the amendment didn’t break through, falling short just two votes. A few months later, Congress tried passing it again—and missed the mark by exactly one senatorial vote. 

11. ONE SUFFRAGETTE DIED FOR THE CAUSE.

On June 4, 1919, the Senate finally passed the amendment. Now, its life depended upon the states, three-fourths of which were needed for ratification.   

Enter Aloysius Larch-Miller, the Oklahoma State Suffrage Ratification Committee’s enthusiastic young secretary. Stricken with influenza during the winter of 1920, she was ordered by her doctor to remain in bed. However, when a prominent anti-suffragist arrived at her local Democratic convention, she made a beeline for the event. After eloquently defending gender equality, Larch-Miller returned home. Two days later, she passed away. Her martyrdom became a rallying cry and, just a few weeks later, Oklahoma voted yes on the 19th.   

12. ONE STATE REPRESENTATIVE SINGLE-HANDEDLY GUARANTEED THE AMENDMENT'S SUCCESS—AT HIS MOTHER'S REQUEST.

When Tennessee passed the bill on August 18 of that year, it became the 36th state to ratify, providing the necessary three-fourths majority. A 24-year-old politician named Harry Burn—who had previously opposed suffrage—tipped the scales in Nashville’s House of Representatives. What changed his mind? On the day of the vote, he received a letter from his widowed mom, Febb Burn, who urged him to support the amendment. He voted yes, and led Tennessee to ratify by a margin of 49 to 47. Since the state senate had already passed it, the measure won out. “I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow,” Burn noted, “and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.” 

13. EIGHT DAYS AFTER THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS RATIFIED, 10 MILLION WOMEN JOINED THE ELECTORATE.

On August 26, the 19th amendment officially took effect. As legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar points out, the sheer volume of brand new voters created by this legal action made it “the single biggest democratizing event in American history.” 

14. MULTIPLE CITIZENS HAVE BEEN CITED AS THE FIRST TO VOTE UNDER THE NEW AMENDMENT. 

South St. Paul, Minnesota scheduled a special bond election at 5:30 a.m. on August 27 in which 87 women voted (but women could vote in these elections anyway; their votes just didn’t count—they were recorded for public interest). Nevertheless, it’s often reported that Mrs. Marie Ruoff Byrum of Hannibal, Missouri cast the first female ballot in post-amendment history in a local alderman race four days later. 

15. RUMORS CIRCULATED THAT A WOMAN MIGHT APPEAR ON THE DEMOCRATIC TICKET IN 1920. 

Prominent Republican May Jester Allen allegedly heard that the Dems were weighing a 35-year-old DNC committeewoman named Anna Dickie Olesen for their vice-presidential nomination. Instead, this honor went to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 

16. FDR BECAME THE FIRST PRESIDENT WHOSE MOTHER WAS ELIGIBLE TO VOTE FOR HIM. 

Harding’s, Coolidge’s, and Hoover’s had already died by the time they ran for the Oval Office. Sara Roosevelt, on the other hand, lived to see her boy win his unprecedented third term.  

17. IN 1922, SOME SAID THE AMENDMENT WAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Because Maryland’s constitution reserved voting for men, Judge Oscar Leser and other anti-suffragists charged that the federal government had unlawfully infringed upon their state’s rights. In Leser v. Garnett, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected this and similar arguments against the 19th amendment, thus ensuring its long-term survival. Apparently Chief Justice William Howard Taft decided that the “great majority” were finally for it.

18. MISSISSIPPI DIDN'T RATIFY IT UNTIL MARCH 22, 1984. 

Other holdouts include Louisiana and North Carolina, which waited until June 11, 1970 and May 6, 1971, respectively. Still, Mississippi was, by a noticeable margin, the very last state to go through with ratification.

19. A STATUE CELEBRATING TENNESSEE'S ROLE IN THE AMENDMENT'S PASSAGE WILL BE ERECTED THIS OCTOBER. 

Sculpted by Nashville native Alan Lequire, the monument will depict five “indomitable” suffragettes: Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga, Sue Shelton White of Jackson, Frankie Pierce and Anne Dudley of Nashville, and League of Women Voters founder Carrie Chapman Catt. On October 27, it will be unveiled on the Tennessee Performing Arts Center Bridge, near the state capital’s War Memorial building.

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History
Civilian Researchers Discover Wreckage of the USS Indianapolis
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On July 30, 1945, the cruiser USS Indianapolis sank in the Pacific Ocean after it was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58. More than 70 years after the historic naval tragedy— which claimed the lives of nearly 900 crew—The New York Times reports that the ship’s mysterious final resting place has been found.

The discovery came courtesy of a team of civilian researchers, led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. His state-of-the-art research vessel, Petrel, located the wreck 18,000 feet below the Pacific’s surface, the team announced on Saturday, August 19.

"To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling,” Allen said in a statement. “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence, and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances."

Before it sank, the USS Indianapolis had just completed a top-secret mission to a naval base on the Northern Mariana island of Tinian. After delivering enriched uranium and components for Little Boy— the atomic bomb that the U.S. would drop on the Japanese city of Hiroshima about a week later—the cruiser forged ahead to Guam, and then to the Philippines. It was supposed to meet the battleship USS Idaho at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare to attack Japan.

The USS Indianapolis never made it to Leyte Gulf. Shortly after midnight on July 30, the Japanese submarine I-58 spotted the cruiser and fired six torpedoes. The USS Indianapolis—which was hit twice—sank within 12 minutes. Around 300 to 400 sailors and Marines were killed in the attack; the rest were stranded in the Pacific Ocean for several days.

