19th Amendment at 100: Women At The Polls

The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, but this landmark event was neither the beginning nor the end of the story for women and their struggle for the right to vote. Join us in 2020 as we commemorate this centennial year with 12 stories from our holdings for you to save, print, or share. November’s featured image is of Mrs. Fresdahl of South Dakota.

American democracy dramatically expanded in 1920.  In that year, millions of women won the right to vote when the newly ratified 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited the states from denying the vote on the basis of sex. 

Mrs. Fresdahl was born in 1866 in what is now South Dakota. She was the first baby to be born at Fort Dakota, then a pioneer outpost fort where her father was a soldier.

In our November calendar page, Mrs. Fresdahl casts her vote, having never missed a Presidential election since she gained the vote in 1920. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/7583488

When the 19th Amendment was ratified, Mrs. Fresdahl was 53 years old. She had lived through Reconstruction and the First World War, saw her territory become a state, and witnessed the invention of the car, the telephone, and the airplane. As a white women, she reaped the benefit of years of struggle by suffragists, and gained the right to vote though this Constitutional amendment.

Mrs. Fresdahl clearly saw the value in her new access to the polls:  the original caption to this records notes that she was “proud that she has never missed voting in a presidential election since woman suffrage became effective, in 1920.”

In this 1948 photo, Mrs. Fresdahl is 82 years old as she casts her vote. This would have been her ninth time casting her vote in a Presidential election.

Many other women were still waiting to join Mrs. Fresdahl at the polls in 1948. Native American women, Asian women, Black women, and Puerto Rican women remained unable to vote for decades after the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Are you eligible to vote? Learn more about where, when, and how to vote in your state from usa.gov.

Learn more about the women who led the fight for suffrage in our online exhibit of “Rightfully Her: American Women and the Vote” on Google Cultural Institute.

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