Many of these survivors would ultimately lose their lives to sharks, a grisly scene that would be famously (albeit semi-accurately) recounted in the 1975 movie Jaws. Others died from drowning, heat stroke, thirst, burns and injuries, swallowing salt water or fuel oil, and suicide. More than 300 crew members were rescued after a bomber pilot accidently sighted the imperiled men while on a routine antisubmarine patrol.

The mass tragedy—which wouldn’t be announced to the public until August 15, 1945—sparked controversy: Charles B. McVay III, captain of the USS Indianapolis, was found guilty in a court martial of failing to steer the ship on a “zigzag” course to elude Japanese submarines. A Japanese submarine captain testified that this precautionary measure wouldn’t have thwarted the enemy, but McVay was charged nonetheless. The captain died by suicide in 1968, and wouldn’t be officially exonerated by the Navy until 2001.

For decades, the remains of the USS Indianapolis were lost to the ravages of time and nature. But in 2016, naval historian Richard Hulver found a historic ship log that mentioned a sighting of the USS Indianapolis. Allen’s search team used this information to locate the ship, which was west of where experts assumed it had gone down.

Allen’s crew took pictures of the wreckage, including a piece of its hull, and will search for more of the ship. They plan to keep the exact location of the USS Indianapolis a secret, however, to honor the sunken ship as a war grave.

"While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming,” Allen said.

[h/t The New York Times]

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The Time That Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Opened Competing Restaurants on the Sunset Strip
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From 1946 to 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were show business supernovas. With an act that combined singing, slapstick, and spontaneous hijinks, the duo sold out nightclubs coast to coast, then went on to conquer radio, television, and film. Long before Elvis and The Beatles came along, Dean and Jerry  were rock stars of comedy.

Offstage, there was a cordial but cool friendship between the laidback Martin and the more neurotic Lewis. But as the pressures of their success increased, so did the tensions between them. Martin grew tired of playing the bland romantic straight man to Lewis’s manic monkey boy. And when Lewis started to grab more headlines and write himself bigger parts in their movies, Martin decided to quit the act. In an angry moment, he told Lewis that he was “nothing to me but a f**king dollar sign.”

After the split, both men went on with their individual careers, though it took Martin a few years before he regained his footing. One of his ventures during that transitional period was a Hollywood eatery called Dino’s Lodge.

DINO'S LODGE

In the summer of 1958, Martin and his business partner, Maury Samuels, bought a controlling interest in a restaurant called The Alpine Lodge, at 8524 Sunset Boulevard. They hired Dean’s brother Bill to manage the place, and renamed it Dino’s Lodge.

Outside they put up a large neon sign, a likeness of Dean’s face. The sign turned into a national symbol of hip and cool, thanks to appearances on TV shows like Dragnet, The Andy Griffith Show, and most prominently, in the opening credits of 77 Sunset Strip.

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Dino’s Lodge was popular from the get-go, serving home-style Italian food and steaks in an intimate, candlelit, wood-paneled room meant to replicate Martin’s own den. In the first year, Dean himself frequented the place, signing autographs and posing for photos with starstruck diners. He also occasionally brought along famous friends like Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. To promote the idea of the swingin’ lifestyle that Martin often sang about, Dino’s served “an early morning breakfast from 1 to 5 a.m.” The restaurant also had a lounge that featured singers, though only females. Dean apparently didn’t want any male vocalists encroaching on his turf.

But as with many a celebrity venture into the food business, this one soon turned sour. And most of that was due to the jealousy of Jerry Lewis.

JERRY'S

In late 1961, Lewis wooed Martin’s business partner Maury Samuels away, ponied up some $350,000, and opened his own copycat restaurant three blocks down Sunset. It was called Jerry’s. To make it clear he was out for top billing, Lewis had his own likeness rendered in neon, then mounted it on a revolving pole 100 feet above his restaurant. In contrast to Dino’s Italian-based menu, Jerry’s would serve “American and Hebrew viands.” Lewis didn’t stop there. Within a few months, he’d hired away Dino’s top two chefs, his maître d', and half his waitstaff.

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When Lewis was in Los Angeles, he made of point of table-hopping and schmoozing with his guests at his restaurant, and he occasionally brought in a few of his celebrity friends, like Peggy Lee and Steve McQueen.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

By the following year, a disgusted Dean Martin was fed up with the restaurant business and cut ties with Dino’s Lodge. Much to his aggravation, he lost a motion in court to have his likeness and name removed from the sign. So the new owners carried on as Dino’s Lodge, with the big neon head staring down on Sunset for another decade before the place finally went bust.

Jerry’s lost steam long before that, folding in the mid-1960s.

For the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s, Martin and Lewis avoided each other. “Jerry’s trying hard to be a director,” Dean once told a reporter. “He couldn’t even direct traffic.”

In 1976, Frank Sinatra famously engineered an onstage reunion of the pair during The Jerry Lewis Telethon. While the audience roared their approval, Sinatra said, “I think it’s about time, don’t you?” And to Sinatra, Lewis said under his breath, “You son of a bitch.”

What followed was an awkward few moments of shtick between the former partners. Reportedly, Martin was drunk and Lewis was doped up on painkillers. There was a quick embrace, Martin sang with Sinatra, then blew Lewis a kiss and disappeared from his life for good. Martin died in 1995. Lewis passed away today, at the age of 91.

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